Social enterprise The Cookie Project has announced it has reached a new impact milestone of over 3,000 employment hours generated for Kiwis with disabilities, paid at a decent wage.
Established in June 2018, The Cookie Project employs Kiwis with a wide range of disabilities, including physical, sensory, cognitive, and mental health, to make premium quality cookies. Its purpose is to help those in the disability community understand their own value to themselves and to society by paying them at least the adult minimum wage, which is currently $18.90 an hour.
Co-founder Graeme Haddon said achieving this 3,000-hour milestone is encouraging for those like his adopted daughter, Ngā Hou, who has six different diagnosed disabilities, including fetal alcohol syndrome and autism.
“While there is a minimum wage exemption policy in Aotearoa, we personally don’t believe it’s fair to pay someone less just because they have a disability. My daughter Ngā Hou and the rest of our bakers have shown remarkable work ethic, and their skill development over the time spent with us is testament to the fact that people with disabilities just need a foot in the door to demonstrate their capabilities.”
Now engaging in a commercial partnership with New Zealand’s national stadium Eden Park, the social enterprise has begun expanding its offering to provide more employment opportunities. This includes unique baking experiences hosted in their kitchen such as “Free Cookie Saturdays”, “Bake Your Own Cookies”, “Win My Cookie Challenge” and “Baking in the Dark”. A nationwide “Local Cookie Rep” pilot programme is also being explored for those who are outside of Auckland looking for employment.
Co-founder Eric Chuah attributed the milestone achievement to the social enterprise’s motto of “winning by quality, not sympathy”, most recently seen through the response to its limited-edition cookies developed for Pride Month and Lunar New Year.
“The positive reaction to our Rainbow Heart and Year of the Ox cookies was uplifting, as many of our team members identify with the LBGTIQ+ and multicultural communities. We thank the individuals and organisations that have supported us in reaching this milestone, and also want to acknowledge the involvement of Eden Park and ingredient partners like Lewis Road Creamery, Trade Aid, Pic’s Peanut Butter and Champion Flour that have supported us since we started.”
The Cookie Project is now aiming to raise $15,000 via its Fundraising Cookies to scale up the business, including IT hardware, marketing assets, staff training, merchandise, video assets and new retail packaging.
“COVID-19 hit us incredibly hard, with revenue dropping more than 90%. While we’re still in the recovery phase, we want to prepare for our next step which is to scale up and sustainably generate exponential social impact nationally across Aotearoa,” Chuah concluded.
The Cookie Project’s Fundraising Cookies are available for purchase now via its online store, visit thecookieprojectnz.com