Bakers Journal

What makes a winner?

March 31, 2020
By Bakers Journal

What judges look for in the annual Jake The Baker contest

Elaine O’Doherty (left) of Founding Sponsor, Ardent Mills stands with the 2019 Jake the Baker winner, Kory Dooher of Dooher’s Bakery.

The annual Jake the Baker contest is more than just a nationwide competition. Elaine O’Doherty, the marketing manager for Ardent Mills, the Founding Sponsor of the contest knows what makes a winner.

Bakers Journal chatted with O’Doherty about what the judges look for in the annual contest.

“It’s not just the amount of community support the bakeries provide and the organizations that these businesses support through their efforts; you learn what they do. Small businesses are the backbone of Canada,” she emphasizes.

“Some of the entries we receive come from businesses in small towns or tight communities. These businesses are really doing so much for their community; whether it’s working with high schools or donating food to food banks or running programs in the bakery to help the underprivileged.” O’Doherty is especially touched to see how many programs are initiated by bakeries aside from their daily tasks. “So many helpful programs that have been started by these bakeries in their communities, that they are either supporting or even initiating, it’s just so heart-warming.”

The contest began as a way to call attention to the work Canadian bakeries did outside and within their shops, from fundraising to brainstorming new desserts that puts the country on the map.

“[Ardent Mills] jumped on very early and wanted to support this,” recalls O’Doherty. “We are the founding sponsor of the contest and really loved the idea of hearing the stories from the bakeries. Initially, the contest was focused around innovative and specialty products and what the bakeries were doing from that point of view.”

Entries described how the bakeries created connections to their clients, and participated in their community. “As we’ve read these entries that we’ve gotten back over the years, we were inspired by the tremendous support of programs that bakeries are either instituting or involved in at a core level.”

O’Doherty explains what the judges look for in the contest: “We’re interested in your products and what you’re doing: That might mean telling us about your flagship product, but certainly also add to your story by telling us what you’re doing within your community.…that’s really one of our strong foundational values; wanting to support families and communities where we live and work.”

The contest isn’t specifically focused on small bakeries or family-operated industries. There is room for larger bakeries or start-ups that do something interesting. Bakers Journal and Ardent Mills started a podcast to discuss how rich the individual stories are and regardless of size or skill, each entry has a reason for giving.

O’Doherty addresses bakeries’ concerns about worthiness: “You may not think what you’re doing is special, because you do it day in, and day out. Don’t overthink it. You know what you’re doing. You don’t need to write a two-page essay, just get some things down on paper.” O’Doherty is adamant about everyone’s eligibility: “Don’t discount the special things you’re doing and please, don’t think they’re not enough.”

Ardent Mills is very vested in the community involvement aspect of the contest. Dooher’s Bakery of Campbellford won last year. They donated to a hospital, and they were also a member of various community events.

Getting on the cover of Bakers Journal means spotlighting their causes:

“The bakeries are not only elevating their business, but elevating their charitable work: More people may see their story and say, ‘hey I didn’t know they did that and I want to be involved in this effort,’ or, ‘what can I do to help or how can I volunteer?’

“Overall, the winner can benefit from the national exposure. It might just even help their business or bring awareness to the many activities they’re involved in, and this could provide a boost to their community,” suggest O’Doherty. “Write a short blurb on the one or two things that make your business special…we love to hear your stories and we love reading about what you’re doing. The entries are all unique, but we love them all. We encourage all bakeries to continue to do what you’re doing because what you’re doing is so important. It is.”

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