What they do
Founded in 2012 by Graison Gill, New Orleans-based Bellegarde Bakery uses freshly milled flour and traditional methods to produce handmade pasta, pastries, and bread. They strive to use identity-preserved and single-origin ingredients—most of their grains are, and their olive oil and salt are intentionally sourced as well.
Bellegarde stone mills its own flour and sells it to grocers, restaurants, and directly to customers in its retail store. By working with local growers and farmers, the bakery aims to keep money in the local and regional economy.
In early 2022, Gill had a new business opportunity that accelerated succession plans for Bellegarde. His hopes were to preserve the ethos of the bakery and to secure the livelihoods of its employees, who committed their time and talent to high-quality products and processes. Learning about transitioning to a worker-owned cooperative aligned with those goals.
Why we invested
Bellegarde Bakery sought financing from local banks and a credit union but found that traditional lenders were either too risk-averse or did not understand their proposed ownership structure.
From there, they got in touch with Project Equity and the Employee Ownership Catalyst Fund. The fund provided Bellegarde Bakery with both a forgivable loan to defray extra costs associated with transitioning to a cooperative as well as a transition loan to facilitate the actual change in ownership structure. Bellegarde’s transition to a worker-owned cooperative was completed in September 2022.
Mollie Sciacca, one of the new worker-owners, noted, “The transition to employee ownership hasn’t felt that different yet, but I can tell with my coworkers that there is a renewed sense of enthusiasm and pride in the work and what we do here.”
Bellegarde Bakery has always attracted strong local talent, but after the transition to employee ownership, they have begun attracting out-of-state applicants and have even welcomed a team member from North Carolina who moved to New Orleans for the position.
Long-term, they would like to continue selling wholesale from their current location, and eventually open a storefront in a shopping or restaurant district in New Orleans.
Shaping local markets
Employee Ownership Catalyst Fund
Dates of Investments
- August 2022 (forgivable loan)
- September 2022 (transition loan)
New Orleans, Louisiana
Loan #1 forgiven