June 6, 2023 by Catherine Stack
Janie Deegan, the bakery’s founder, experienced homelessness and substance addiction a few years prior to opening her business. She had turned to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism during her teen years when she struggled with debilitating anxiety and insecurity. Her life quickly spiraled out of control and became unmanageable.
At age 24, Janie turned a corner for the better when friends encouraged her to believe in herself. She baked as a hobby, and her friends convinced her to pursue that passion as a career path.
One friend offered to pay for a cake Janie had made for a special event, and it clicked for Janie that she could make a living doing something she loved. So, in 2015, she began selling baked goods out of her small New York City apartment.
“When I was getting sober, I found that my life was so out of control, but baking was... just this beautiful, meditative, very controlled, artistic outlet for me,” said Janie.
She dreamed of owning her own bakery, but felt intimidated by the process as a self-taught baker with no prior business education or experience.
“I just had this impression that you had to have money to be a business owner; you had to be a man to be a business owner; you had to have business experience to be a business owner,” Janine said.
She eventually decided to take a chance on herself, open the bakery and “ride the wave,” as she put it. “It was like pure magic,” she recalled of the moment she was given the keys to her bakery.
As a business owner, Janie is now in a position to help others who may be struggling to find employment due to resume gaps.
“We have an open-door policy, which means that if you're ready, willing, able and enthusiastic about coming to work, we’re not going to look at sort of your past situations or gaps on your resume or if you're homeless or if you've been to prison,” she said.
Janie personally trains her staff, most of whom have never baked before, and she enjoys teaching people new skills.
“I really get to see people grow” she said. “They come in timid, and I get to see people flower.”
Janie now employs 15 people at her two New York City locations.
“We sell joy,” she said.
Sober for eight and a half years, Janie now hopes to inspire others who might be struggling with addiction.
“Don’t give up hope; there is a better life out there” she said.
The Foundation For A Better Life and PassItOn believe that Janie is a hero. Her passion for baking led her to an incredible, life-changing journey that has grown to create opportunities for others. Her action is a great example of the value of second chances. We applaud her for her commitment to helping others through mentorship and second-chance employment.
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