Dobraye Pechyva is the first bakery in the country where almost all employees have mental disorders. Journalists talked to its owner and listened to the touching stories of the bakery workers.
The idea of helping people with special needs slowly crystallized in Dmitry Bogdanov’s mind after his close friend became disabled and experienced difficulties in finding a job for years.
A personal story inspired him to start a business that would engage disabled people, make them feel useful and happy in the first place. Dmitry has spent much time thinking over the concept.
“There are many small industries where people with disabilities make toys and cards. The thing is no one will buy a million of the cards: most likely, a person will take one or two, while I wanted to create a long-playing story with a steady income.
Although it is social, still it is entrepreneurship. As an employee, I must pay a salary, and no less than 300 rubles/$150/€130,” (a minimum salary for a full-time job – BelarusFeed note), the Dobraye Pechyva owner explained.
Treated like ordinary people
Of the twenty candidates, only five were selected. Some changed their minds, others could not collect all the necessary documents – a sanitary book, permission to work from a medical rehabilitation board.
“All employees have different diagnoses: schizophrenia, epilepsy, mental retardation. Honestly, I didn’t ask much about it. I made it clear from the start – they will be treated like ordinary people here.”
The small bakery produces three types of cookies – chocolate, oatmeal and cheese – made with natural ingredients. More types and tastes are expected to appear in the future. For instance, cookies made of cricket flour with a lot of protein to please healthy lifestyle followers.
“What can be better than to eat a tasty treat and thereby do a good deed? According to statistics, every third Belarusian has at least one acquaintance with special needs. I think many of them would like to help.”
Cookies will be sold right in the cafe with which Dobraye Pechyva shares the kitchen. One jar weighing 700g (500g for cheese) will cost 18 rubles. However, retail sales are not the main source of income.
“We are going to deliver our products to offices on an ongoing basis. There are already several companies with whom we will cooperate. For them, this is a way to increase customer loyalty – to show that the company not only makes money but also helps those in need. Another feature is environmental friendliness.
The first time cookies are delivered, the price of one bundle is 20 rubles ($10/€9), of which five are the deposit per a jar. Later, the courier refills sweets, and the company pays five rubles less. We are considering to hire a person with a hearing impairment as a deliveryman to make our enterprise the most inclusive.”
Now a small team faces a difficult task – to reach self-sufficiency as soon as possible. Usually, it takes up to 12 months, to make a profit – 1-3 years. Unfortunately, we don’t have time for this. I won’t be able to pay salaries out of my pocket all year.
Meet the team
Like any other team, Dobraye Pechyva has their own leader – pastry chef Olga Gurinovich. The woman spent several years in the kitchen of a famous restaurant before changing it for a place for soul.
Olga is responsible for the production process, she makes sure that everyone follows safety precautions and no one gets hurt. Therefore, no one is allowed to go near the dough mixer, as well as to the machine, which rolls the mixture.
She is the only one who can use this equipment. But when the dough is ready, it falls into the hands of Vladimir and Artem, who with special iron moulds, cut neat rectangles out of it.
After graduating from school, Artem could not find a job for three years. And finally, he got lucky. On the first day at work, the man was very worried but decided not to give up no matter what.
His motto is “if something does not work, do not give up and just try again.” Artem has a hobby, he collects toy cars, there are about a hundred of them in his collection right now.
Before the illness, Vova reconciled his work of a locksmith and an ambulance assistant. He planned to join ground troops, he still reads thick books about tanks and plays World of Tanks.
However, the suicide of his girlfriend and two more deaths he saw on duty put him to the Republican Scientific-Practical Center of Mental Health instead of the army. There he spent about two years.
After moulding, the raw cookies are transferred to a baking sheet and sent to the oven. Ready sweets need to be weighed and sorted into jars. Vyacheslav and Inna do the packing part.
Inna is a jack-of-all-trades – she worked as a vegetable gardener, a computer operator, a florist, and even a manicurist. Inna has mental retardation. When she was a child, her mother took care of her, but after her death, there was no one left to do it.
Vyacheslav, perhaps, needs a job in the bakery more than anyone else – he has to support his wife and three-year-old son. Both spouses have epilepsy, the disability pension is not enough to live on. Even though the man is well versed in computer repair, he spent 11 years looking for work.
When the cookies are securely packed, labels are glued to the jars – here it is, the final touch. The cookies can be delivered to customers now.
Darya, who is affectionately called a hostess here, is responsible for the cleaning. She washes dishes, equipment and also looks after others: God forbid, someone will forget to put on an apron, hat or gloves!
Since childhood, the girl wanted to become a doctor. After graduating from a medical university, she got a job at a sanatorium. Several nervous breakdowns and she was diagnosed with mental disability.
For some time she worked as a janitor, then weaved wreaths and bouquets in a funeral services stores. She could not find a new job for half a year. Sometimes there were vacancies for people with disabilities, but after potential employers heard about her mental illness, they immediately said “goodbye”.
Dmitry Bogdanov has a dream, he wants to open several bakeries around the country to attract people not only with mental disorders but with autism spectrum disorders and Down syndrome.
“With our project, we hope to show Belarusian entrepreneurs that people with disabilities can and want to work, and they should not be ignored.”