RICK COHEN KNOWS FIRST-HAND THE CHALLENGES FACED BY DISADVANTAGED INDIVIDUALS. HE FOUNDED WORTHY CAUSE TO PROVIDE THEM WITH MEANINGFUL WORK AND SUPPORT—BY WAY OF CREATING THE MOST GOOEY, MOREISH COOKIES AROUND!
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
To be open and honest, most people who work in charity come from a place of lived experience and I’m no different. Growing up I suffered from PTSD from family violence and severe depression. I spent a lot of time in psychiatric hospitals where I worked in group therapy sessions with a range of people who all had the shared belief that employment was an unattainable dream. While their age, ethnicity, gender, traumas and life stories were so different, they shared one thing in common: none of them had a way out.
I had the privilege and support of my family, but I know that not everyone could be as lucky as I am.
How did you get the initial idea to start your business?
Speaking with these people, I felt they had the intelligence and drive to make that happen, if only they were offered the opportunity. So, after leaving that place, I wanted to help create these opportunities. So I went back to uni and completed my degree before working full-time to raise the money to begin Worthy Cause.
Worthy Cause offers a structured 6-month employment program to people who have struggled to find employment due to their disability or disadvantage. They can receive a stable income, financial literacy training, emotional counselling, soft-skills development and on-the-job skills building in an inclusive and safe environment, through trained and qualified experts. When they’re ready, we assist them to find other employment on their terms.
Who is involved in running your business? Who is your business partner (if any), or who works together with you?
I’ve worked closely with Worthy Cause’s board of directors. Since inception, we’ve grown to a team of 30 dedicated and skilled volunteers that make us tick. These volunteers cover all aspects of operations from our kitchen team, marketing, market stalls, as well as assisting our participants with counselling and skills development sessions.
What’s the best part about running your own business?
Although Worthy Cause offers a complete wrap-around service – paid training, emotional counsellors, soft-skills development sessions and financial literacy training – the power that our program gives to participants is the self-confidence and renewed sense of purpose.
These are the people who are slapped with labels like “lazy” or “dole-bludgers” – but the reality is, they have overcome life’s toughest challenges and, in doing so, have foregone the learnings and generational benefits of regular employment. They’ve been left behind.
People who entered the program expecting to fail and outshone their wildest expectations and put themselves (and their dependents) on a new upward path towards a better life. And it’s a life they are achieving through their own hard work.
Any exciting future plans you can share about your business?
We have a few top-secret projects in the works, but I can certainly share that we have plans to develop a retail space in the near future! This will allow our participants to gain even more skills-building training and support, and help us serve our customers fresh cookies all day, everyday.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about you/your business?
We bake and sell our amazing cookies to fund our program. Baking our cookies forms the core skills training for our participants who receive above the award rate to work in our kitchen. We roll through 12 flavours but our staples are the classic Choc Chip, Choc Chip with a Nutella filling, Choc Chip with a peanut butter filling and a Birthday Cake cookie with sprinkles and white chocolate. We serve up fresh cookies at local market stalls and events, and sell them at our online store, to corporate customers and through retailers and wholesalers.
If you ask what my favourite flavour is, it’s like asking me to choose between my own children and so I will do that thing all parents do and say ’they’re all my favourite’. But we all know that’s a big lie and my favourite child is the Choc Chip with the Nutella filling!