Swapthoughts gives a leg up to employees

Wednesday, December 29, 2004 at 1:00am

A cookie in Tina Huggins bakery is hand-folded into shape in four seconds, and bakers are making between 600 and 1,000 a day for the holidays.

Huggins's year-old Nashville company, Swapthoughts, has made cookies for the Renaissance Hotel, the Country Music Association and the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville, to take stock of some of its biggest customers.

The cookies are similar to fortune cookies, but the notes are customized, the shape is a little altered - similar to a heart, and the cookies are moister, with a slight almond flavor. They can be dipped in white or dark chocolate.

They can be ordered, with custom messages, over the Internet or by phone.

At present, the company's small, colorful kitchen is located down a hall in the Nashville Business Incubation Center, downtown on the campus of Tennessee State University. Until a month ago, however, the kitchen resided in a ministry in East Nashville.

A program at the Family Affair Ministries, where Huggins first set up shop, trains low-income men and women to receive food service certification. Some then began working for Swapthoughts.

Each of Huggins's employees, one fulltime and eight part-time, has been referred to her through the ministry or through similar nonprofit organizations.

Swapthoughts has two purposes, according to Huggins: first, to earn a profit and, second, to help the down-and-out take jobs and make careers.

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