For as far back as Jess Klatte can remember, baking has been in her blood. It was an activity she shared with her mom as she was growing up, and when she started a family, she began baking treats with her kiddos. Klatte would often share her decorated sugar cookies with friends like Katie Jacoboski, who encouraged her to sell her creations because they were so delicious. Four years ago Klatte launched an in-home business called Mama Bird Cookies. The name came from the fact that her oldest daughter’s nickname is Bird, and of course Klatte is the mama. The business was so popular that Klatte recruited Jacoboski, a music teacher at a local preschool, to help her so that they could expand their offering of goodies.
All the while, Klatte was still working full time as a social worker where she saw a lot of inequalities in the workplace, particularly in the population with intellectual and developmental disabilities. One day she was at a meeting for a young lady she supported who desperately wanted to work as a barista for a commercial coffee chain. The manager told Klatte he would never hire the woman with developmental disabilities because she was too slow.
“That was my light-bulb moment where I realized that there was an opportunity here to change our community,” says Klatte, who, along with Jacoboski, decided to open a bakery – one that would employ people with intellectual disabilities like autism, Down syndrome and ADHD, as well as physical disabilities. The pair worked with the architect to design the space, making sure the kitchen and display-case areas were big enough for wheelchair-bound people.
“Our mantra is, ‘Everyone is welcome at our table,’” Klatte says. “We wanted anyone, whether you worked here or came in as a customer, to feel welcome, so our tables and restrooms are ADA accessible.”
In January of 2023, Mama Bird Bakery opened in downtown Plainfield. Currently, Klatte and Jacoboski employ three part-time employees with disabilities.
“We like learning what all of our employees like to do,” Jacoboski says. “We try to figure out how to fit everyone in so that we’re helping them build skills.”
Not surprisingly, all of their employees enjoy baking. Everyone gets a chance to be in the kitchen making cinnamon rolls, stirring up and rolling out cookie dough, and filling pop tarts and hand pies.
“Our employees are hands-on, doing it all with us, whether that’s baking, washing dishes, working the register or cleaning baseboards,” Jacoboski says.
One cool design element of the bakery is the big windows that allow a view into the kitchen, so that customers can feel a connection to the baking process.
“We have a table in front of one of the windows,” Klatte says. “Families with young kids love to sit there.”
Getting hired at Mama Bird Bakery has fulfilled a lifelong dream for 17-year-old Owen Carr.
“I love it,” he says. “It’s really fun. I help prep cinnamon rolls, brownies and Danish, and help put items out on the counter. I also clean tables, prep muffin batter and peel potatoes.”
Carr’s baking skills really took off during the pandemic as he looked for ways to pass the time.
“I want to continue this for as long as I live,” Carr says.
His co-workers are also happy to be part of the team.
“I like working here because it gives me time to interact with other people,” says Olivia Slavens, 20. “I like learning how to bake things too.”
Jared Baker’s favorite thing about working at the bakery is perfecting his baking skills.
“I love to make red velvet cookies and cinnamon rolls,” says Baker, 23. “I also like getting to see the customers and my bosses.”
The community is equally thrilled to welcome Mama Bird Bakery to Plainfield.
“A lot of people bring their laptops and work remotely,” Klatte says. “We also have afternoon groups of preschoolers come in with their parents. Friday mornings are especially busy because folks like to bring treats into the office. We definitely feel that we’re filling a niche that was missing here in Plainfield.”
Mama Bird Bakery sells scones, muffins, pop tarts, hand pies, macarons, cinnamon rolls, cookies, brownies, breakfast pastries, Danish, blueberry shortbread bars, and coffee cake on weekends. They offer gluten-free and vegan options. They have partnered with Tinker Coffee Co. and make all their own syrups in-house, swapping them out seasonally. For instance, this past winter they had brown sugar cinnamon syrup.
“We try to do a good mix of savory and sweet options,” Klatte says.
When the bakery first opened, several of the parents of the special-needs employees told Klatte and Jacoboski that they never thought there would be a spot for their child to work in a public place with such dignity.
“That tugs at our heartstrings,” Jacoboski says. “Honestly, we’re flabbergasted that these kinds of opportunities don’t exist elsewhere – for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to be loved and supported in their work environment.”
Not only do Klatte and Jacoboski insist on paying their employees almost double minimum wage, but they also try to do something charitable once a month to support the community. For example, last June they baked rainbow heart cookies and donated proceeds from a big sale to the Indiana Youth Group for homeless LGBTQ+ youth. Last February they gave money to a Hendricks County family whose son was having open-heart surgery. In October, during Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, they contributed to a Plainfield family who lost their little boy.
Family is extremely important to both women. Klatte and her husband, Steve, have six children, Raven, 18, Drew, 8, Keegan, 6, Luke, 4, Quinn, 2, and a new baby coming soon. Jacoboski and her husband, Josh, have four children, Molly, 15, Claire, 13, Rose, 12, and Tommy, 7.
“Big or small, we want to be a part of people’s lives here in Plainfield and Hendricks County,” Klatte says.
Mama Bird Bakery is located at 234 East Main Street, Suite 103 in Plainfield. For more information, call 317-441-6413 or visit mamabirdbakery.com.