The University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (UGA SBDC) is there for businesses when they are ready to grow, but it also can provide help when businesses face unexpected challenges. That’s where the story began for BreadWorks International. Established in 2007, the company, like many businesses in the food industry, faced challenges after the pandemic. At the suggestion of a local bank, owner Cleunice Bretas reached out to Jason Bitar at the UGA SBDC in Gwinnett for assistance. Thanks to this partnership, BreadWorks International survived the pandemic, experienced 1,100 percent growth in sales and added 15 employees.
Before coming to the UGA SBDC, the company was selling fresh-baked bread locally and frozen bread nationwide and had just landed a major airline account to provide bread for in-flight meal plates, projected to increase sales dramatically. But by March 2020, with just six orders produced for the airline, the pandemic brought that partnership, and the bulk of Bretas’s food service business, to a drastic halt. She knew she needed help.
“When I came to the UGA SBDC, I was working through several hurdles. I was shifting operation times, moving the business from one physical location to another, and dealing with the effects of COVID, which shut down 90 percent of my business,” said Bretas.
As the pandemic slowed her business, she reached out to Bitar. He encouraged Bretas to use the time to closely examine her business practices with the help of the UGA SBDC. Together, they worked to diversify Bretas’s client base and align her business procedures with her business plan. Through close evaluation and the use of UGA SBDC contacts, Bretas was able to save money on her baking ingredients, streamline her operations and better organize her financials.
“Landing and losing the airline business was an expensive lesson. It taught me I needed a mix of customers—customers that fit in my business plan.” said Bretas. “During COVID, I raised my prices. I lost customers, but I stuck to my principles. Now I focus on what I know will work for my business. I put my trust in my business idea and its potential. Talking with Jason at the UGA SBDC allowed me to see it more clearly and trust the process.”
Bitar also assisted Bretas in tackling the issue of space. When she began meeting with Bitar, Bretas had just moved production equipment into a newly leased space but was facing some issues with the structure of the lease agreement. Bitar assisted her in restructuring that lease, which secured her space and saved her nearly $50,000.
Going forward, Bretas plans to add more automation in her business process and purchase her own space.
Now, bakeries are turning to Bretas for advice. She has consulted with two larger corporate bakeries to assist them in streamlining their processes.
“Whatever you say to Cleunice resonates,” said Bitar. “As the old saying goes, we want clients to learn to fish, not just eat the fish. She has learned important business principles and strategies from us and is now sharing her knowledge with others in her company and industry.”
Bretas is grateful to have found a mentor with Bitar and a partnership with the UGA SBDC.
“The UGA SBDC was the most important relationship that happened for BreadWorks, and for me as a businesswoman, in the face of COVID,” said Bretas. “I know I can call Jason anytime and he always acts in the best interest for me and my business, and it costs me nothing. I cannot thank the UGA SBDC enough. I advise any business owner to develop a connection or mentorship like the UGA SBDC. Someone that can really understand the business structure. You cannot do it by yourself.”
For More Information: University of Georgia SBDC | (706) 542-2762