- About Us
Swan Bakery is a social enterprise in Japan that employs and trains people with disabilities to work for the bakery’s factory and provide service in Swan Cafes. Swan opened its first shop in Ginza, Tokyo, in 1998, and now has 26 franchises nationwide providing employment to more than 280 disabled people. The bakery gives people with disabilities a stable income, and through interactions with customers of the Café, provides a daily communication platform between people with disabilities and the rest of society. Employees at Swan earn up to twice the salary that disabled people earn working at other companies in the area and develop confidence from the ability to financially support themselves.
Swan is a successful café chain with strong reputation for high quality bakery products. It has become a model in Japan for creating a successful business while contributing to the development of people with disabilities. Swan evaluates employees and develops operational training tools and management skills to fit the special needs and goals of each disabled worker. Workers receive extensive training and learn skills that give them confidence and open the possibility to advancement within the company.
It is the reputation for quality and service, not just sympathy from the public, that attracts market attention to the stores. In fact, most customers are unaware that many of the bakery’s staff are disabled. Swan continues to develop unique new products for the Japanese market that differentiate them from the competition and keep them competitive and sustainable. They created a new type of cake for those who are allergic to egg and cream, and recently developed an online order system to allow disabled people to work from home. Not only does this system create job opportunities for more disabled people, it also streamlines operations and contributes to a more efficiently run business.
In addition to improving the life of employees, Swan Bakery is committed to improving the neighborhoods where they operate and to promoting opportunities for the disabled. Swan Cafés’ staff frequently volunteer in local neighborhoods to maintain strong relationships with area residents. They offer bread at cost to other social companies operating in the area to help them cut expenses and remain sustainable. Recently Swan acquired a vegetable supplying company operated by people with disabilities to help the company improve its performance and remain in business.
Swan Bakery started its business with a donation from Yamato Welfare Foundation, which was established by Mr. Ogura and his Yamato Black Cat Express Company. Yamato Black Cat Express Company further supports Swan by providing management talent, sales channels, capital and partnership. For example, everyday Swan delivers cakes and breads to rural areas with the co-operation of Yamato Express Company.
Swan has partnerships with universities and schools to promote their breads and other baked goods to campuses. Swan provides internship opportunities to teachers from schools for the disabled which help them improve teaching skills and gain valuable practice interacting with the disabled. They also have partnerships with other bakeries around Japan for collaboration on new products. Swan is actively seeking more partnership opportunities with other companies to create more markets for their products and brand.