Our Clients Talk: YangonBakehouse

For this month’s community interview, we sat down with YangonBakehouse Managing Director and Co-founder Kelly MacDonald to talk about one of the first and more established social enterprises in Yangon.


Tell us about yourself. 

I’m one of the founders of YangonBakehouse (YBH) with a professional career in public health and women’s health and rights, as well as a passion for home baking.

Kelly MacDonald, MD and Co-founder of YangonBakehouse (Photo Credits: YangonBakehouse 2017)

Kelly MacDonald, MD and Co-founder of YangonBakehouse (Photo Credits: YangonBakehouse 2017)


Tell us about YangonBakehouse. 

YBH started in December 2012 with 5 apprentices in the founders’ kitchens. It was conceived to address a social inequality, to empower disadvantaged women with hospitality skills and placing them in jobs as a productive part of Myanmar’s formal economy.

YBH links with operational charitable organizations who already provide social or clinical services to disadvantaged women – women with low education, few skills, and who have migrated to the peri-urban surroundings of Yangon in search of better opportunities, as well as those women for whom there is no social safety net.

Today, we have one full service café at our original location at Pearl Condo and two kiosks, at Telenor’s corporate office and at Junction City. All three serve as on-the-job training grounds for the women enrolled in our apprentice program, and often, places of employment after they have graduated.

We are not only proud to support the development of our apprentices; we also proudly support local supply chains. YBH partners with like-minded suppliers who value quality and sustainable production practices. Their products are available in our locations and where possible, are feature ingredients in our own products.

Behind the scenes at YangonBakehouse (Photo Credits: YangonBakehouse 2017 | Angus Johnstone)


What has YangonBakehouse’s key achievement been? 

A few achievements the last few years have brought us:

  • 105 women have gone through and are currently enrolled in YBH program – 88% graduation rate
  • Creating an alternative development model that addresses a social inequality with a business lens.
  • Developing strategic partnerships with the business community (KBZ, Telenor, Shwe Taung) rather than traditional development donors


What accomplishment are you personally most proud of? 

Creating a new and different model of development where the measure of success (how many women are trained) is based on our customer base. Because YBH is for profit and non dividend, this means all profits go back into the training program. The higher our revenues, the greater the impact on women!


What is the importance of “empowering women through skills training and education” in Myanmar? 

Social inclusion is part of a country’s overall development. As Myanmar opens up, for economic growth to spread to all sectors of society, unskilled and poorly educated women must be brought into the formal economy. Women are part of a family’s backbone – if women succeed, studies show children directly benefit in better health, nutrition and education outcomes.

YBH provides not only concrete skills, but also develops confidence and decision-making skills that are known components of women’s empowerment. Women leave YBH with a holistic skills package – a combination of solid technical skills and a “can-do” attitude that are necessary for success.


What does the future hold for YangonBakehouse? 

YBH is exploring how we can take our model and expand it to cover a greater number of people. To do so, we are looking for partners who like our model and want to join forces as part of a business shared value approach. As a tested model, there are many Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) opportunities for a business that values women’s empowerment, vocational training, and job creation as part of their ethical footprint.

A busy scene in YBH’s newly opened cafe at Junction City (Photo Credits: YangonBakehouse 2017)


Last but not least, what is your favourite spot in Downtown Yangon? 

The Secretariat building and watching the small boats ferry people back and forth to Dala.