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RED DOOR desserts: Changing Women’s Lives One Cookie at a Time

Cookie pic hand

CEO Julie Hirota wants you to know that RED DOOR desserts is not just a cookie company. In actuality, they’re not a cookie company at all. Rather, RED DOOR desserts is on a mission to help formerly homeless women rebuild their lives through its vocational training initiative, St. John’s Program for Real Change.

Based in Sacramento, RED DOOR desserts came about when the coronavirus pandemic shut down both of St. John’s social enterprise restaurants: Plates Café and Catering and Plates Midtown. “We were using the restaurants as our vocational training program. When COVID hit, we had to suspend operations. We thought, well, what are we going to do? And how are we going to do it?” Hirota said. The answer: RED DOOR desserts.

The program, which launched in December 2020, was a real “meeting of the minds,” she continued. “It was a matter of what could we do here? Maybe we should do desserts. No, maybe we should do cookies.”

And what incredibly inventive cookies they are. Conceived by long-time pastry chef Courtney Marx, flavors include cardamom snickerdoodles, red velvet brownies, chocolate espresso pie bars and coconut matcha macaroons, to name a few.

With every box also comes a story, oftentimes of a woman that has had a hand in making the cookies. “It’s a story of the women who are in our program or who have succeeded by our program, the story about their struggle and recovery” said Hirota. “The customer or the donor who receives it is able to really connect with the woman.”

The company has been so successful that the organization serves up to 270 women and children daily with a waitlist of more than 250 per day.

RED DOOR is also sensitive to other small businesses, explained Hirota. “Watching what’s happening to restaurants in our community, we don’t need to be a competitor in catering. We want all of our businesses that have been here a long time to survive.”

That same heartfelt philosophy follows St. John’s in everything it does. Through its vocational opportunities, the Program for Real Change has helped improve the lives of hundreds of women by equipping them with tools they need to be self-sufficient. As Hirota puts it, “[The program] transforms women.” Hence, the red door; a symbol of hope for a better future to come.

Worth noting: RED DOOR ships nationwide and offers a monthly subscription service.



Kate Eplboim

Kate Eplboim is a travel and food writer. Over the last five years, she has cultivated her passion for travel, environmental journalism, and gardening. She is a native of Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter at @kate_eplboim.


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