Established in 2013, Dongnae-Phangnae is a local bakery cooperative. The name Dongnae-Phangnae shows what it is; Donganae means “village” and Phang means “bread” in Korean. At the heart of its establishment, lie the endless efforts of both local bakeries and students from Enactus Yonsei.
Since the early 1990s, large-scale franchises started to replace local bakeries. While many local bakeries struggled to survive, in 2011, students from Enactus Yonsei offered to help. Enactus is a community of students, academic and business leaders hoping to shape a better world with their entrepreneurial ideas and skills.
“Recognizing the ordeals of local bakeries, we decided to help them as much as we can,” said Kim Houng-seok, a student who is in charge of the Dongnae-Phangnae project.
They began the project by visiting local bakeries whose dedication and passion for making bread is well-known. They explained what they can do to develop these bakeries.
“At first, we were quite lukewarm about their suggestion,” said Shin Hung-joong, the chairman of the cooperative and the owner of Campagne Bakery. “I was doubtful whether we could get actual help from university students. However, the students became a great help, doing everything from SNS promotion to designing posters.”
The business, however, clearly picked up after their various trials to revive the bakery. Encouraged by this result, they were able to recruit eight bakery owners.
“We knew nothing about complicated, often legal aspects of business management,” Shin said. “Fortunately, the students of Enactus followed us to the public offices and helped us a lot.”
Based on this collaboration, after the Act on Cooperative was enacted in 2012, they were able to launch their own coop a year later when they secured a government subsidy.
“It was the first time for bakeries to organize a cooperative,” Kim said. “Also, investing mainly not in promotion but in production was a unique approach as an union.”
Outdated baking equipment has been pointed out as a fundamental weakness of local bakeries compared to other franchise stores. Individual local bakeries have difficulty affording new equipment with price ranging from 30 to 50 million won. Thanks to a joint stock, however, bakeries of Dongane-Phangnae were able to obtain expensive ovens and fermenters.
In the beginning, the most important thing was introducing the bakery to people. It would be of no use if there were no customers who would taste the delicious bread. Thus, students rolled up their sleeves for promotion.
“We had to be more careful since this was directly related to the incomes of the bakeries,” Kim said. “We read books and visited professors and consultants, seeking advice. We also interviewed successful cooperatives in order to benchmark some of their ideas.”
Now Dongnae-Phangnae is acknowledged as one of the most successful cases of organizing a cooperative.
“To distinguish ourselves from other franchise stores, we decided to have different kinds of bread at each bakery,” Shin said.
Last year, with the slogan “Respond, Dongnae-Phangnae,” they opened their booth at Sinchon Hyundai Department store. It was very successful, with people swarming around the booth in rows to buy their bread.
The first sign of success encouraged them to work harder for quality control and business improvement. Every Thursday, members of the cooperative gather to improve their quality of bread and services.
In addition to participating in these meetings, Yonsei students continue their endeavors to improve the cooperative. Witty introductions for each baker are posted on the blog for Dongnae-Phangnae. With interesting and catchy phrases, they introduce each bakery’s staple product with mouth-watering pictures that attract customers.
In addition to its own growth, Dongnae-Phangnae took an important role in local charity activities. The members contribute their bread to orphanages and daycare centers.
Dongnae-Phangnae is now one of the most successful and encouraging examples for local bakeries. If there is one never changing motto of the bakeries, it would be making healthy and delicious bread.
Even today, bakers of Dongnae-Phangnae are busy baking “happiness” that will bring bright smiles to the customers.