COVID-19 Heroes: Bread baking as ‘therapy,’ and a way to help, in lockdown – Crain’s Detroit Business

Posted: May 24, 2020 at 7:47 am


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Lots of people have turned to baking bread as a means of passing the time during a quarantine that is entering its third month. But most aren't baking bread like Sabina Valenzuela bakes bread.

The Grosse Pointe resident began baking, mostly teaching herself, about 17 years ago while still living in Chile with her family. Valenzuela would sell her baked goods to neighbors to bring in additional income.

But now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, her baking skills are coming in handy in a new way. Valenzuela's 27-year-old son Sergio Rodriguez-Valenzuela is the co-founder and CEO of startup ToDoolie Inc.

The company previously used its platform to match homeowners with college students looking to work around the house. But in the age of COVID-19, the company instead uses the same platform to deliver Valenzuela's freshly baked bread to customers around Detroit and in the Grosse Pointe communities, as Crain's has previously reported.

Valenzuela has been baking bread for years, including as a way to provide for her family, but the transition to baking during a pandemic and for her son's evolving business "was born out of a necessity to help," she said with some translation assistance from her son.

Valenzuela said that at the onset of the pandemic she had visited the supermarket several times and found a lack of bread. With many older people in the Grosse Pointe area, she thought her baking skills could help.

"I wanted to share that feeling of having fresh bread," Valenzuela said.

The bread she bakes is now delivered using ToDoolie's platform within 30 minutes of coming out of the oven, Rodriguez-Valenzuela said.

With people turning to bread-baking during lengthy quarantines, coupled with an upside-down supply chain, shortages of flour have been rampant. The Valenzuelas say they had some trouble at first sourcing flour for their bread-baking operation, but have found that bulk stores generally have plenty of supply.

Since switching from ToDoolie's original business model, Valenzuela's breads have made their way to 157 unique clients of the company, according to her son, the company's founder. Additionally, Rodriguez-Valenzuela said that because of donations from some of those clients, about a dozen families have gotten free bread.

While Instagram posts of people trying out their first batch of sourdough have become ubiquitous during the lockdown, Valenzuela's creations go slightly beyond that. Among her favorite breads to bake are a traditional South American style called hallulla; breads with fruit, typically known as Christmas breads; and empanadas.

Valenzuela said she applauds people who are trying out bread-baking during this time and offered some tips for people just getting started with home baking.

"It's something that you do for yourself and you put energy into it," she said, adding that she often puts on relaxing music and tries to put her "heart and soul" into each concoction.

"It's almost a therapy thing," she said.

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COVID-19 Heroes: Bread baking as 'therapy,' and a way to help, in lockdown - Crain's Detroit Business

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May 24th, 2020 at 7:47 am

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