Cookie company bakes for a cause

Jane Hursh’s business started as a hobby but became a funding source to end human trafficking, with all profits going to that goal.

Jane Hursh’s business started as a hobby but became a funding source to end human trafficking, with all profits going to that goal.

Allison Olcsvay

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If the Girl Scouts had their way, cookie sales really would change the world. Real change, however, is affected by people willing to put their passion into action.

People like Jane Hursh, founder of Jane’s Short & Sweet Bakery, whose profits go directly to local and international organizations dedicated to helping young ladies find hope and independence from a life of physical and spiritual imprisonment.

Hursh founded her business three years ago, pursuing her passion for baking, but from the beginning she was aware that this was no ordinary business venture.

“It started as a hobby and people started ordering and it just grew,” Hursh said.

“We never had the intention of keeping the money, so we wanted to investigate where does the community need that, where can we get the most bang, to make the most improvement,” she said.

Around this time, through research the Hurshes learned about the problem of human trafficking and its ties to Central Florida and decided to dedicate the profits from the bakery to ending it.

“We wanted to commit to the issues and organizations already in place, dealing with the problem,” Hursh said.

The organizations Jane’s Short & Sweet have committed to helping include the Florida Coalition to End Human Trafficking, Born 2 Fly International, Bridging Freedom, the Hope & Help Center and the 306 Foundation, headed by Jane’s husband, John Hursh.

Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King’s work to aid “the least of these,” the Hurshes created the 306 Foundation, named after the room number of the hotel room where Dr. King spent his last night. The work of the 306 Foundation is twofold: to aid women and children escaping sex trafficking and to work to prevent such tragedies by strengthening access to healthcare and education for those most vulnerable.

One such effort they are supporting is the new 6-bed home being built by the Florida Baptist Children’s Home where children escaping human trafficking can take the time needed to heal and return to normal life.

Looking to the future, Hursh is currently working out a partnership with a church downtown. If that happens, the church would provide her with a commercial kitchen where she could continue baking and classroom space where groups of women could learn new skills while healing past hurts.

“The baking has always been a way to develop relationships with young women, a way to mentor them and build into them, teach them how to bake bread and build their self esteem,” said Hursh.

She plans to employ some of the young ladies she trains as bakers as well as product vendors at local farmer’s markets. If the day comes that Jane’s moves to a brick-and-mortar store, her employees would come directly from her training program.

“By intertwining baking skills with life skills, we hope to give them tools to increase their chances of success,” Hursh said.

In the literal sense, each cookie sold is one step closer to helping someone leave a life of pain and abuse behind.

For now, Jane’s relies on retail partners, including The Spice & Tea Exchange, Ancient Olive, Peterbrooke Chocolatier and Sassafras Sweet Shoppe on Park Avenue to bring her products to her fans.

“Jane buys her spices for the cookies here as well as the tea that goes in her chai cookies. People seem to love them and are pleased to see them here,” said Maureen Mitchell, co-manager of The Spice & Tea Exchange.

Her shortbread cookies have been an especially big hit, having recently been voted “Best Cookie” by the readers of Edible Orlando Magazine.

With more than 30 flavors of shortbreads, as well as biscotti, and homemade granola available, there is no excuse when it comes to finding a new favorite among the offerings of Jane’s Short & Sweet.

She’s shipped cookies as far away as Alaska and to unusual locations like the USS Lincoln, stationed in the Strait of Hormuz. Orders have been placed as gifts for famous designers in New York City and for the Orlando Magic, here in town.

“My work is about building relationships, as much as it is about baking,” said Hursh.

“I don’t think people understand how much it means for folks to know that their story has been heard. To be in a position to be trusted with [the women’s] stories is a huge deal.”