There are those who use the slightest reason not to go beyond average in virtually any area of their life. And then there is Carina Comer, founder and owner of Carina’s Vegan Bakery located in Beaverton, Oregon.
Born with a brain tumor that took most of her sight, Carina Comer is the epitome of someone who succeeds against the odds. With drive and aspirations far beyond what most would dare to dream, Carina inspires others to live fully each and every day.
A vegan for over a decade, Carina found her passion for baking when she was just a child. Raised in an entrepreneur family who loved baking, Carina set her sights on getting a job in the industry.
After getting a pastry degree and doing several free internships, Carina could not find a job in the industry no matter how hard she tried. She then went to grad school, hoping this would help her land a position, but realized she was on an uphill climb.
This is when she decided to start her own bakery, but with a twist that included a three three-prong approach to the niche of her bakery.
3. Hiring people with disabilities
Her business model is unique to many in that most of her staff are people with disabilities. With her fourth anniversary of being in business just around the corner, Carina is convinced the customer care she and her staff extend is a primary reason her business continues to grow.
Not without business challenges during the pandemic, Carina believes it’s the way she cares about her staff and customers that has resulted in loyalty on every level.
It’s estimated that only 37% of blind or visually impaired adults have full time employment. Carina’s Bakery is proud to play a part in changing that reality by hiring many visually impaired employees and by setting an example for other businesses in the community.
Marketing Her Bakery
Although she readily admits social media marketing is a part of her overall plan, much of her business is repeat and referral. She enjoys implementing programs that encourage social awareness.
Carina’s Bakery is Certified as a “Benefit Corporations for Good” company. This means Carina is aligned with Benefit Corporations for Good mission of daring to believe that every business can positively impact the world.
Another idea that her customers love is the gift card tree. It is filled with $5 cards that can be used if someone forgot their wallet or if they want to buy something for a homeless person.
As much as possible, Carina sources from local businesses. It helps the community to stay strong and keeps local business strong.
One thing Carina is very clear on is the need to balance listening to what customers recommend and ask for and what she can provide while maintaining a healthy profit margin.
A big part of her secret to success is treating her employees the way she wants to be treated. It’s understanding they have a life outside of work and yet, work is important to them. It all comes down to respect and connection. She does what she can to know what they want out of a job. She works with her staff on flexibility around their hours so they can enjoy their job.
She also does what she can to fit their skills to the job. When someone shows potential in a job other than what they were hired for, Carina will do what she can to help them grow into that position.
“Bottomline is this, people need to feel appreciated,” Carina says with total congruency.
One of Carina’s dreams is to start a nonprofit called The Butterfly Project. The premise of the organization is to make a way for more people with disabilities to be involved in small business. Her vision is that people with disabilities will be able to start their own business and/or find employment they deserve.
When asked what she most needs to even consider The Butterfly Project, Carina didn’t miss a beat to say, funding and growing Carina’s Bakery to a point where she can spend time on starting the nonprofit.
No doubt, if anyone can do it, Carina can. She’s a visionary with a commitment to making the world a better place for the disabled, the animals and everyone she is meant to impact.
When in the Beaverton, Oregon area, be sure to stop in for a vegan pastry and hot cup of coffee.