Have you heard of the butterfly effect? Also known as chaos theory, it suggests that small events can make a large impact somewhere else. The nickname came from the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings could ultimately trigger a tornado.
I recently met two people, both of whom will tell you they’re not bakers. Sure, they didn’t start out that way, but that’s what they are.
Or, perhaps, they’re butterflies.
Fred Domke owns a retail bread shop in St. Louis, and Markey Culver is the founder and chief executive officer of The Women’s Bakery in Rwanda. I met Ms. Culver in Munich, Germany, last fall on the iba trade show floor, and I met Mr. Domke when I toured his bakery during a third-grade mission trip.
Bridge Bread employs people affected by homelessness so they can learn a trade skill, earn an income and eventually secure their own housing. Meanwhile in East Africa, The Women’s Bakery provides similar opportunities for marginalized Rwandan women who make and sell their bread daily.
Each bakery uses flour, water, salt and yeast to eliminate a problem by teaching skills and providing income, rather than mitigating the symptoms.
Both started their bakeries because they identified human needs and discovered that bread could fulfill them. So, when they say, “I’m not a baker,” I just have to laugh. They may not be cranking out thousands of loaves an hour, but what they do — and why they do it — is baking in its purest form.
They’re the wings of the butterfly. He shared his story with third-graders, and she plans to speak at the BEMA convention June 18-22 in Beaver Creek, Colo., where she’ll share her story with attendees and their families. Instilling these values into children is how bread baking — whether it’s in the back of a shop, the middle of the Rwandan countryside or inside a 100,000-square-foot plant — will change the world.
So, perhaps, bread is the butterfly.
If you’re ever in St. Louis, stop by Bridge Bread on Cherokee St. and visit with Mr. Domke. He’ll tell you about how he transformed from a corporate exec driving a Mercedes in the suburbs into a social enterprise baker all because of a man wearing a T-shirt that read, “Here I am.” (And please tell me how the cinnamon rolls taste; I gave up treats for Lent, so all I could do was fog up the glass on the case.)
And if you ever find yourself in East Africa, find a way to experience The Women’s Bakery, where they just installed their first pieces of commercial equipment. You can also hear Ms. Culver’s Fresh Take Talk, “Reimagining the power of bread,” at IBIE in Las Vegas, Sept. 7-11.
Regardless, look at the little guys. With the right help, they can make real change for the industry, our communities and even the world. And while you’re at it, discover ways in which your bakery can bring about change, whether you’re the wings of the butterfly, a chain in the reaction or the big boom at the end.