Between 2010 and 2012, Markey Culver served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Rwanda, specializing in rural secondary education and public healthcare. Culver witnessed many plights in her rural Rwandan village, the most poignant of which were social inequality, malnutrition and stunted opportunity. These problems, however, were not unique to her Rwandan village – women’s social and economic subjugation is prevailing globally.
Culver believed women’s social and economic empowerment could be achieved through education. Thus, Culver began teaching village women to read and write in their native language, Kinyarwanda, and bake bread over an open fire using only locally available resources. Culver quickly realized bread could be a powerful medium for social and economic change as well as improved nutrition.
Culver conceptualized the idea of a women’s bakery business: An opportunity-generating mechanism for village women, with ancillary benefits of nutrient-fortified breads sourced from local farmers that would thus propagate a community economy. Culver strove to harness business as a tool for social good, providing a self-sustaining solution for Rwandan women’s financial independence and social autonomy.
Culver’s lessons turned into basic business training. She began teaching women advanced technical concepts, such as production and operations management, inventory and accounting, sales and distribution. Here, Culver was combining tangible, capacity-building skills with pedagogical lessons.
In July 2013, Culver, with her brother, David Culver, formally launched the Rwanda Women’s Bakery, a social enterprise centered on holistic education for women as a means for empowered autonomy, both financial and social. By September 2013, the Rwanda Women’s Bakery gainfully employed twelve Rwandan women, netted $100USD monthly, and captured a growing market of seven villages. Because of the Bakery’s success, Culver had a vision to expand the model. In April 2014, Culver secured an angel investment to begin scaling the model throughout East Africa. She created The Women’s Bakery, Inc., to act as a third party service provider that offers the model and training for a fee to micro-financing organizations and nonprofits looking to maximize their development efforts abroad.Watch the Interview