Mindful Metropolis September 2009 : Page 23

Rev. Stan Sloan, 46 Sweet Miss Givings Bakery 1229 N. North Branch, Chicago sweetmissgivings.com Opened: October 2008 PHOTO: CHRISTINA GALOOZIS Ryan Howard, 32 & Dan Ziegler, 34 Chicago Soydairy P.O. Box 666, Glen Ellyn, Ill. chicagosoydairy.com Founded: 2002 The vegan venture While studying engineering at Purdue in the mid-1990s, I was surrounded by soybean fields and thought there was no better time to start my own natural foods company. I asked Dan, a fellow vegan, to run the business with me in Chicago, so I moved here in 2001 and Dan commuted three weekends a month until he moved from Indiana in 2004. We initially funded the business through my salaried job as an engineer for General Mills and Dan’s retirement package (at the age of 28) from Southern Bell. Our first product was soy milk, which the two of us made in my Wheaton basement. We thought we were going to become a big soy milk company, get on the Oprah show and have all these Chicago housewives buy our product, and live happily ever after. It turns out there were other companies that could make soy milk a hell of a lot faster and cheaper than us, so when one of our customers asked if we made vegan ice cream, I said yes. We didn’t. But we figured it out, and now our Temptation vegan ice cream is sold in hun- dreds of grocery stores and restaurants across the country. We also make vegan marshmallows and cheese out of our 3,200-square-foot factory in Lombard, with 10 employees. We try to be socially conscious at every step. Since our area doesn’t offer solar power, we purchase credits to offset the impact of our electricity usage. Our products are also allergy- free, 90 percent gluten-free and made with Fair Trade Certi- fied ingredients. Almost 100 percent of our incoming materi- als are reused or recycled, so we throw out only one trash bag every month. This year Chicago Soydairy will amass $1 million in sales. A small amount, but it’s bigger than we’ve ever been. Creating jobs from cupcakes I had been CEO of Chicago House, an agency that serves homeless men and women living with HIV and AIDS, for six years before I thought of the idea for Sweet Miss Givings. The agency had received a $200,000 grant from Sen. Durbin that we used to start a five-week intensive job-training pro- gram for our clients. But, those who excelled in the program still couldn’t find jobs because they didn’t have enough skills, a high school degree or work experience. So with a $25,000 grant from the Illinois Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, we worked with Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management to launch Sweet Miss Givings, a commercial bakery that employs the program’s graduates for six-month paid internships. The stints provide them with real-life work experience for a better shot at long-term employment. We originally wanted a neighborhood bakery, but decided to tap Chicago House’s more than 150 business donors for catering orders instead. Now the bakery, which has a 2,000-square-foot factory built from $1.5 million in raised funds, delivers 50 orders for cupcakes, brownies, scones, breads, muffins and the like every week. We also sell the baked goods through wholesalers such as Whole Foods and Green Grocer. (Although we’re now looking to open a store- front in Lakeview or The Loop.) Altogether, Sweet Miss Giv- ings generates $25,000 in sales each month, 49 percent of which is reinvested in the business and 51 percent of which funds Chicago House. Sweet Miss Givings is a unique social enterprise in that Chicago House, whose job is to advance the social mission, owns 51 percent, and 49 percent is owned by for-profit inves- tors who focus on the bottom line. Though the structure is legally expensive, we wanted to avoid one of the top reasons social businesses fail: spending too much time on the mission and not enough on turning a profit. Do I consider myself a social entrepreneur? I’ve never even used the term, though I have dedicated almost three years of my life to getting the bakery started. We even perfected the recipes in my home. mindfulmetropolis.com 23

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