Operation Success: Rockin’ Baker (Fayetteville, Arkansas)

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Daymara Baker with her neurodiverse cadet employees at Rockin’ Baker Academy in Arkansas

“Baking a difference so everyone can rise,” Rockin’ Baker Academy is all about making great artisanal bread while empowering lives and communities. Its mission is to “transform the lives of people with intellectual disabilities to help them contribute their gifts, find meaningful employment and maximize their independence” and that’s just what owner Daymara Baker (yes, her last name really is Baker!) has been doing since 2016.

Old-School Techniques + a Brand-New Vision

cadet employee at Rockin’ Baker in Arkansas makes unique artisan bread fresh daily.

Daymara says her family “could not find good, quality bread” so she started making it herself using old-school methods and found it to be a wonderful form of stress relief.

While traveling internationally in 2015, Daymara dreamed up the Rockin’ Baker, watching her vision unfold just like an in-flight movie, and knew that she would meld her business background with her creative spirit and passion for helping others.

The cadets make a vast array of artisan breads on a daily basis, from unique
flavors of sourdough to brioche-style bread/buns and traditional baguettes.

Empowering Neuro-diverse Teens & Young Adults

Rockin’ Baker cadet employee sprinkles flour on top of the Vampire’s Worst Enemy loaf.

One of the cadets’ weekly specials, “Vampire’s Worst Enemy” features garlic, red onion,
sun-dried tomato and cheese.

Beyond baking irresistible loaves of bread, Daymara wanted to give neurodivergent teens and young adults a place to gain meaningful work and life experience. If you’re not already familiar with the term, “neurodivergent” describes people whose brain functions a little differently from what is considered typical. These differences mean that neurodivergent people face different strengths and challenges in the workplace.

Rockin’ Baker Academy strives to equip its neuro-diverse staff with a comprehensive set of marketable skills that translate well to any future career. Daymara refers to her team as “cadets” and they’re currently operating the bakery to produce high-quality breads for top restaurants in Northwest Arkansas, supporting both individual and
economic growth in the community.

Rockin’ Baker Academy on the Big Screen

The academy is the subject of a documentary that debuted at the Fayetteville Film Festival on Oct. 20-22. Next, the film is set to go on a film festival circuit before potentially airing on PBS Arkansas/American Public Television. October is National Disability Employment Month, the perfect time for the documentary and increased awareness of neurodiverse individuals and needs, according to Daymara.

Rockin’ Baker documentary featured at the Fayetteville Film Festival.

See a trailer for the documentary here.

Baking Excellent Loaves with General Mills Flour

While Daymara had zero experience running a commercial bakery before launching Rockin’ Baker, her natural talent rose to the top quickly: An apprenticeship in San Francisco helped her determine what she would need to make her bakery dream a reality. From the beginning, Daymara and her team turned to General Mills for a variety of flours, recognizing the company’s reputation for flour that creates consistent and outstanding baked goods.

Michael Krygier General Mills’ Doughminator works with cadets at Rockin’ Baker Academy.

Michael Krygier (at right) is shown here working alongside the cadets at
Rockin’ Baker Academy.

According to Michael Krygier, the General Mills sales rep who serves the region, Rockin’ Baker Academy offers “an amazing product, they make an excellent loaf of bread.”

Michael, who also happens to be part of General Mills’ Doughminators’ team of flour experts known for their technical expertise, recently visited Rockin’ Baker Academy to answer questions and help the cadets learn how make their process even more efficient and successful. As the team wants to expand and grow the business, Michael is working with them to streamline techniques and advise them on new equipment that will help them bake bread faster.

Bread with Benefits

A finished baked product of the “Vampire’s Worst Enemy” weekly special at the Rockin’ Baker Academy.

The finished baked product of the “Vampire’s Worst Enemy” weekly special (unbaked
version pictured above).

“It’s been so rewarding for me to work with the team at Rockin’ Baker,” said Michael. “I credit Daymara for creating an environment that empowers the cadets to gain valuable work experience and a place they can learn and grow all while making an outstanding product to be very proud of.”

Rockin’ Baker Academy offers breads that are “beautiful, nutritious and made with purpose. Every time you purchase from Rockin’ Baker, you support our mission to serve the neuro-diverse community and provide bread to local food banks, schools and communities,” according to the website. Daymara adds that working at Rockin’ Baker has helped the cadet team gain confidence, independence and valuable work experience in a “dramatic and impactful” way.

At Rockin’ Baker, they call it “bread with benefits” and the entire community is enjoying a taste of what the academy has to offer.

If you would like more information on how to support Rockin’ Baker Academy, please visit their Baking A Difference Donation page.