Godiva Gives Back

Feb. 11, 2022
As part of our Women in the Workplace series, today’s episode examines what Godiva and Hot Bread Kitchen are doing to help empower women in the food industry.

With us on the Food For Thought Podcast today are Tara McTeague and Karen Bornarth. Tara is the head of global corporate communications at Godiva and Karen is the vice president of industry partnerships and initiatives with New York-based Hot Bread Kitchen.

In today’s episode we’re talking about The Lady Godiva Initiative, a program Godiva launched in 2020 to support charitable organizations that empower women around the world. One of the recipients of Godiva’s Initiative is Hot Bread Kitchen, a New York-based nonprofit that creates economic opportunity through careers in food. Join us as we talk about the Initiative – how and why it got started and how Godiva is helping to empower women while also supporting both local and global communities. We talk much more in-depth about Hot Bread Kitchen and the work it is doing to empower women with economic security, including job skills training and food entrepreneurship programs.


Erin: Let's get started by talking first about The Lady Godiva Initiative. What is The Lady Godiva Initiative, and why is a program like this so important for the food industry and for women?

Tara: The Lady Godiva Initiative was created by Godiva as part of our work to empower women around the world, by recognizing and rewarding non-government organizations, or NGOs, charities, doing innovative and meaningful work in their communities to create equality for women. As part of the initiative, we select five organizations across the globe that are working to improve the lives of women in their communities. And each organization receives a donation to further their inspirational work. In addition to our donation or our award, we also work with these NGOs throughout the year to help raise their visibility, provide volunteers, to help through their mission, and more. And The Lady Godiva Initiative also honors the legacy of Godiva's namesake, Lady Godiva, who stood up for what was right, she was bold, and she was empowered.

Erin: Talk to me more about the recipients. Who were the five recipients, and can you walk through the process for selecting them?

Tara: We have a really robust set of criteria ensuring that diverse women are supported through the initiative. We go out and we look into the communities and we see who's doing dynamic, really impactful work. We're also looking for NGOs, where our dollars would really make a big difference to them. We're looking at is it a new NGO? Is it an existing NGO that maybe doesn't have a lot of visibility? We're really looking to make a lot of impact with those dollars.

This year we focused on five different countries. We have Belgium, where we were founded in 1926. We have the UK, we have the U.S., Canada, and then we have Greater China. We looked at those markets, we shortlisted a list of NGOs, and then we actually went to our chocolatiers, which is what we call our employees, and we said, "Hey, you know, this is a really important program. We want you guys to be involved, and really choose the winner." We had them vote over a span of two weeks and had a lot of engagement and a lot of excitement around the program. Ultimately, they chose the winners. One of them being Hot Bread Kitchen. Other recipients outside of the U.S. include Up With Women in Canada, She DID IT in Belgium, the China Women's Development Foundation in Mainland China, and AVA, which stands for Against Violence & Abuse in the UK.

Erin: Let's talk more about Hot Bread Kitchen. Why was it chosen as the U.S. winner?

Tara: Hot Bread Kitchen, for those of you who aren't familiar with it, and I know Karen will speak about this in more detail, has really changed the lives of hundreds of women by creating opportunities through careers in food. And obviously, as a premium chocolate company, there's a natural and really authentic connection with that. But beyond that, Hot Bread Kitchen has just like a stellar reputation in New York City for doing incredibly impactful work to empower women with economic security. And just speaking for myself, and I'm sure many of our chocolatiers who voted to support this organization, the women who are their clients, their stories are just deeply moving. I think their resilience and their determination is incredibly humbling. And I think they're fantastic role models for everyone, really. And that's really why I think we chose Hot Bread Kitchen, I say we collectively, again, the chocolatiers of Godiva, as one of the winners for 2021.

Erin: Can you talk to me more about what Hot Bread Kitchen is or does?

Karen: Hot Bread Kitchen creates economic opportunity for immigrants, women, and women of color through job skills training, food entrepreneurship programs, and an ecosystem of support in New York City. Through our career programs and our bridge programs, women gain the skills and confidence, both in and out of the kitchen to prepare for careers in the food industry and beyond. We're so much in alignment with Lady Godiva and their work to really just lift up women around the world. We've been thrilled to have this partnership with Lady Godiva.

Erin: Karen, I'm curious, what does this grant mean for Hot Bread Kitchen?

Karen: It means a lot for our members. I think the best way to talk about what Lady Godiva support really means is to share some stories of our members. Since we were founded in 2008, we've grown a community of hundreds of women around New York City who've accessed economic opportunity through jobs or through entrepreneurship in food. And the support from Lady Godiva does so much to allow us to continue to support our existing membership, and grow our new membership. We're so grateful for that support. But let me talk about a couple of different members.

As part of their mission, Hot Bread Kitchen was able to help member Jesebel Gumogda, owner of Pure Confections, to connect with a corporate partner to provide a critical mass of orders that not only kept Pure Confections open during the pandemic, but allowed her to grow in a way that she hadn't since 2018. Photo: Pure Connfections

One great example of how Lady Godiva supports our members is Jesebel. She runs a wonderful bakery called Pure Confections. She makes these just beautiful, pristine little sweet treats, and she also makes gorgeous wedding cakes, and other special occasion cakes. Jesebel and Pure Confections joined our small business program in 2018. And they've been growing steadily until the pandemic hit. Jesebel was one of countless business owners whose livelihood, which relies on moments of connection and celebration like weddings and showers, really evaporated overnight. We were able to connect Jesebel with a corporate partner that is committed to supplier diversity to provide a critical mass of orders that not only kept Pure Confections open during the pandemic, but really allowed her to grow in a way that she hadn't since 2018. So that's a great example of a small business owner who has really thrived with Hot Bread Kitchen and Lady Godiva support.

For another member who's participated in our career programs, I think of someone like Sharabia who joined in 2017. She had been bouncing around in dead-end jobs and training programs, and was frustrated, unfulfilled, and underpaid. And she's excelled in her training program. She really just had such a natural ability for working in food and working as a baker, in particular. And I love to think and talk about Sharabia, because when she talks herself about her own Hot Bread Kitchen experience, she also mentions that she didn't get just one job opportunity through our training and employer networks, she got two. And for the first time in her life, she turned down a job offer. She's become a phenomenal bread baker in New York City. She's one of very few black women in the field, and she's really excelling and loving the work.

And I talk about Sharabia and Jesebel, who joined several years ago, but they're both still active Hot Bread Kitchen members. And I wanted to highlight them to show that our programming doesn't end with a job placement or with a sale. It really goes on, and our members come back to us through the years when they need new things, and we actually go back to them. I was just recently talking with Sharabia about our new job quality initiative. I'm convening a group of our members to talk about what they look for in a good job. And then ideally, I'll be able to connect that information to the employers that hire our members, and we'll be able to improve jobs in the food industry across the boards.

Erin: Can you talk to me specifically, or as specifically as you can get, about how the money will be used?

Karen: Yes, of course. The support from Lady Godiva will be used across all of our programming; it will be used to expand opportunities for professional, personal, and economic growth through our holistic job skills training and food entrepreneurship programs. It will also allow us to continue developing new programs in response to the needs of our members. Just in the last few months, we've developed bridge programming in English language skills, digital literacy, and professional readiness. It's also critically going to allow us to expand the number of women we serve each year. At the moment, we work with about 150 new members like Sharabia and Jesebel who wish to become breadwinners in their families. And we intend to grow that number over the next 3 years to 1,500 women. And the support from Lady Godiva will help us achieve that goal.

Erin: Tara, what does 2022 look like for The Lady Godiva Initiative?

Tara: We're really excited about 2022 in terms of giving our previous years' winners of The Lady Godiva Initiative a lot of visibility through social channels and through our CEO. We want to really shine a light on the amazing work that our partners are doing in this space. So that's one piece of it. And then the other piece is to get ready for the next class of winners. We're looking at what markets are we going to focus on in 2022? Are we going to look in different areas? Are we going to maintain the same markets? And just really keeping our eyes peeled for innovative, amazing NGOs because there's an overwhelming number of great organizations out there. It's a challenging job figuring out which ones we should partner with year to year.

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Erin: And Karen, what does 2022 look like for Hot Bread Kitchen?

Karen: In 2022, Hot Bread Kitchen is embarking on a 3-year strategy to triple the number of women we support across New York City, working toward that ultimate goal of 1,500 women a year. In addition to providing enhanced job training and placements, small food business programming, and social work support, we're offering fundamental skills training, including English and digital skills courses for the first time. We're launching additional workforce training and fundamental skills programs with community-based organizations, where hope to meet women actually in their neighborhoods. So rather than asking women to travel on the subway to meet us, we want to meet them where they are, and pop up programming in their communities. And we're doing that because that's really what a lot of women in our program have told us that they need. Many of them have kids at home, and they're commuting, and the time that they spend away from home is difficult.

And then we're launching our Job Quality Initiative, which I mentioned before, in which we'll really work with business owners and operators and their workforce to identify the challenges and the barriers that get in the way of offering a good job, and look to create solutions together, real operational solutions that can be implemented in the workplace. We wanna focus on food service and food manufacturing. Both of those areas are definitely struggling right now to attract and retain workers. And we think that we can connect them to the right kind of thinking and tools that will allow them to build a healthy workforce, and, in turn, strengthen their business and their bottom line.

Erin: One last question for both of you, Do you have any advice for future entrepreneurs or female leaders?

Tara: I'd say for future female leaders, remember to own your space and take up as much room as you want. Be aware of self-doubt and imposter syndrome, I think that tends to creep in for some of us. It certainly has happened to me. And if it does happen, reach out to somebody you trust, like a mentor, to set you straight, and help you remember how amazing you are, and that you do deserve the role you have to be a leader, to be at the decision-making table.

Karen: We work with entrepreneurs and business owners who are really just starting out, and my advice for them and our advice at Hot Bread Kitchen is really start small, focus. Don't try to be all things to all people, but be flexible and recognize that the idea that you have today and the business that you have today may not work for tomorrow. I think we've all learned that during the pandemic, but it's an important lesson to carry forward. And for businesses and for leaders that are more established and may have teams, don't underestimate the importance of really grooming your team. I think that successful businesses are those that often grow really fast, and their teams are often sacrificed to that speed, particularly in terms of training and professional development. I always think about how scientists say that we use only a fraction of our brain's potential, and I think that the same can be said so often of frontline workers. We're tapping really only into a fraction of their potential and their value. I recommend to leaders and entrepreneurs that you really invest in your workforce. And I think that those investments will be paid back in better productivity, and consistency in quality, and higher sales, and margins.

About the Author

Erin A. Hallstrom

Erin Hallstrom oversaw our digital content strategy for the Food Processing brand from 2008-2023. She is now the Associate Director of SEO Strategy for Endeavor Business Media, where she holds technical certifications in both website analytics and search engine optimization. Most recently, she was named the 2022 Marianne Dekker Mattera Award Winner

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