Crust Vegan Bakery is known for its cookies, brownies, specialty birthday cakes, and other sweet treats. This small business based in Manayunk, PA aims to reduce inequalities by creating a diverse workforce. Crust Vegan Bakery also focuses on ending poverty by providing a living wage. This wage is roughly 2 times the minimum wage currently in Pennsylvania.
Daniel Okeefe Allen
Saint Joseph's University
Crust Vegan Bakery is an all-natural, vegan bakery located in Manayunk, Philadelphia. Crust Bakery helps to reduce inequality by offering fair employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals, those suffering from mental and physical illness, and those who are disabled, among others. In addition, Crust helps to end poverty by paying their employees a high employment wage that provides them with a living wage and a chance to a decent standard of living.
Crust Vegan Bakery is not just an ordinary bakery, thus it is innovative by making our beloved sweet treats available for all, by using natural and cleaner ingredients. They have been able to transform a sweet treat that is known to be unhealthy, into a better sweet option that its customers can enjoy while serving the greater community.
As a Tennessee native and student in graduate school for biochemistry and environmental science, Shannon Roche found herself with little to no connections in Philadelphia. Through the encouragement of mutual friends, Roche met her soon-to-be partner Meagen Benz. Benz, after adopting a vegan diet, found her true passion for baking and “began baking treats for her friends out of her home.”
After finally meeting with Meagen, Shannon was able to rekindle her passion for baking, dropped out of graduate school, and Crust was born. Roche and Benz embarked on the journey of owning a business on their own. Their inspiration centered around their love for baking and serving the community in which they operate. Embedded in their culture, Crust attempts to make sure that they address issues such as poverty through providing a living wage and participating in charitable donations as much as possible. As a women-owned business, Crust emphasizes their passion for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at all levels of the organization. Crust’s website mentions that the company keeps “it (their mission) political, because food is political.”
Both coming from food backgrounds, Roche and Benz have experienced first-hand how kitchen staff can be mistreated. As owners of the business, Roche and Benz seek to ensure that Crust’s work environment is empathetic and compassionate at the highest levels.
Crust Bakery has taken vegan baking to the next level, by making their products taste the same as those non-vegan or even better. From the start, Crust Bakery has always had a high demand, thus their sweet treats are known for being a delicious option that anyone can enjoy. Their short-term effects were particularly directed towards their employees since throughout the pandemic they continued paying their employees a fair wage and offered paid-time-off, coupled with health insurance. These effects were short and temporary as they were waiting until they received their unemployment checks, thus they made sure their employees were fairly compensated throughout this time.
Crust’s long term effects go far beyond just making delicious vegan treats, as their main focus is to give back to communities in need, educate consumers on animal rights and human liberation, use fair trade ingredients, and fair wage and health care for their employees. Hopefully, one day they strive to be able to provide a 401K as well.
Their behavior throughout the pandemic serves as the best evidence to show their commitment to staying true to their goals and standards as a small business, as in the process they sacrificed their own financial gain in order to give back to their employees. In addition, Crust Bakery has experienced low employee turnover as most staff stays with them for a long period of time. Crust is living proof of putting people over profit, as they have only one cake decorator on staff, for which they have had to turn down orders in the past since they refuse to exploit her into working more than 40 hours. From personal experience, when visiting their site as a group, we learned that instead of laying off a worker due to pregnancy, Meagan decided to accommodate her as needed by placing her to work at the storefront instead of inside the baking site. Therefore, this employee was able to continue working and gaining a salary without risking her state of pregnancy with intensive labor. These few examples are enough to show Crust’s commitment to truly impacting their community while creating a fair and enjoyable workplace for their employees.
Crust Vegan Bakery is not the first vegan bakery to ever exist. Their social and environmental impact is what sets them apart. The two co-founders, Meagan Benz and Shannon Roche were able to use business as a force for good. Their passion for vegan sweet treats, and prioritization of their people has made them an extreme success. Their products are excellent, which has allowed their revenue to grow since the launch of their company in 2015. Due to their success from their commercial kitchen, they were able to add a storefront location on Main Street in Manayunk. This also led to the opportunity to expand their workforce which now consists of 14 employees. Their employees feel passionate about their work and thrive in the environment that Meagan and Shannon created. It may have started out as a dream, but this innovation quickly became a successful reality.
How could Crust, as a small business and bakery, make an impact both socially and environmentally? Using their passion for equity and fair treatment of kitchen staff, Crust has been able to contribute to successful rates of employee wellbeing. Crust strives to support the community in which they work by providing a living wage for every employee. The bakery thrives on having a team that respects the well-being of one another both in and out of the kitchen.
In a recent visit to Crust in Manayunk, PA, the student BIA team from Saint Joseph’s University experienced firsthand how the bakery puts their employees first. An employee was pregnant and co-founder Meagan Benz explained to us how they continued to let the employee work in the bakery (at the employee’s request), but with different responsibilities that would put the safety of both the employee and her baby at the forefront of the work. To make the environment of the bakery even more supportive for the staff, there was a picture of the ultrasound from the employee hung up on a refrigerator for the entire team to see. This proved to us that although a small gesture, Crust makes every attempt possible to keep the culture inclusive and supportive for all employees.
According to an article on Weavers Way, they help the environment through their use of only natural ingredients, which means no artificial colors or preservatives. The business also focuses on using sustainable ingredients such as fair-trade cocoa and vanilla extract. As an all-vegan bakery, they are able to provide a healthier alternative to customers that would otherwise choose options damaging the environment. Customers of Crust contribute to the reduced consumption of animal-based products which are known to damage the environment.
As an initiative to help the environment, Crust incorporated reusable catering containers to reduce waste, and prevent a negative impact on the environment. Therefore, they have eliminated the use of plastic in their operations as products are delivered to customers in reusable containers which are later given back to Crust Bakery for them to reuse. However, not only has the environment significantly benefited from Crust Bakery but society has as well. Crust introduces its customers to cleaner, healthier and more natural products that are better for the environment and for their health. Crust Bakery shows its customers that there is a way to enjoy what you love in a healthier way, thus it is all about experimenting with ingredients.
Meagan Benz, Founder and CEO
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Philadelphia, PA, US
Business Website: https://www.crustveganbakery.com
Year Founded: 2015
Number of Employees: 11 to 50