Name: Alicia Danielle Polak
Organisation: The Khaya Cookie Company
Role: CEO and Founder
Country: United States
Alicia Danielle Polak is the dynamic founder of The Khaya Cookie Company, an innovative business with a social objective. A former investment banker turned social entrepreneur, the New Jersey native has created a forward-thinking business model that allows her to fulfill a personal commitment to better the lives of the residents in her adopted home of South Africa. In 2006, Alicia founded the Khaya Cookie Company. The endeavor utilizes the entrepreneurial and analytical skills that she gained on Wall Street to expand on her venture for social change. For every 1,500 boxes of cookies sold, one new job is created in South Africa. In the United States, for every 500 orders placed, four new jobs are created at their Philadelphia, PA Distribution Center. These jobs provide sustainable opportunities and job skills training for the women and men of the local community in South Africa where the ingredients are sourced and the cookies are made and employment right here in America. Prior to establishing The Khaya Cookie Company, Alicia worked as an international consultant specializing in logistics and project management for the Freeplay Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa. Distributing wind-up radios in Sub-Saharan Africa brought her to the realization that she wanted to create jobs for people as a means to make them self-sufficient. In 2004, using her savings, a recipe for chocolate-chip cookies scribbled on a piece of paper, and one Xhosa-speaking worker, she launched what turned out to be the first iteration of her cookie company in the township of Khayelitsha outside Cape Town. In two years it grew from one worker to ten and supplied brownies and cookies to high-end hotels, restaurants and cafes throughout South Africa. She sold the company in 2005 to local South Africans in order to expand on her mission. Today, The Khaya Cookie Company is located deep in the winelands of western South Africa where it produces its range of cookies for the export market, and as a result, provides more jobs, job skills training and opportunities to a greater number of women and men. Alicia earned an MBA/MPA from New York University and The University of Cape Town, South Africa. She earned her BA from New York University. Alicia and her work have been featured in CNN Headline News “Small & Global” and in publications such as The Financial Times, Glamour (South Africa), O, the Oprah Magazine (South Africa), and Business 2.0. She received the Food Network Awards 2007 Edible Entrepreneur of the Year award for her “passionate pursuit of bright ideas.” Alicia currently resides in Philadelphia and in her free time enjoys scuba diving, South African wine tasting and traveling the world.