SAN DIEGO, CA — The multi-year relationship between BEMA and The Women’s Bakery — a social enterprise focused on educating, employing and empowering women in several bakeries across Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania — continued at BEMA’s 2022 Convention.

On Thursday, June 24 at the San Diego, CA, event, Pauline Kariuki, director of operations at The Women’s Bakery, shared the organization’s story and her own.

Raised in Nairobi, Kenya, Kariuki grew up as one of five children in a two-room house. Through the sponsorship of a charity, she was afforded an education and an opportunity that she said would have stunted her life.

Kariuki initially worked in a bakery full-time to support herself through college. Her skills and interests in addition to her baking background led her to work in sales and operations in the baking industry for 18 years. The Women’s Bakery offered her the perfect scenario to use her skills to give back.

“In my adult life, I have had this desire to give back. And when I found out about The Women’s Bakery, this was it,” Kariuki said. “This was the perfect opportunity where I could give back through my life skills and experience while not sacrificing my personal and professional growth.”


In addition to updating those in attendance about how their contributions have impacted the program, she also outlined three key strategies for the future of The Women’s Bakery: new equipment, an enterprise resource planning system (ERP) and sales.

What Kariuki calls one of the largest investments the program has made, purchasing new equipment and upgrading current equipment has helped The Women’s Bakery hit a major milestone. With the self-sustainability of the bakeries in mind, the equipment changes will increase efficiency and productivity.

Though bakers being able to pay for their own costs is a key goal of the program’s operations, the war in Ukraine, rising ingredient costs and the COVID-19 pandemic have made this goal more difficult.

“Wheat is our primary ingredient, but it is not the only ingredient that has gone up, all of our raw materials have gone up, as well as fuel,” Kariuki said. “I know that everybody in this room has been dealing with external challenges in the industry from labor shortages to the rising cost of raw materials to logistic challenges. We’re in this together.”

When she joined The Women’s Bakery, Kariuki noted that with the vision the organization wants to pursue, investing in an ERP system can help it meet the goals needed. The system includes a customer module, which helps track real-time customer data to help in created targeted marketing campaigns and sales strategies.

“I am particularly excited about the inventory management where we will be able to track, monitor and control inventory, therefore eliminating waste in the process,” Kariuki shared.

“The Women’s Bakery will continue to empower women and transform lives for future generation. I hope that you, the baking industry, is watching.” — Pauline Kariuki | director of operations | The Women's Bakery


During the 2021 BEMA Convention, members doubled the bakery’s fundraising goal and raised over $25,000 for the One Bread Project, which supports snack programs in Rwandan schools. The social goal focuses on feeding children while the enterprise goal is an opportunity to generate revenue through multiyear contracts with a sliding pay scale for schools.

According to Kariuki, this plan has worked so far. At this year’s event, Kariuki shared the impact of these donations through a video and their goal to expand the program to feed 100,000 kids per day.

“Right now, we are feeding 11,000 kids a day, thank you,” she said. “You are the reason we have been able to expand this program.”

As the goals of The Women’s Bakery continue to grow, with a long-term goal of feeding over one million children, Kariuki further explained the program’s sales strategy goals, including a micro-franchise model.

“Our goal is to have a women-centric sales force that will revolutionize the rental and distribution as well as create access to prosperity for thousands of women,” she said.


In the face of labor challenges in East Africa, Kariuki explained that the micro-franchise model will create access for women who lack education and experience to enter business. These micro-franchises would look like 50-sq.-meter kiosk stands driven by foot traffic or delivery to saturate the market for mobile pretzels.

Additionally, Kariuki shared the company’s recent partnership with the University of Global Health Equity, a medical research facility that will work with The Women’s Bakery to identify nutritional gaps in Rwanda and fill them with the bread.

Kariuki closed her presentation with a message for the baking industry, asking that they invest in the organization’s empowerment of women and the opportunity to “have a big impact on a small country.”

“The Women’s Bakery will continue to empower women and transform lives for future generation. I hope that you, the baking industry, is watching. I hope that you’re paying close attention to us, and I hope that you have interest in us. Now, we’re asking you to transform your interest into action.”

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