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High School Senior Bakes Up Successful Fundraising Business

Charity Bagels, Leo Barnes

Title / Role: Founder, Baker
Location: Hanover, New Hampshire
Formed in: 2021
What do you do?

Charity Bagels sells homemade DIY bagel kits that provide all the pre-measured ingredients, tools, and video instructions a customer 

needs to make a dozen delicious bagels at home from scratch.

We sell the kits individually through in addition to leading school fundraisers where the kits are a donation gift. It’s like an NPR tote bag but delicious! Once someone uses a kit, they’re encouraged to donate ½ of their fresh bagels to a local charity, first responder, or emergency service. When they do, they get half off their next kit!

What inspired you to start your business?

My father helped design the Buy-One-Give-One model at TOMS Shoes, which has been used by Warby Parker, Bombas, etc., to inspire donations to vulnerable groups. So I guess you could say I grew up knowing the power of enterprise to inspire positive change. During COVID, I started donating lots of my bagels to the Haven. After several runs, I became discouraged by how minimal my contribution was to fighting hunger in the community. Driving back one day from a dropoff, I thought, “What if I could teach and encourage an army of home bakers to bring their bagels to local shelters?” That idea really stuck with me, and I’ve been pursuing that “what if” ever since. 

I’d already started a business before, called Tectonic Guru, an earthquake preparedness service, so I already knew the basics of starting a social impact venture.

What's special about your business?

Charity Bagels seeks to harness the power of the bagel to bring about social good. From introducing people to the wonderful art of bagel-making to running fundraisers to encouraging them to play an active role in helping their communities, Charity Bagels is America’s only impact startup centered around the bagel.

What have been the high and low points of being a business owner?

Low points: Those slow, quiet moments when you feel like you’ve hit a plateau and your business isn’t going anywhere.

High points: Getting the chance to speak with the CEO of King Arthur, being featured in’s Baker’s Spotlight, and seeing how successful the fundraisers have been and how excited it’s gotten the school communities.

From these highs and lows and my experiences as a business owner, I've learned that everything takes a little longer than you think it will; that little victories add up and are worthy of being celebrated; and that when you find a winning coalition of friends, family, and mentors who want you to succeed, anything is possible.


Charity Bagels Founder with Richmond Middle School Students
How SCORE helped.

I’ve never been a fan of learning things the hard way. To paraphrase Michael Pollan in ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma,’ “Let someone else eat the poison mushroom.” So when I heard that SCORE was an organization of retired persons replete with hard-earned business wisdom who are looking to help out small business startups, I latched right on.

My mentor, Sally, helped guide the business in the right direction, kept me focused (and not chasing butterflies), aided in establishing important local connections, and assisted in the design of the logistical side of the kit assembly.

Sally is calm, always willing, and happy to chat, and she provides great perspective. She celebrates the little victories which really makes me feel like she’s in the trenches next to me fighting to make this concept a reality.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a small business?

You don’t have to be on Shark Tank or on the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine to be doing something cool and meaningful with your business. Don’t measure yourself and your enterprise against others. Measure them against where you started.

How Did Your Business Get Started? My mentors
Headshot of Sally Wilson
Sally Wilson

I am an operations person at heart, I can help with setting up management tools, costs, inventory...

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35 Manchester Road, Suite 11A, PMB 279
Derry, NH 03038
(603) 666-7561

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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

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