Bringing Joy Through Nourishment

A Conversation with Agatha Kulaga

Psychiatry researcher turned baker and social entrepreneur. Agatha is the co-founder of Ovenly, an award-winning Brooklyn-based bakery with the daily mission to bring joy through nourishment.

Hi Agatha! Bring us back to the start where inspiration was found to ignite Ovenly.

My background is in psychiatry research. I worked at NYU in the field of mental addiction and social research and was always very interested in the human component. I realised very small things could bring people a sense of great joy which had transformative power. When I started baking on the side I would bring various experiments to my patients and found that people responded in beautiful ways. There’s a human element and different type of connection through nourishment. It struck me. When we started Ovenly it was about bringing joy to people’s lives.

 

What’s the last thing you baked recently?

A pecan caramel snickerdoodle that we are testing for a partnership with Diamond of California. Fortunately, I have an incredible team that does all of the baking at Ovenly so that I can focus on growing the business. 

How does empathy inspire the environment you create for your team?

We believe in providing economic opportunities for people who have previously been denied them. They might have gaps in their work history, they might have been previously incarcerated – we do not discriminate and do not require resumes. We work with several nonprofits for job referrals or training programs and value diversity and believe in education. We provide people of all backgrounds, experiences, personalities, communities with the opportunity to prove themselves no matter what their background is. When we give people a little bit of extra care and attention, especially people who haven’t had that before, they make huge strides.

How do muffins, cakes, scones, and all the things you bake satisfy your mission?

In our supply chain we are always looking to reduce our carbon footprint and focus on sustainability. We’ve reduced our landfill found waste by 63% just by composting everything that’s either unsellable or inedible. The rest we donate to a church in Greenpoint. It takes a lot of education and training. I do a lot of digging through garbage on a regular basis! There’s been times when I’ve found something in the wrong waste bin and it drives me insane! But we all make mistakes because we’re human, and continue to challenge ourselves and have a goal.

Chocolate or vanilla?

Both, I go for the twist!

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