Inside Richmond Rubicon Bakers, 200 employees create, bake and decorate cakes, cupcakes and cookies that are shipped to 2,500 grocery stores across the country.
Yet it was something that was happening much closer to his home, literally on the street, that made owner Andrew Stoloff realize he could do more for the good of his employees.
It was quite a goal for someone who had already done so much for them.
Nine years earlier, Stoloff had bought the bakery from a nonprofit organization that was losing money in the skills training business. At the time, the bakery had only 14 part-time employees.
Under Stoloff’s leadership, Rubicon Bakers is now a successful business Certified B Corporation (a for-profit company with a mission to do social good) employing 200 workers, many of whom have recently been released from prison or drug treatment programs.
So what more could Stoloff do? Well, as Stoloff saw, he could stop them from taking to the streets when they need financial help.
“At the end of our block, about a five-minute walk from the bakery, is a check-cashing store,” Stoloff said. “I saw our employees walk around the neighborhood and borrow $ 50, $ 100, and $ 200 and then struggle for months after that,” trying to pay off the high interest payday loans.
The answer, to Stoloff, was simple. He just put his hand in his own pocket.
“I started by opening my wallet and pulling out a $ 20 bill and giving it to an employee asking them to pay it back in a few weeks,” Stoloff said.
The employee did and since then Rubicon Bakers has granted half a million dollars in zero interest loans to its employees. 80% of it has already been refunded.
Stoloff says the money is often needed for unforeseen expenses, like a car repair bill, but sometimes it’s for something much more meaningful.
Lucia Baires has worked at Rubicon Bakers for a decade. His daughter, Maria, had been accepted to Syracuse University. Maria Baires was to be the first in her family to go to college, but a lack of financial support left the family in need of the money to make this dream come true.
Stoloff was more than happy to oblige.
“They are really good people,” Baires said. “Each company has different bosses, but here it feels like they are getting very special treatment.”
It was such a positive experience for Baires that four years later, after paying off the original loan, she returned to Stoloff to apply for a new loan.
He asked what it was for.
“She said it was so I could go and see my daughter graduate from college,” Stoloff said. “Our eyes started to cry. Being able to lend someone money to change their life or the lives of their children, that was what it was all about.”