A B.C. bakery is winning hearts, minds and wallets with tasty treats made by bakers with developmental disabilities, who have helped transform the operation from a volunteer opportunity into a paying business.

The Mindful Mouthful Bakery in Duncan, B.C., is now offering slightly more than minimum wage to its 20 bakers, who joined the kitchen as volunteers through a not-for-profit organization.

"It's a training kitchen for adults with developmental disabilities to teach them life skills (and) cooking skills," Dominic Rockall, executive director of The Mindful Mouthful, told CTV Vancouver Island. Rockall says the orders are rolling in, with customers eager to pay for tasty products that also support a "great cause."

Alyssa Harrison, who works in the kitchen, says she's proud to earn a wage for her efforts. "Yes, we get paycheques and we bring them into our banks," she said. She added that the experience has been a fulfilling one for her. "It kind of teaches you how to make your own kind of cookies, and teaches you how to do your own ways," Harrison said.

The Mindful Mouthful started as a lunch program put on the by the Clements Centre Society in Duncan, B.C., where adults with developmental disabilities learned to cook and clean in a kitchen. But their sweets, quiches and meat pies proved so popular with customers that they were able to transform the program into a business, with the help of a government subsidy. 

"We have rebranded and repackaged our products and we are ready to grow our audience and supporters sharing our wonderful food with the Cowichan Valley and beyond," bakery staff wrote on their Facebook page

Community support worker Marrie Reno says the kitchen staff do "fantastic" work. "They're very dedicated to what they do," she said. "They're happy, you know? They have confidence."

Rockall says it's been a major boost for employees to feel like they’re worthy of being paid for their efforts. "It improves their self-esteem, their self-worth," he said.

He added that he hopes the business will continue to grow, to the point where it will no longer need to rely on a subsidy from the Vancouver Foundation. "Our goal is to within three years be self-sustaining," he said.

The bakery's Facebook page is filled with delicious-looking images of their products, from seasonal fare such as gingerbread cookies and fruit cake, to everyday delights such as quiche, cookies and pies.

With files from CTV Vancouver Island