Karen Trilevsky is being recognized as a Champion of Change for her work demonstrating that corporate environmental leadership makes sense, both for business and for American communities.
I am an entrepreneur, who happens to run a successful bakery. It is a great honor to be recognized as a Champion of Change for Corporate Sustainability, especially given the current business and economic climate in our country. With this recognition, it’s my hope that more business leaders embrace the synergy and benefits of leading your business from a set of core values and more consumers demand values-driven products and services.
Like most start ups, I began my baking business with very few bankable resources: vision, passion and copious amounts of sweat equity. The baking day began at 3 p.m. in a shared kitchen and ended at 2 a.m. when the dilapidated pickup truck was loaded and deliveries began. By 10 a.m. the last delivery was made, new orders taken, supplies ordered and I was able to grab a few hours of sleep in the restaurant’s stock room. We grew slowly. Yet, by 1995 we were providing fresh baked natural pastries to more than 600 accounts seven days a week. Today we are a proud team of 240 people, baking in a state-of-the-art facility and making our products available nationwide at more than 12,000 locations.
Growing a business requires constant decision making—some operational, others strategic, most pragmatic. From its inception, four core values have guided my decision-making:
Since 1989 we’ve only baked with natural ingredients, often direct farm sourced and organically grown. We built the first LEED (Platinum)-certified wholesale bakery. Each part of our operation is charged with minimizing its impact on the environment -- it’s a work in progress and we challenge ourselves to make improvements each year. For example, our sanitation team worked on reducing our use of water. Within four months of unrelenting focus and competition between the shifts they reduced water use by a factor of 10!
At FullBloom we believe a big part of being sustainable is to create a unique workplace – one that attracts exceptional people and inspires them to join our team. Today many people are seeking employment exclusively with companies whose values align with their own. That pays off in our work environment, our retention rate and our business results. FullBloom’s success reflects the dedication and hard work of our team members. We share our success by offering everyone full benefits, living wages and by creating growth opportunities for them and their families. One of our proudest achievements is the Smart Cookie Scholarship program, which provides financial support and mentoring to students who might not otherwise go to college.
We believe the workplace can be a setting where people can learn more about sustainability. Our team members take best practices home with them and create a “ripple effect” that leads to more sustainability practices. This provides value for our people, our community and our planet.
When the economic downturn of 2008 hit, it had a tremendous impact on us. My core values were being tested: we underwent extreme pressure from our customers to slash prices in order to continue doing business with them. Sales were down significantly. We became very innovative operators amidst this "great recession." I was unwavering with my staff and customers in refusing to compromise our values. Living one’s values in the face of a business downturn leads to difficult decisions and uncomfortable conversations; these were extremely difficult and challenging times. We all made sacrifices and we persevered. Today we have a solid bottom line and higher sales than any point in FullBloom Baking Company’s history. I believe it is because of maintaining our values, rather than in spite of them, that our business is stronger than ever.
Given my experience these past years with the "great recession," I differ with those who claim it is financially incompatible to be committed to high quality products, competitive prices and operate in a sustainable manner. It takes courage, tenacity and a fundamental conviction that leading a values-driven business is good for the bottom line. It can be done. We do it. You can too!
Karen Trilevsky, founder and CEO of FullBloom Baking Company, has promoted social responsibility, sustainability, positive impact and delicious natural baking, based on the belief a business can lead the way to better communities, harmony with the environment and a better life for workers.