updated 10/30/2013 AT 6:00 PM ET
•originally published 10/31/2013 AT 12:25 PM ET
On paper, Andrew Stoloff knew it made no sense to buy Rubicon Bakery in Richmond, Calif.
But the former Wall Street analyst’s decision to take over the failing business in 2009 and save the jobs of its 14 part-time employees – most of whom were recovering drug addicts or ex-convicts – had little to do with dollars or cents.
“I fell in love with its mission: to give people a second chance,” says Stoloff, 53.
Today, the wholesale bakery has $8 million in sales and 80 full-time employees, who earn between $8.50 and $24 an hour, receive health insurance, paid vacation and have access to an interest-free employee loan program.
“Not only are we doing the right thing by giving people a second chance,” says Stoloff, “but I’ve found that it’s great for business.”
It’s also great for the employees.
“It was like God sent Andrew to this bakery,” says Sheila Young-Eberhart, 55, the bakery’s quality assurance manager and one of the original 14 employees who worked for the shop when it was run by a nonprofit.
Before Stoloff stepped in, the bakery was in bad shape.
“We knew we could lose our jobs at any moment,” says Eberhart, a former drug addict who was determined to turn her life around.
Then Andrew came in. “He’s saved a lot of lives,” says Eberhart.
The main reason? “Our employees are very, very loyal,” says Stoloff.
They’re people like David Johnson, 44, the bakery’s maintenance technician. An ex-convict, Johnson says, he struggled to find work.
“I couldn’t even count how many times I’d been turned down,” he says, adding that, at Rubicon Bakery, he finally feels at home.
“I actually feel like I belong here. I’ve never felt like that in my entire life.”
“Andrew has always been there for us,” adds his wife, Leslie Johnson, 45, who works as an oven manager at the bakery. “You couldn’t ask for a better boss.”
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