Café Van Gogh’s social investment journey started when they were referred to the Reach Fund. This allowed them to better engage with vulnerable members of the local community and meet the popular appetite for vegan cuisine.
Café Van Gogh*, is a social enterprise vegan restaurant in South London named after the impressionist artist who lived in the area in the 1870s.
After twenty years of working in housing for marginalised and socially disadvantaged groups, the organisation’s founder created the café with the ambition to serve more than just delicious, affordable and ethically-sourced food.
The café, which is partnered with Christ Church Brixton Road, works within a charity network that provides community events, delivers on-the-job training. This includes confidence building and career development for its kitchen staff, many of which have learning disabilities and mental health problems.
How we helped
The popularity of vegan cuisine meant more and more customers were finding out about the café. However, the growth also meant growing pressures on a small workforce.
The short lifespan of the enterprise and the risks associated meant that it was difficult to obtain the right amount of repayable finance needed to maintain the café’s success. Proof of organisational resilience was needed to suit the palate of an investor.
Not wanting to let their social mission go to waste, the café looked to Big Issue Invest (BII) for assistance. BII referred them to the Reach Fund, a capacity-building programme for organisations on the cusp of obtaining further investment.
Reach Fund awarded the café £7,500 which was split between accountancy support, building the financial reporting tools they needed to monitor and manage their income and expenditure, and marketing support to improve visibility of the café and drive customers to the location. The grant also allowed them to buy staff time to put together a growth plan and determine costs and viability.
There has been a huge amount of learning from the services made possible through the Reach Fund. Some of it expected, such as the marketing and financial support, but some of it unexpected – like reduced professional isolation and invaluable peer support. We certainly wouldn’t have been able to get where we are today without support from Reach.”
Founder of Café Van Gogh
What was the outcome?
Supported by the time, money and resource it needed, the café was able to pass the threshold required for social investment. Confident in the enterprise’s resilience, BII offered them a £10,000 loan. With this substantial boost they have begun their search for a job coach to help nurture local catering talent and are setting up a ‘pay it forward’ service to improve affordability for vulnerable customers.
Now in the top 6% of TripAdvisor’s ranking of London restaurants, Café Van Gogh have been cooking up a storm on social media. Attention from vegan celebrity influencers has helped to whet the appetites of over 7,000 Instagram followers. It’s exciting times for this ‘cuisine with conscience’ enterprise!
*Café Van Gogh is registered as Raw Ingredients CIC