Like many of the world’s good ideas, the one conceived by Wellington buddies Nicole Murray and Marie Fitzpatrick developed late at night after a few glasses of wine.
“We were talking about how things in Wellington and the world seemed to be a bit s--t and getting worse,” says Nic with a smile. “Because we were drunk, the conversation wasn’t what you’d call linear… and, as usual, we were also discussing food.”
An 'oven bulb' moment
Nic then began reminiscing about how when her nephew had cancer, she would send ginger crunch up to his ward at Auckland’s Starship Hospital. The 43-year-old recalled how the home baking really did “cheer people up.” And that’s when, says Nic, their “oven bulb” moment occurred.
“The two ideas collided and we came up with an idea to...” Marie finishes the sentence. “…Save the world with baking.”
“We looked at each other and said, ‘I’m a good bitch and you’re a good bitch. Let’s call it Good Bitches Baking.’”
It has been more than two years since the launch of Good Bitches Baking (GBB); a charity through which a network of volunteers create sweet treats for those in need, whether families with children in hospital or those using Women’s Refuge shelters.
Nic and Marie, who both work in marketing, are adamant that the secret of the organisation’s success is less about the chocolate chip cookies and salted caramel popcorn cake, and more about the inherent generosity of spirit of ‘good bitches’ in our communities.
“As much as the baking is delicious, it’s the warmth in the idea that has the impact,” says Nic. “For people in crisis, it’s easy to think everything is terrible; a tiny reminder that everything isn’t terrible is a powerful thing.”
She tells the story of a young boy whose life has been spent in Women’s Refuge shelters, and who got some good news from a school report. As a reward he was gifted a GBB cake.
“It was the first time he’d ever had a cake to himself for doing a good job, and he was really overwhelmed that people cared enough about how well he did in school.”
As well as giving those in need a much appreciated lift of the spirits, GBB’s impact has gone deeper. Nic explains how delivering home baking to residents of a long-term homeless shelter for women in Wellington created dramatic change among the group.
“When we started delivering, the person who answered the door took the baking and ate it herself,” Nic says.“This forced the ladies to have a conversation about that kind of behaviour, then make an agreement among themselves that the baking was there to be shared. They now call Sundays ‘Sweet Sundays’ and it’s their support group time where they all sit down, have a cup of tea and talk.
“These are women who probably didn’t really talk to each other or other people. Now they have the ability to do that, and we’ve been told the impact of this has been quite incredible.”
It was this feedback that inspired Nic and Marie, 40, to offer baking lessons to women at the shelter; one of many examples of how the best mates are keeping the charity evolving.
What began with just 15 people in Wellington has flourished into 13 chapters around New Zealand with four or five more waiting in the wings. To date, bakers and volunteers have given more than 100,000 moments of happiness in the form of slices, cookies, meringues and cakes.
Nic and Marie have drawn on their marketing backgrounds and business skills to create the structures necessary to cope with rapid, organic growth, and now the pair are firmly focused on finding more funding. This has led to them releasing a cookbook of GBB recipes, and selling merchandise through their website and on Facebook.
“The thing to remember with our growth plan was that there wasn’t a plan,” says Nic. “We never intended for it to become what it’s become. We imagined we’d do some baking, have a Facebook page and – because we’re marketers – we came up with a logo just to make ourselves laugh.”
However, the need to bring more kindness to the world through food proved to be great, and both say it has taught them more than ever about the value of giving.
Connecting through food
Marie says her children – Tom, 13, and Stella, eight – have learned hugely through her experience.
“Sometimes I’ll do the baking and they won’t get any of it. For my very middle-class, white, Kiwi kids, it’s been useful to show them, using food, how things aren’t equal in this world and how lucky they are.”
Indeed, what Nic and Marie have discovered over the past two years is that baking creates heart-to-heart connections. As much as it’s about sharing sweet food made with lots of love, it’s also the thought that someone, somewhere, is thinking of you.
“One of the first lessons we learned about kindness once it all kicked off is that everyone wants to be kind and everyone wants to do good things for people in their community and help where they can,” Marie says.
“And 99 per cent are inherently kind creatures. What people lack is the balls to expose themselves or they need that permission to be kind. All we are doing is giving people a framework and structure to hang their kindness on.”
How can you get involved?
Good Bitches Baking is actively fundraising to ensure their network of kindness, providing home baking for Kiwis in need, can continue to grow. You can help by:
1 Volunteering to be a ‘Good Bitch’ and either baking or delivering cakes. Bakers need to supply their own ingredients and will be asked to bake around a couple of times a month. Drivers will be asked to deliver about once a month, collecting from approximately half a dozen bakers and delivering to a couple of locations.
2 Purchasing Bloody Good Baking, the GBB cookbook which contains 75 recipes donated by volunteers. “It fits with the whole idea of sharing,” says Nic. “All of the recipes are people’s own kitchen secrets or recipes they’ve inherited from their families.” Priced at $40, it is available from the website.
3 Donating via the GBB Give-A-Little page.
4 Connecting the charity’s founders with businesses who can then sponsor their national network.
To find out more, head to www.gbb.org.nz
Words: Kylie Bailey
Photography: Nicola Edmunds