Chuck McElroy knows exactly what keeps him motivated to come into work each day.
“The people we serve,” he said immediately. “They rock my world. They are so positive, so fun-loving, and seeing them benefit from our program is just incredibly rewarding.”
McElroy is the president of WorkSource Enterprises, a Charlottesville nonprofit that provides job training, employment, community job placement and support to people with disabilities, and runs a nonprofit bakery and deli, BreadWorks, about a mile from UVA at 923 Preston Avenue. The bakery, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary this fall, employes many persons with disabilities, who are involved in all facets of the operation.
In the spring, McElroy partnered with students from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business to help BreadWorks – already known for its sandwiches, cookies and other goodies – promote its mission in the community and increase revenue.
“Our customers don’t necessarily see the people working behind the scenes,” he said. “We have great food and great people, but our mission is what really makes us different and we need to communicate that.”
The students were all members of Community Consultants of Darden, which provides consulting services to startups and local businesses in Charlottesville. Groups of five or six students spend a semester working with the businesses. They donate their time, though the club charges a small fee to cover its operating expenses.
Club president Rohan Hebbar called it a win-win for students and business owners.
“It’s a great opportunity for first-year Darden students to apply what they learn in the classroom toward something tangible, while hopefully making a positive impact on the business,” the rising second-year MBA student said.
Hebbar and his fellow students met BreadWorks employees, toured the bakery and met with McElroy throughout the spring semester. Just before they left for the summer, they gave a final presentation at WorkSource outlining their recommendations.
“We pitched some ideas and did some tests to see how those ideas might work,” Hebbar said. “Ultimately, we presented a few key ideas that we thought would make a difference.”
The students looked at the bakery’s marketing initiatives, including television, radio and social media ads, and identified ways to make its job training and employment mission more prominent. They also talked with McElroy about moving from a cash register to an iPad-based sales system, which would provide more useful sales data, and expanding the bakery’s loyalty club to better incentivize returning customers.
“It was a great project, and it was fun, too,” McElroy said. “They were a really bright and energetic group of people. They came up with great ideas and they affirmed some of the things that we had observed, which was very helpful.”
Many of the students’ recommendations are already in the works. McElroy is talking with vendors to determine the best iPad-based sales system, for example, and retooling ads and signage in the store to incorporate the students’ ideas. One of the students, McIntire School of Commerce alumna Elizabeth Thompson, introduced McElroy to students in Enactus, an undergraduate group in the Commerce School that partners with local businesses for marketing, research and other projects.
Those students will begin helping BreadWorks with social media management in the fall. McElroy is also hoping to expand the bakery and deli’s general involvement at UVA, where BreadWorks already caters some meetings and events.
“We already do a lot business with the University, and we want to keep growing that,” McElroy said.
Hebbar said he and his classmates loved working with BreadWorks.
“They have such a positive impact on this community,” he said. “Everyone who worked there was wonderful, and I just hope our work continues to help them in some way.”
“We’re full speed ahead,” McElroy confirmed.