Cookies with a conscience


September 7, 2023

Member Spotlight

Meet Rick Cohen – a member at The Commons Wellington Street. Rick is the Founder of the not-for-profit, Worthy Cause.‍

Meet Rick Cohen – a member at The Commons Wellington Street. Rick is the Founder of the not-for-profit, Worthy Cause.‍

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Meet Rick Cohen – a member at The Commons Wellington Street. Rick is the Founder of the not-for-profit, Worthy Cause.

"Every person we help deserves the respect and opportunity to work for a better life, and through purchasing our cookies, Australians can help them get one step closer to achieving that"

We met with Rick to further educate ourselves and our Members on the importance of creating opportunities for vulnerable people within a non-for-profit, breaking cycles and how we as a community can volunteer and help out by purchasing these cookies and contributing to this cause by taking time out to actually bake them.

How did Worthy Cause come about? What was your main goal for this?

A lot of people who work in charity come from a place of lived experience and I’m no different. Growing up I suffered from PTSD, family violence and severe Depression. I spent a lot of time in psychiatric hospitals where I worked in group therapy sessions with a range of people. While a lot of these people had differences of age, ethnicity, gender, traumas and life stories were so different, they shared one thing in common, none of them had a way out. I had the privilege and support of my family to pick me up (literally), call the ambulances, hide the knife, feed me, financially support me, love me. Not everyone could be as lucky as I. Instead some of these people felt destine to repeat their cycle of rise and fall, in and out of psychiatric care until some miraculous or something far more devastating ended that cycle. Speaking with these people, I felt they had the intelligence and drive to make that happen, if offered the opportunity. So, leaving that place, I felt I could help create these opportunities.

After going back to uni, completing my degree and working full-time, I had the money and means to begin Worthy Cause.

Our purpose at Worthy Cause is to provide people who deserve a better life with the skills and tools necessary to find meaningful employment. Our registered charity offers a 6-month paid training program to people who have overcome severe hardship. Through this program they receive core skills development and a stable income while baking our cookies, financial literacy training, emotional counselling, soft-skills development and on-the-job skills building in an inclusive and safe environment.

Who helps bake your product? How big is the Worthy Cause team now?

All of our cookies are baked predominantly by the participants in our employment program. We have recently employed the help of a part-time chef to manage the kitchen operations and we also get volunteers in from time to time to help during busy periods. We strive to give every possible ‘employable hour’ (as we call it) to the participants to maximise how much they take home each week.

Where did you first stock your Worthy Cause cookies?

We first started selling our products through our website. But our first retail stockist was Lamanna & Sons in South Yarra. I knew one of the sons and used that as an excuse to reach out to the owner Greg. I explained to him our program and before I had finished my first sentence he agreed to support our charity. They’ve been selling our cookies for over 18 months now and I’m grateful to Greg, Brandon, Jordan and their team for their unwavering support.

What does each cookie sale go towards?

The sale of each cookie goes directly to the program. Our participants are paid above the award rate and we also provide them with extended breaks and a hot meal everyday. Because we’re a registered charity there are no shareholders or profits paid out as dividends. Any profits we end our financial year with are reinvested into the program to increase our scale, program impact and total amount of participants we can support.

When starting a not-for-profit, what hurdles did you come across? What is your biggest learning from this?

I started Worthy Cause on my own. Not having any charity experience made for a steep learning curve. I had to write our constitution, build the website, duo product photography and develop all the recipes. 

But beyond all that the biggest learning has been the responsibility we take on when engaging with vulnerable people. They are putting their livelihoods and trust into our program and, if treated the wrong way, we could do more harm than good. With this in mind, our team have developed a fantastic wrap-around program that puts our participants first. 

“One of the key pillars of our program is that no one is left behind.”

What brought you to The Commons and how has this helped with Worthy Cause?

A friend of mine had been working out of The Commons QV for some time and I’d had some meetings with him there and really enjoyed the experience. He would later tell me about the program they offer for charities to receive a complementary membership and I was fortunate enough to be accepted. 

Including myself, our team is made up of 17 volunteers. From finance to marketing to grants, it was tough to find a mutually convenient place to meet and conduct business. I’ve found The Commons incredibly helpful as a meeting place on the weekends when it’s quiet and our volunteers have free time to come together. Before The Commons, we had volunteers working side by side who had never been face to face. 

I’m unashamed to admit that I don’t have a lot of motivation when working from home. I’ve always been most productive when in the office. Having a place away from home has been an incredible boost to my productivity. Working with people who have overcome life’s toughest challenges, it can be easy to take their troubles home with you. Physically compartmentalising work from home helps me with my work/life balance too.

Are there any plans to expand, what might that look like?

Oh big time! We’re aiming to grow Worthy Cause so we can expand the reach and outcomes of our program. We want to be able to expand on the skills our program can offer and help our participants learn and become more employable. 

Long-term Worthy Cause will be expanding beyond cookies to offer the market an environmentally and ethically sustainable product that employs and empowers vulnerable people.

“Every person we help deserves the respect and opportunity to work for a better life, and through purchasing our cookies, Australians can help them get one step closer to achieving that.”

Lastly, what does Worthy Cause need right now to continue helping those in need? 

The more cookies that we can sell, the more vulnerable people we need in our program to produce them. So we are actively building relationships with retailers and corporations that are looking to support our program by purchasing our cookies. 

And you, the reader, can help by putting us in touch with businesses and retailers who want to buy our cookies! We sell everything from co-branded and individually sealed little cookies, to our retail pouches and big bags of sealed for cafes and workplace kitchens.

The Commons is proud to sponsor great NFP and Social Enterprises across Sydney and Melbourne. Some of our current scholarship members include The Global Women’s Project, Mi Vote, One Plate, Kua and Co Ground.

As The Commons expands, so does our scholarship program. Since its inception, The Commons Scholarship Program has contributed over $1,000,000 to organisations committed to changing the world.

You can find out more here

Learn more about Worthy Cause below: