How can the growth of coffee shops address homelessness in London?
As part of a new series we speak to the people behind some of the Britain’s best social enterprises. In part one we talk with the founder of Old Spike Roastery, a local South London coffee shop that is helping address homelessness in London.
Photo’s are courtesy of Tom Roberts
As the season turns and temperatures drop across the UK, we are once again reminded of the harsh winter that lays ahead and those who face this more than anyone else are Britain’s 60,000 homeless (a figure has increased by 30% from 40,000 in 2009). There are many factors that contribute to these figures, one cause has been the lack of employment opportunities and the inability to escape the poverty cycle. One area of growth in the social enterprise community have been cafés and restaurants set up to address this pressing issue. One such café is the Old Spike Roastery, based in Peckham who are a leading employer in supporting those with complex backgrounds and also brewers of great coffee.
Thanks for your time today Richard, could you tells us a little bit about your background and what inspired you start the Old Spike Roastery?
I worked in advertising for a number of years and also as a business strategist for a large technology company. Part of my career took me to New York and I lived there for 3 years where I was exposed to a more advanced coffee market than in the UK. Experiencing roasters first hand within cafes I knew there was an opportunity to bring something similar to the UK. Working alongside my business partner who went to the school of social entrepreneurs, we decided to start a business that combined speciality coffee roasting with the training and employing of homeless people in the UK.
Tell us about the impact you’ve had to date?
We have had quite a few success stories with a variety of different people from different backgrounds. One of our employees, Thomas, has been with us for two years after experiencing homelessness after being deported back to the UK from the US. He has come on leaps and bounds and now runs the cafe and is in the process of becoming a qualified speciality coffee trainer where he can train and inspire our new beneficiaries that come through our program.
The issue of homelessness is a growing issue. What can business do help those from disadvantaged backgrounds?
In most instances, it is about giving the people the opportunity which tends to be the first hurdle for most employers. We are hoping that our programme makes this much easier for employers to recruit people from disadvantaged backgrounds. If they can actively support organisations like ourselves then it will make a huge difference to the overall issue of homelessness.
Has being a social enterprise helped you grow as a business?
I think being a social enterprise certainly has some positives in terms of helping us grow as a business in the early stages. We took on some loans from social investments which are at better rates than we would have gotten if we were a regular for profit business. That being said, we are at a slight disadvantage when it comes to seeking equity investment vs our ‘for profit’ counterparts. Ultimately – being able to deliver social impact should not be limited to those companies who are social enterprises – there is no reason why you can’t have the same impact but be for profit too.
What are your ambitions for the next five years?
We have a busy 12 months lined up with the roll out of Change Please Foundation – this will provide a dedicated training academy in London for all our beneficiaries to work and perfect their barista and roasting skillset. Old Spike worked closely with Change Please as our sister brand and we are formalising that relationship now in light of our new site opening in March next year. For Old Spike specifically, we are continuing with our wholesale coffee roasting as well as looking at a roll out of our retail element with a new opening hopefully lined up for next year also.
Visit the Old Spike Roaster at –
54 Peckham Rye, London, SE15 4JR,
Tuesday – Friday: 7.30am – 3pm
Saturday/ Sunday: 9.30am – 5pm
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