Friday, August 17, 2007

Khaya Cookie Company - Creating Opportunity One Bite at a Time


Khayelitsha is a township on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa. In Khayelitsha almost one million people live below poverty level in one room homes typically made of corrugated iron and scrape lumber. One out of four children suffers from chronic malnutrition. Seventy percent of the women who raise their families alone are unemployed with little to no education or job skills.

That was the reality facing Alicia Polak when she decided to open the Khayelitsha Cookie Company. Alicia seems an unlikely choice for the task ahead. She didn't know anything about baking and less about the South African economy but she had the will and desire to help and a background in investment banking didn't hurt.

While working for one of the Non-Governmental aid organizations in the area, the Philadelphia native began to look for a way to teach employable skills and provide a sustainable income to the struggling women. Her solution - bake all natural, preservative free gourmet cookies and sell them to the local resorts and high end restaurants in Cape Town. Her goal - find investors and distributors to buy their cookies worldwide. Her mission - teach the employees all aspects of running the business, instill pride in the product and change a few lives in the process.

I would say that Alicia and the women of Khayelitsha have succeeded. They recently launched http://www.khayacookies.com/ to expand their operations abroad. Each cookie will still be handmade, individually wrapped and all natural. The products have a three months shelf life and are great when warmed in the oven. Currently you can have delicious brownies shipped right to your door for a very reasonable price. They plan to add new varieties in the spring. And as their slogan says, "Each time you take a bite of a Khaya Cookie, you help Create Opportunity One Bite at a Time!"
What I find most fascinating about this story is Alicia and her teams dedication to "the whole person". The women who work with her are not taught just to bake. They are taught to run the factory, to speak in English on the phone to perspective buyers, and to run the small retail store. They also learn computer and math skills necessary to run a business of any size.

Each woman is in charge of her cookies through out the baking and production process. A few of the women are responsible for developing new recipes and are given time during their workday to experiment with the ingredients. Polak and her team are training them to be self-sustaining, employable, educated women who can conquer any obstacle in their path.

There is a note on the http://www.khayacookies.com/ website that reminds us to place our orders early for Christmas delivery. I'd listen and get a move on to give this unique, delectable gift that is more than just a tasty treat...it's a brownie that's changing lives.

Way to go ladies of Khaya Cookie Company! More power to ya!

15 comments:

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks for the success story, and the link I like cookies, and I like what tthey are doing, creating wealth where there was none before, very nobile indeed

Lisa McGlaun said...

Bob,

That's is a good thing, isn't it? I hope they sell lots and lots of cookies.

Peace,
Lisa

m38967 said...

Hi---Lisa:

Do you know if Khaya is considered a fair trade operation? I would love to do a post on them at eco blog Keetsa, where i write on such matters. Let me know. Hey, and thanxs for dropping by my veggie blog earlier today.

Missy.

Lisa McGlaun said...

Missy,

I'm not sure about that but I left you a message on BC with some contact info.

Thanks for being willing to give Khaya some extra exposure.

Lisa

Mark said...

Thanks for visiting me blog, and in turn, introducing me to yours. I am adding a link to your blog on mine. I love the uplifting stories you include here, especially when they take place in Africa :) I lived there for two years and it holds a large place in my heart.

Lisa McGlaun said...

Mark,

Thanks for the link. That's very sweet. I like doing stories about Africa. I'd love to go there one day and meet some of the beautiful spirited people for myself.

Lisa

ablogaboutnothing.com said...

Interesting. It's always good to see people finding a way when it seems the world in general is "against" them

Lisa McGlaun said...

I agree. It's always great to see people succeeding against all odds.

Thanks for commenting,
Lisa

La delirante said...

Fantastic post! A great story of success. "She didn't know anything about baking and less about the South African economy but she had the will and desire to help" Most of the time that is what really counts.

Have a nice day!

Lisa McGlaun said...

Hey Wen,

I plan to order some brownies. I'll let everyone know how they are. Have a great weekend.

Peace,
Lisa

Scruffyhippo said...

There's an old saying I like that fits here.
"It may take more than one person to change the world, but one person is a good start"

NeoAuteur said...

Girl Power! I like it.

Lisa McGlaun said...

Scruffy,

Thanks for the comment..that's a good quote and I beleive it's true. If we were all that ONE person imagine what could be accomplished.

Thanks,
Lisa

Hey Neo,

Girls got it goin' on. That's for sure...:)

Happily Anonymous said...

What a refreshing story!

Lisa McGlaun said...

Happily,

Thanks for the comment...I think it's a breath of fresh air, too. Hopefully, their international business will get off the ground. Think of what that will do for thier community.

Lisa