This page highlights individuals who have harnessed the power of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and the arts to enhance their business operations and/or advance their non-profit organizational mission. They are agents of change who partner with Illinois Tech and work in the community. Each month, we will feature their stories and invite you to learn more about them.
In just five years, family-operated Laine’s Bakeshop in Chicago’s Morgan Park neighborhood has grown from a personalized baking and catering startup to supplying cookies and more to over 50 Whole Foods Markets, a dozen Starbucks coffee shops, and other stores and restaurants in the Midwest. Rachel Bernier-Green is the co-founder of Laine’s Bakeshop. Profoundly motivated by core values and dedication to be being part of our community, entrepreneur Rachel Bernier-Green is someone you should know.
Laine’s offers over four dozen baked confections but is especially known most for its artisan cookies including honey peanut butter, mocha raspberry, and intricately decorated sugar, as well as its classic brownies. The bakery caters treats to local celebrations, non-profit fundraisers, and business events hosted by the likes of Google and McDonald’s. While Laine’s is strongly rooted in the community, the bakery has developed a national reputation, shipping cookies, cupcakes, and other goodies nationwide.
While Laine’s treats seem like effortless magic to customers, behind every cookie and cupcake is a lot of hard work and Rachel’s core values of faith and commitment to the community. She sees Laine’s as connecting people together through good food while also revitalizing urban communities on the south side of Chicago and beyond. For Rachel, that commitment is based on four values: investment in people, honest ingredients, creativity and innovation, and customer service.
Rachel takes pride in leading a family-owned small business that supports other local and family/employee-owned vendors and business partners. She seeks to hire workers from among those who are chronically unemployed including those who were previously homeless, incarcerated, or those looking for a second chance at a self-sustained life and career. Key to this goal is working with Chicago organizations who help such individuals with job training and personal development.
Rachel insists on honest ingredients in everything Laine’s bakes and sells. All items are made from scratch using the best quality ingredients including all-natural food colorings wherever possible. Moreover, Laine’s caters to customers’ specific dietary requests.
Creativity is a key factor in Rachel’s customer following. Customized artistry, intricate designs, and artistic innovations ensure that Laine’s goods more than just “cookie cutter” creations.
Finally, Rachel strives for personalized customer interaction and complete satisfaction, seeking input from her customers throughout the baking process.
Rachel’s high-standards and strong, worthy values have a steep price. Challenges include long hours, sleepless nights, financial hardships, growing pains and staying on the top of latest innovations.
Rachel and her husband Jayred have bettered their life’s savings on Laine’s. Starting up, they sometimes fell behind on bills or even skipped meals. While the successes have sustained and inspired Rachel and her family, reaching new levels of success means more intensive challenges such as quality control and supply issues as well as concerns of packaging to preserve quality while maintaining thin profit margins.
Rachel has had the support of a diverse set of private and public partnerships. Early on, she received the support of Illinois Institute of Technology faculty like IIT College of Architecture faculty Monica Chadha as well as the university’s small business mentoring programs.
Part of the reason Rachel became involved with Whole Foods Markets was their advisement and assistance to Laine’s in transitioning to larger scale production.
A major expansion-related hurdle has been securing the capital to make that growth happen. While Laine’s is experiencing its greatest success yet, their credit rating is still being dragged down by cash flow problems from three or four years ago. Some relief has been provided thanks to non-profit financial institutions’ microloans. Rachel’s next goal is to obtain assistance from the city of Chicago’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund that redirects funding from successful downtown developments to small businesses on the South and West sides. Crowdfunding is another source that Rachel recommends as a possibility for fledgling startups.
Rachel’s near-term goals for Laine’s includes expanded distribution to more Whole Foods, Starbucks, and other retail locations, as well as a new café in Bronzeville and a new bakery near Morgan Park.
Rachel has come a long way from five years ago when she was a tax expert for a prestigious global counting firm. While the challenges have been many and the hours long, she values the flexibility and comradery of a family business and the increased ability to make a difference in her community. She looks forward to new challenges in furthering Laine’s—and the communities she serves—to new milestones.