The idea for Rockin’ Baker came to Daymara Baker like a dream — a vision so specific and detailed that she couldn’t ignore it.
“I was on a plane reading a book when this idea of having a business where people could learn skills just came to me. It was so real, that movie in my mind, even the colors and everything. The colors I saw in that vision are the color schemes I currently use in my shop: black, white and red."
I thought to myself, ‘If this happened to me, I guess I just have to follow it. So I followed it all the way.”
“Following it all the way” led to the establishment of Rockin’ Baker Academy, a bakery dedicated to empowering the lives of Northwest Arkansas’ under-served communities by teaching technical + life skills and self-sufficiency.
Initially, Daymara knew she wanted her academy to provide employment opportunities for people with histories of incarceration.
“It was about giving a second chance. I wanted to focus on that. If not, I was not going to do it.”
“I feel that our society penalizes people who make mistakes in their life. It makes it really hard for them to get back on their feet, it makes it almost impossible for them to succeed.
That’s why I always wanted to focus on that and see what I could do differently so that these people really have a chance to improve their lives versus being penalized when they try to gain their footing back in society.
Because gee, everybody makes a mistake. Some people might pay a little differently, the price might be different, but all of us make mistakes. Why do I give you a different chance but push others down? So I knew from the beginning that that’s something I wanted to do.”
“Now, as we’ve evolved, I got more into helping people with learning challenges. That wasn’t something I really thought about at the beginning, but my academy is taking that route.
At one point, someone approached me and said, ‘Hey, I have a client that’s autistic. She wants to bake but she’s not given the opportunity to do that. Would you consider having her at your academy?’
I was totally honest, I said, ‘Well, I have never worked with anybody with autism, but why not? I’ll just use common sense and see how it goes.’
And that’s what we did.”
And that’s what she’s always done. Daymara is the kind of person who sees a need and goes the extra mile to fill it.
Back in 2007, she co-founded the Northwest Arkansas Community Creative Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to making visual arts education and programs available to the public. And she did this while working as a high-level executive at a major corporation.
Though she’s arguably a modern-day Superwoman, Daymara still has her doubts sometimes and knows she’s never guaranteed success. It is no other-worldly superpower that drives Daymara onward. It’s simply curiosity and an unwillingness to leave any stone unturned.
In regards to Rockin’ Baker, Daymara - who had no experience working in a bakery, or the restaurant industry at all - admits, “I always felt at least some hesitation about, am I doing the right thing? But for me, it is always more important to have the answer to my ‘what if?’ If I didn't do it, I don't think I could have lived with that pending question in my life.”
That’s been Daymara’s motivation her entire life.
“I wanted to become bilingual, so I came to the United States. I was scared to death when I did that. But it was one of those, what if when I’m 50 I haven’t done anything like that? Then I’m not going to have an answer to that question.”
“I think it’s more about finding the answer to the ‘what if?’ in my life that forces me to do things. Sometimes it can be a little crazy, and sometimes it turns out alright, but at least I will always have an answer. I’ll know how it turns out instead of always wondering about it. At least I can say, ‘Well I tried and it didn’t work out,’ or ‘I tried and see where I am?!’”
It’s easy to see that Rockin’ Baker falls into the “see where I am?!” category. On the cusp of the academy’s two-year anniversary, Daymara’s providing employment opportunities for eight or nine students with learning challenges. And the improvement her students are experiencing continues to draw more and more people to her business.
Not to say it’s been easy breezy beautiful all the time, especially for a Type A personality like Daymara.
“I’m the kind of person who wants to go, go, go; get it done. Keep pushing! Go fast! So, one thing I’ve had to learn is patience.”
“Even though I have been creative in everything I do, this one pushes me to be a little more creative. What is it we need to do or create to make the task easier for my students? Sometimes I have to repeat the same instructions in different ways. Or I have to come up with a new tool to help them perform tasks.”
“It makes me really slow down and think about, What if I was that person? How would I feel if the person trying to teach me is getting frustrated because I’m not fast enough? Putting myself in their shoes forces me to think a little differently and be creative in new ways.”
It seems that in all she does, Daymara seeks ways to give back to and better her local community. She credits that passion to her experience of moving to the United States from her home country, Venezuela.
“This country gave me such a great opportunity to become who I am and achieve the positions that I achieved in the different organizations that I worked for that I felt I needed to pay it back somehow. That’s when I decided to change routes completely and go this way and see how I could help people. I decided to pick a section of the community that is overlooked and try to give them the opportunities that this country gave to me.”
When you support Rockin’ Baker, you’re supporting an awesome non-profit dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty. And the best way to support Rockin’ Baker and the many other wonderful + empowering businesses around Northwest Arkansas dedicated to giving back to the community is to EAT, SHOP, PLAY LOCAL. The free Towny app is your all-in-one guide to doing just that! Download the app now + start getting rewarded for supporting local.
PS: In November, Rockin’ Baker celebrates its second birthday. If you’re itchin’ to join in on the festivities, keep an eye on the Towny app for details (+ other perks you won’t want to miss)!