Tag: The Women’s Bakery

I believe creating access to opportunity is the best way to affect lasting and self-directed change.

After living and working in Bushoga, a rural village deep within Rwanda, I was inspired by the power of business. Business, I believed, could be harnessed as a tool to tackle social problems, namely malnutrition, lack of economic opportunity and social inequality. Bread, therefore became my medium for opportunity creation and good business. In 2013, I started The Women’s Bakery, a social enterprise that equips East African women with irrevocable business education and vocational skills. In essence, we train women to build, manage and sustain their own bakeries which sell affordable, highly nutritious breads.

Guest Blogger: Markey Culver, MBA'17, founder and president of The Women's Bakery, a for-profit/non-profit hybrid startup

Guest Blogger: Markey Culver, MBA’17, founder and president of The Women’s Bakery, a for-profit/non-profit hybrid startup

So that’s what we do: we teach women how to make and sell healthy breads and collectively manage their own profitable businesses.

Today, we have two independently operating bakeries in Tanzania and we’ve just launched a third bakery in Kigali, Rwanda. For a snapshot of our impact, one of our bakeries creates 3 – 10 jobs for otherwise unemployed women who care for an average of four children each. After working at a bakery for a few months, women have the opportunity to double their average monthly incomes. Just imagine what you could do if you doubled your income.

People have asked me, “why don’t you just build the bakeries for the women since they’re so poor, or give away your nutritious bread for free?” Simply put, giving away goods for free disrupts micro-economies. It takes away opportunities for job creation and business evolution.  But, teaching populations how to produce and sell goods that are in demand? That creates access to opportunity.

Vocational training creates access to opportunity because it imparts an irrevocable skill – a skill that can never be taken away. A skill that fosters capacity building. And a skill that affords a woman her shot at a self-directed life. That’s real empowerment. And that’s exactly what we do at The Women’s Bakery.

The three hour-long trek to the small rural town of Bushoga in Northern Rwanda took us away from modern civilization and toward a village populated with houses made of clay.

Bushoga1Without any electricity for simple cooking or air conditioning, or bathrooms, I witnessed the discomfort that our hosts must bear every day. For them, it is life; yet, I was inspired that our classmate Markey Culver spent over two years in such living conditions and was able to grow accustomed to their ways.

Despite the fact that our living conditions are so very different, my group and I quickly felt at home in Bushoga. The kind-hearted nature of Markey’s friends made it seem as if we had walked down the street to a neighbor’s house. Yes, the language barrier existed, but we laughed when they made jokes in English and they eagerly exchanged business ideas with us.

Bushoga3I quickly became aware of the universal power of sharing a meal, without borders or stereotypes. Markey’s friends created African dishes that would satisfy our appetites without leaving our stomachs uneasy (yes, it is easy for your stomach to feel upset!). The mashed plantains, frites, beans, eggplant, and maize satiated our cravings and gave us the energy to continue our adventure touring their village.

To enjoy a meal while eating on the cement floor of the small 250 square foot house surely was a contrast from what we are familiar with in America. This was their only living space  other than their two bedrooms, and only six of us could fit in the room at one time.

Our hosts prepared the meal in their backyard over a couple small pots above open fires. Nonetheless, our hosts were so gracious to welcome us and Markey reminded us that it was an honor for them to serve us a meal. Yes, on the surface life in this small rural town differs quite drastically from life in America. But it is quite simple to identify connections with their people and we were honored to have shared this day with them.

Bushoga2Heather traveled to Africa with the CEL Practicum team consulting with The Women’s Bakery. The team’s client is a fellow-MBA student, Markey Culver, a former Peace Corps volunteer who created a blended for-profit and non-profit business, The Women’s Bakery, to teach women in rural Rwanda how to bake and create a self-sustaining business model to improve nutrition and income for their families.

Graduation day at The Women’s Bakery (TWB) was an incredible experience to witness. It gave a comprehensive perspective of the impact TWB training has on the women’s lives.

When we arrived some of the women were finishing up the preparing and baking of bread for the guests. The ceremony commenced with Aime’s acknowledgements and congratulations to the women for their hard work and earned accomplishment.

Guest Blogger: Courtney Lee, MBA’17, member of the CEL Practicum team consulting with The Women’s Bakery

Women's bakery women in chef hatsSeveral people spoke, including the Pastor from Africa New Life (where the bakery is hosted) and the mayor of the village, but the speech that stood out to me the most was one made by Faith, one of the graduating women. Faith spoke at length about how far she and her classmates have come in a short period of time, how proud they should be that all fifteen women completed the training, and how well equipped they are to provide their communities and families with the nutrition they lack.

The women’s education ranges from illiterate to completing primary school. In just four months, TWB equipped these women with several years’ worth of academic and practical business education. Each of the women received an apron, chef’s hat, and, most importantly, a diploma. Their happiness was priceless. Mama Aisha, a woman who emerged as a leader in her class, shed tears of joy as she admired her diploma. The emotions we observed on graduation day were significant because Rwanda’s culture is such that outward displays of emotion are considered taboo.

The women presented TWB staff with a fruit basket. This is a significant gesture of appreciation as fruit baskets are symbols of major life milestones such as marriage.

Women's bakery with certificatesGraduation was a meaningful day for the women because TWB provided them with an education that they would not be able to access any other way. It also created an opportunity for them to both earn a higher living wage and provide extremely nutritious bread to their families and communities.

We were honored to witness the impact that TWB had on these women and it makes our consulting work feel all the more worthwhile.


Having visited rural Africa previously, I knew the significance of ensuring our students placed “boots on the ground” during the CEL practicum project with The Women’s Bakery (TWB) in Rwanda. Business does not occur within a vacuum and, thus, understanding the culture in which a business exists is vital. (more…)

How do you make a lasting impact on the people of Rwanda? The Women’s Bakery(TWB), is not alone in its belief that an answer to that question starts on a small scale. (more…)