In Edible-Alpha® podcast #72, Tera talks to Sadie Scheffer, founder and CEO of Bread SRSLY, a gluten-free, vegan sourdough bread company based in San Francisco. Sadie began experimenting with gluten-free sourdough recipes in her apartment back in 2011 in attempt to woo her gluten-intolerant crush. Her baking not only won Jesse’s heart—it also led to a successful wholesale and e-commerce business rooted in values.
In the early days of Bread SRSLY, Sadie offered a rotating menu of sourdough flavors, along with muffins and cookies. But as the company grew organically, she realized her tasty gluten-free sourdough bread was the brand, so best to focus on that. Bread SRSLY moved through a series of production spaces and worked with a co-packer for a few years before landing in the certified-gluten-free, certified-vegan kitchen it holds today.
To complement its strong wholesale business, the company began selling direct to consumer in 2014 and built a loyal customer base. Having an e-commerce infrastructure in place proved fortuitous for the COVID-19 era, which has shifted massive food dollars online. Pre-pandemic, Bread SRSLY’s business was 75% wholesale, 25% e-commerce. Now it’s 50-50.
And yet, despite a huge spike in demand this spring, this values-aligned company put its employees’ well-being ahead of profit, actually dialing back capacity to ensure no shortcuts would be taken on safety. A response team was assembled to plan ahead for various scenarios that COVID-19 could trigger, such as what to do if an employee tested positive. Well, one did, so the company shut down operations for three weeks while the whole team quarantined, receiving pay the entire time. Because of the pre-planning and ongoing engagement with employees, Sadie says shutting down was a stress-free decision and the company is prepared to do it again if necessary.
Over the last few years, Sadie has come into her own as a leader. Of all her CEO responsibilities, she most enjoys cultivating strong teams and empowering others with leadership roles. She has “flattened out” the organization as much as possible to make it less hierarchical, thereby boosting employee engagement. She is especially proud of her sales and marketing team, which, driven by values, recently requested that Bread SRSLY join the Stop Hate for Profit campaign and pull its ads from Facebook and Instagram. The team is also examining how to be more inclusive in its messaging to engage a broader audience, and the company is exploring how to accept EBT dollars online.
As the pandemic drags on, Bread SRSLY is focused on cultivating its growing e-commerce channel, launching its first new product in five years and hopefully moving into a more cohesive kitchen space. But no matter what the future holds, this company, with its highly engaged team and unwavering commitment to values, is built to prosper.