Fresh Bread, fresh start
Updated: 2013-04-15 15:33
By Cang Wei and Song Wenwei (China Daily)
"Together with the allowance from the local federation for physically or mentally challenged people, every month they take home about 1,700 yuan, a good supplement to their families' income," says Zhu Yanwei, general manager of Amity Bakery.
Zhang Liwei, one of the founders of Amity Bakery, is instrumental in introducing the concept of sheltered workshop in 2007. He was then the deputy secretary-general of Amity Foundation.
"In China, many families consider mentally challenged people as a shame. Some parents even said they didn't know what sins they have committed to deserve children with mental health problems," Zhang says.
During a visit to Germany in 2007, the workers from Amity Foundation experienced sheltered workshop for the first time. They learned that mentally challenged people could make products fit for used by companies such as BMW.
"We were so impressed that we decided to start our own sheltered workshop in China," says Zhang, who has always shared the worry with Chinese parents.
"The fact that their children have working abilities and can make money may help them to better face the reality and have confidence in the future," Zhang says.
With support from Amity Foundation, which aims to promote education, social services, health and rural development in the country, the bakery was established in 2007, as a base to teach skills and provide a real working environment for the In 2009, Amity Bakery registered in the local commercial and industrial bureau, and started its journey as a social enterprise.
In 2010, the bakery started its online shop with the support of 30 college student volunteers.
Even though they worked hard, they could hardly make ends meet.
In 2011, the sales revenue of the bakery reached 1 million yuan. But after deducting expenses and taxes, the bakery still had a deficit of more than 10,000 yuan.
To expand its influence and increase sales, the bakery opened its first store in Huaqiao Road in 2012.
The bakery adopted a commercial model. A general manager is in charge of the daily operation while an executive director is responsible for charity work. The income earned would be used not only to cover expenses and taxes, but also to increase the training funds for new workers.
But on the first day of operation, the bakery only earned about 3,000 yuan, half the anticipated revenue.
"We cannot compete with other bakeries in techniques, output and packaging," says co-founder Zhang. "And compared with other brands, the salary we offer is not competitive, thus the turnover of the bakers is high."