As Kneaded BakeryIliana has seen a revenue growth of 150% at As Kneaded Bakery since she started working with PCV’s small business loan and advising programs, and has reinvested in the business and her staff.
As Kneaded Bakery is a bakery in San Leandro, California, established in 2016 by Iliana Berkowitz. Inspired by the sourdough bread culture of California and the rich tradition of breads of her Jewish heritage, As Kneaded serves loaves that blend cultures and fill bellies. Iliana focuses her bakery on baguettes, challah, and a variety of sourdough hearth loaves, as well as a unique lineup of seasonal “noshes” (Yiddish for ‘snacks’) which they showcase at multiple weekly farmers’ markets.
As her business grew, Iliana needed to move from a shared commercial kitchen into a space of her own. She started planning to move into a space that was large enough to accommodate her growing wholesale and farmers’ market clientele — and also allow for a small portion of space to be dedicated to direct sales of their loaves and noshes. She needed funding for new equipment to build out that space, but couldn’t get funding from a traditional bank. She came to Pacific Community Ventures for a small business loan. That funding meant the opportunity for plentiful direct sales while also opening her kitchen to the public for sales of bread and gourmet toast, and to seize other direct sales opportunities such as monthly pop-ups, special holiday events, and bread classes. All of that means new jobs as well.
When Iliana started her small business, she did everything herself: baking, hiring, training, administration, and more. As her business grew, she began to see a need to develop systems and processes so that her employees can perform specific tasks with clear expectations and guidelines. For example, Iliana wanted to create a code of conduct and operations manual outlining how to run the business. As a PCV client, Iliana decided to join our Good Jobs, Good Business pilot program, and we paired her with Silvia Doundakova, a pro bono advisor with a background in business strategy who had four previous mentoring engagements with small businesses on PCV’s Business Advising platform.
Silvia suggested a few areas of the manual for Iliana to work on that would make the most immediate and impactful differences, but after her move to the new kitchen and storefront her business experienced rapid and unexpected growth. Hooray! This expansion was the catalyst for job creation. Since enrolling in PCV’s Business Advising program, As Kneaded Bakery has grown from 4 employees to 12. Iliana built a team of bakers, hired another delivery driver, and hired an operations associate. She decided that her business’ most pressing priority was to add more channels of communication to make the employee and employment experience better. She and Silvia put the code of conduct and operations manual to the back-burner and started working on creating proper evaluation and feedback channels.
With this new initiative, workers would receive an evaluation at thirty-days, three-months, six-months, and one-year of employment. They would also receive a questionnaire and an assessment regarding their skill set, food safety acumen, teamwork, communications, personal development and growth. Since Iliana is not always in the kitchen, these forms enable her to stay connected with her workers. The forms also allow Iliana to relate to her workers, fix any unexpected problems, and optimize workflows.
To propagate high standards of company culture, Iliana started conducting mandatory all-staff meetings. These meetings opened the floor for celebrating successes and voicing feedback and constructive criticism, as well as introducing the 4 a.m. shift workers to the 4 p.m. shift workers. Iliana also placed a whiteboard at the bakery so that morning workers could communicate with the evening workers. This has created a way for them to work more effectively across shifts.
Iliana has seen a revenue growth of 150% since the beginning of 2018 and has reinvested in the business and her staff. She told us, “I’m beginning to understand and acknowledge what would make somebody stay somewhere for a long time. I’ve realized that if the company culture is good, if the benefits are good, if there is good communication and openness with the managers, that all of these could lead to people staying longer and developing with the business.”
The Good Jobs, Good Business toolkit became particularly useful for Iliana after the move to the brick and mortar store. Her business was growing, and she saw the need to invest in her employees. Iliana and Silvia continue to work together on initiatives to improve job quality for Iliana’s employees: next, they’re reviewing employee compensation and determining what Iliana can offer for health insurance. Finally, Iliana and Silvia plan to finish the code of conduct and operations manual, using the toolkit as a guide.