Making It: Abolition Bakery Continues Human Trafficking Survivor Support

Making It

Editor’s note: This is part of a series exploring how Northeast Ohio entrepreneurs and small businesses have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and their plans for moving forward.

Maker: Rita Ballenger, owner

Business: Abolition Bakery, a home-produced and volunteer-operated bakery assisting human trafficking survivors in Cleveland

How has the outbreak impacted your business?

“We’re not suffering like many other restaurants, because we were always home-produced and we were always volunteer-operated. I don’t have a lot of overhead that I have to keep up with. I just have to take a wait-and-see approach. Even if I couldn’t have volunteers here, I could certainly still bake on my own. Even though there’s very little baking jobs coming in, we’re still just holding the course. I donated some bakery to the essential workers at the Heinen’s warehouse. I had a customer come and pick up some bakery, and he told me that he’s still working and what he did. And I thought, ‘now there’s a population of people that nobody knows they exist.’ You know, they’re tucked away in this warehouse, and he told me that they’re working hard. And I thought, ‘they need to be encouraged.’ I asked him if he’d like to come and pick up some biscotti for them and he did. It was well-appreciated and we gave them a card just saying thank you for all your hard work.”

Will you look at your business differently moving forward?

“I don’t see a lot of change, but it’ll be interesting to see how these organizations that support human trafficking survivors, how this crisis has affected them financially and things like that. We can still raise money to support human trafficking survivors even during this crisis.”

What have you been doing to stay creative? 

“I’ve been doing a little bit of baking. I’ve taken on some new skills. I went to YouTube university and I learned how to upholster, and I upholstered a window seat cover. Then I even practiced making some cloth masks that I may donate. It’s a little bit frustrating because a lot of the supplies aren’t available, like elastic.”

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