Her goal when she started working with young people in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the 1980s was to help teens with homework and to teach them life skills, like baking.
Soon, they had more cookies than they could eat, so they started selling them – literally from a cookie cart. The treats were so popular they soon made the leap to a storefront and in 1996 settled into their current location in the heart of north Minneapolis.
Working at Cookie Cart is the first paid job experience for these students, according to Matt Halley, executive director of Cookie Cart. He says they hire teens who are 15- to 18-years old to work in a retail bakery setting. They are also paid for classroom learning on topics like problem solving, communication skills and conflict resolution.
Matt’s previous experience as a social worker helping homeless youth gave him a powerful motivation. “I liked the business component paired with the mission to serve youth,” he says. “It gives them skills before they get to a point of crisis. I hope they never need the services of my former job.”
In 2016, Cookie Cart helped 227 youth employees get employment training with more than 31,000 hours of work. But it’s also about the atmosphere of support.
“The best thing about working at Cookie Cart is the people and the environment,” says Cookie Cart associate Andrew. “You feel welcome. The Cart Captains back me up and make sure I don’t stumble.”
Cookie Cart has become so popular that they have purchased a second property in neighboring St. Paul’s east side – on Payne Avenue. While they raise money to renovate the building, they want people in the area to get excited for the new location.
A member of the Cookie Cart board works for 3M and knew about graphic films for windows. 3M donated the film, graphic design and installation. It helps make the building more attractive while the interior is under construction, and it helps raise awareness of the store coming later this year. Students from Cookie Cart even got to see the science behind the film and help with the application. It’s just one of the reasons Cookie Cart employees love their work. They share more below.