Bakery helping ex-offenders into work seeks urgent cash injection

Maggie Rich and Nigel Spencer set up Companions Real Bread CIC in 2016

A Bedford bakery that gives valuable work experience to ex-offenders has issued an impassioned plea for emergency funding or they may face closure in August.

Companions Real Bread is a community interest company that was set up three years ago by Maggie Rich and ex-offender, Nigel Spencer.

In that time, they’ve given work experience and training to 38 ex-offenders, twelve of whom are now in paid employment.

They need £5,000 to continue.

Just last year, Companions moved into larger premises at the Gallery on Howard Street and expanded their wholesale business, providing their nutritious, digestible and immunity-boosting sourdough bread to the people of Bedford.

Companions’ super sourdough

While they hope to quadruple their output over time, the move and the increase in wholesale customers has had an impact on their immediate cashflow.

The stark reality is that they will run out of money in early August.

In a video to their supporters, Maggie said: “We were on track for the business to break even this year. But as you know we’ve recently moved to super-duper new premises with top-notch equipment.

“This had to happen and the move is already proving very beneficial – our volunteers are benefitting from a much more professional working experience – which we hope will impress potential employers.

“However, in the immediate term, the extra costs of the move itself, the increased rent, and the reduced margins of switching from mainly retail to mainly wholesale have seriously disrupted our cashflow.”

Watch the video here.

In the video, which has already been shared widely on social media, Maggie goes on to say, “As things stand we are going to run out of money in early August, and need your help to bridge the gap to get us through to September when a new ESF community grant and further funding are expected to come in.

We believe we need about £5,000 to get through, and anything you can give will help us to stay open and continue to give our support to those who need it.”

Anyone who would like to make a donation can visit Companions’ website for details, or take their donation into the bakery at the Gallery (beneath Lurke Street carpark) on Howard Street. They will also be accepting donations at their stall at Taste Bedford on Mill Meadows on the Embankment tomorrow (Saturday 13 July) from 11am – 4pm.

“I believe I’m right in saying that it would be a great loss to Bedford if we had to close down – and I hope I’m right in saying that you’d miss us. Wouldn’t you?” said Maggie.

“It’s been an amazing journey so far, and let’s hope it’s not over yet.”

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