Hot Bread Kitchen’s Recipe for Success

Inside East Harlem’s historic La Marqueta marketplace you’ll find Hot Bread Kitchen (HBK), a nonprofit business that serves up fresh breads inspired by their bakers and the many countries they come from. Beyond selling Heritage Corn Tortillas, Armenian Lavash Crackers and other delicious items, this innovative bakery’s mission extends to culinary workforce and business incubation programs that are helping immigrant and low-income women succeed in the specialty food industry.

As a business invested in its workers, HBK offered employee health coverage, yet CEO Jessamyn Rodriguez was searching for better options: “We had just one private insurance plan available to our employees, and a frequent complaint was that the deductibles were too high. When the time came to renew, our choices were very expensive.” Jessamyn had heard that the Affordable Care Act (ACA)  included small business plans, but needed help figuring out what was available. 

She contacted CSS’s Small Business Assistance Program (SBAP) for help, and spoke with Kyle Brittingham, who offered details and answered questions about insurance options for HBK’s employees. 

Jessamyn decided to go with the NY State of Health Small Business Marketplace. “One of the things that attracted us to the Marketplace was their ability to offer multiple plans that would work for our employees as far as affordability and choice. Kyle was extremely knowledgeable and walked through the entire process with me and Jackie, our head of Human Resources. That was so helpful!”

Jackie and Kyle worked together to get everyone informed about their new health plan options, and begin enrollments. Said Kyle, “We discovered 80 plans that HBK employees could choose from.” Employees then met with Hot Bread Kitchen’s HR staff to review their choices. Over 20 employees enrolled into coverage.”Kyle worked hard for us," says Jessamyn.  

She summed up the experience this way: “As a CEO these are important decisions to make. I think we’ve made a really positive choice for our workers and I hope that that trickles down to the businesses that we incubate. I felt reassured having SBAP there, a friend to make sure we were doing it right!" 

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