“Out of everything bad comes something good.”

Janice and Bobby Jucker should know.

Their Houston bakery survived four floods, one fire and a hurricane.

“We’re known as ‘the queen and king of disasters,’” Janice laughs. “We’re really good at disasters.”

Decades earlier, the founders of the family business survived far worse.

The Jucker family’s first bakery opened in Poland circa 1825 in a building where Napoleon once slept. In 1932, twins Sigmund and Sol Jucker started working in the bakery at age 10 due to a labor strike.

When 1941 arrived, so did the occupation of Poland by German forces. The Jucker family was sent to concentration camps. In 1945, Sigmund, Sol, younger brother Max and their older sister were liberated from the camps, found each other and left Europe to discover a new life of freedom in Houston, where they bought a bakery and renamed it. Three Brothers Bakery – named for Sigmund, Sol and Max – was born.

“Out of everything bad comes something good.”

Fast forward to today. Sigmund’s son, Bobby, and his wife, Janice, now run Three Brothers Bakery. Walk into one of their three locations, and you can feel the sugar rush. Cases filled with award-winning key lime pie, Texas pecan pie, red velvet cake, iced cookies, breads and additional pastries tempt customers seven days a week.

“I married the guy with all the dough,” Janice jokes about Bobby.

But keeping Three Brothers Bakery profitable has been serious business. Janice recently shared their journey with a group of civic and business leaders who were learning about how the Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC) program can help more Houston-area companies grow. Regions Bank and community partners are bringing ICCC – described as a “mini MBA on steroids” – to Houston for the first time.

Companies accepted into ICCC receive Harvard-level training on topics ranging from marketing to finance to building sustainable plans for long-term growth. Given financial support from Regions, ICCC is tuition free.

“We’ve seen the results ICCC has generated for small businesses in the cities where it’s held,” said Mark Jacobs, Houston Market Executive for Regions. “We knew immediately we wanted to bring it to Houston, too, as part of our commitment to advancing both economic development and more inclusive prosperity.”

Mayor Sylvester Turner noted the significant impact entrepreneurs make in the nation’s fourth most populous city.

“Houston is a world-class city where community members take pride in their homes and their businesses,” said Turner. “You can’t build up neighborhoods and communities without small business.”

Janice Jucker is a believer. She’s traveled to other cities to attend ICCC programs. Now, she’s encouraging fellow Houston entrepreneurs to apply for the 2020 program as it comes to town.

“I learn something new each time I participate,” she said. “I give ICCC a lot of credit for us still being here.”

ICCC - Houston Bakery

Steve Grossman, CEO of Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, considers Janice Jucker one of the most impressive ICCC alumni. “She and Bobby have overcome challenges by combining a winning growth strategy with first-rate business practices.”

Three Brothers Bakery has had to be resilient, especially following Hurricane Ike in 2008. The Category Four storm that claimed over 200 lives and created $38 million in damage also left its mark on Three Brothers Bakery. The bakery’s Braeswood location, where all the baking occurs, was flooded when the roof blew off.

It took nine months of cleanup and restoration before Bobby and Janice could reopen Braeswood. During that time, they worked in a trailer next to the bakery, continuing to pay their 25-plus employees. Every team member stayed following the storm.

“It never occurred to us not to clean up and keep going,” said Janice.

While that was the longest closure they’ve endured, the toughest challenge financially was from the 4.5 feet of water that later flooded the bakery during Hurricane Harvey.

“We learned the importance cash plays during recovery and understanding your finances; if you don’t have cash, there is no reason to muck out your business,” said Janice. “When you experience three natural disasters in less than three years, you unexpectedly become an expert at it. After Hurricane Harvey, we developed a formalized plan with assigned jobs. We’ve now become a voice for businesses experiencing disasters.”

Janice knows the financial education given to her from participating in ICCC was integral to being able to obtain SBA disaster loans after Harvey and being able to pitch to a bank for growth loans.

“Out of everything bad comes something good.”

Janice soaks up as much business knowledge as possible. The former Wall Street and Houston information technology executive was savvy in navigating the corporate world.  But her co-ownership role with Three Brothers Bakery is a different animal. Thanks to programs like ICCC, the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, and the Small Business Administration’s Emerging Leaders series, she’s gained valuable insights in promoting and growing the bakery, which now generates nearly $5 million in revenue annually.

What’s one of the greatest lessons she’s learned from ICCC?

“It’s more important to work on, rather than work in, your business,” Janice quickly answers. “Early on, it felt like we were pretending to be businesspeople. I think bigger now. The ICCC classes have helped me to do that.”

ICCC Houston 2020: Fast Facts

*Application deadline: Friday, May 22

*Main training event: Wednesday, June 17

*More information & program criteria: iccapitalconnections.org

*Online application: apply.iccapitalconnections.org

That expanded mindset has resulted in Three Brothers Bakery dedicating a specific team member to growing their online pie business. One variety in particular has emerged as a favorite, with their pecan pie receiving the distinction as the “Best Mail-Order Pecan Pie America has to Offer” by Country Living Magazine. They also hired a new pastry chef to expand the bakery’s offerings. It’s exactly this change in thinking and the growth it generates that ICCC is focused on helping small businesses achieve.

“Janice has been one of ICIC’s most impressive alumni over the years,” said Steve Grossman, CEO of the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, which conducts the ICCC program. “A graduate of ICCC, the 10,000 Small Businesses program and twice an Inner City 100 winner, she and Bobby have overcome challenges by combining a winning growth strategy with first-rate business practices. We’re proud of the impact ICCC has had on Three Brothers Bakery.”

Despite the challenges they’ve faced, Janice and Bobby remain optimistic about the future, with plans to continue to steadily grow the bakery as they celebrate its 71st anniversary this year.

“My cup is half full,” said Janice. “We can persevere in the face of adversity … and we’ve faced a lot of adversity. We are survivors.”

“Out of everything bad comes something good.”