Over the past three months, I have spent four great, difficult, challenging, successful, and sometimes not so successful, experimental, enjoyable, and interesting sessions with the four pilot Bread Angels.
The idea of the pilot was to dry run the course that will be used to train people to become home bakers and business owners, and to test the ideas that lie behind the social franchise that is Bread Angels. We had some difficult moments as we did not necessarily have the same expectations. Some of my initial ideas changed, many of the ideas offered by the pilot group were taken on board and the Bread Angels programme is much more clear than it was four months ago. I am sure it will continue to evolve but, it is much more fully formed than it once was. I have some work to do rewriting the course material and putting proper “teaching notes” together so that this pilot group feels comfortable teaching the course when they are ready.
The way it works is this:
Virtuousbread.com run Bread Angels from our global HQ in London. To fulfill our mission to make it fun and easy for people to make and find and learn about good bread and in so doing to forge the link between bread and virtue, we initially decided we would teach people to bake for home consumption, and work with groups of people to build relationships, change behaviour, and ultimately change society through bread. A couple of months after Virtuous Bread was founded, my friend Pete appeared on my doorstep to challenge me that Virtuous Bread should do more: Teach people to bake bread for sale, “an army of people providing good bread” were his words. The army analogy did not work for me so very well (if you recall I laid down my sword and my shield about a year ago) but a “host of people” did appeal, and Bread Angels was born.
Bread Angels have their own businesses baking bread at home and delivering it to their local communities: neighbours, colleagues, schools, delis cafes, community centres – anywhere at all to which they can deliver, ideally on foot or by bicycle. To do so, they take the Bread Angel course and learn to bake, to market and sell their bread, and to set up and run their business. When they finish the course, they get a starter pack and if they want to be part of the Virtuous Bread community and take advantage of the Virtuous Bread brand (identity, stationery, website, etc.) and everything it stands for (quality, clarity, community building, good bread, virtue) they pay a small fee to cover the costs of doing so. After a few months of running their home baking business they may decide that they want to teach other people to set up a home baking business – adding teaching to their bread related activities. In that case, they come back for a conversion course and become a qualified trainer of the Bread Angel course. Virtuousbread.com cannot train everyone!
Trainers pay Virtuousbread.com either an annual flat fee or a commission of 15% on all the Bread Angel courses they teach. It’s a trust system: it has to be. We are not about suing people, we cannot police what they do, we hope that they buy into our mission and believe it is worth contributing to us so we can continue our work. Anything else kind of flies in the face of what we do and what goes around comes around. Quite frankly, if they cheat us, someone will cheat them. If they are honest with us, someone (us included) will be honest with them. The one big difference between us and Avon is that we don’t control the supply of the necessary goods for resale (although we recommend millers who do!) but we do supply training materials, starter packs, stationary, a well developed and increasingly well respected brand that, among other things provides awareness and discounts for bulk purchases, a highly visited web site through which Bread Angels and Bread Angel trainers can market their bread and/or their classes, discounts off further training, and, possibly the most important thing, access to a community of fellow Bread Angels – a sense of belonging.
I look forward to the day when there are thousands of Bread Angels up and down the land making money, building communities, and changing the world by helping people make and find and learn about good bread and in so doing, forging the link between bread and virtue. That, and moving the needle on the white sliced bread in a plastic bag market.
So, thank you Jo, Alison, Clare, and Rosie. You have been brilliant, helpful, patient, and enthusiastic. We have come a long way.