By Christopher Ubsdell
A faint aroma of coffee strangely drifts through the entrance of a charity shop in East London. Inside a man is producing fine cups of artisan coffee, on a gleaming red tricycle and coffee cart.
Kieron Tilley, the co-founder of We Walk the Line explained the idea behind locating a coffee making tricycle in a charity shop and the system that brewed the result.
We Walk the Line is a not for profit social enterprise that helps young and disadvantaged people become their own boss, by teaching people the skills and attributes they need to run their own business.
Tilley believes there are not enough opportunities for marginalised people to set themselves up in business. He said: “It seemed to us that there weren’t many mechanisms out there to support those young and disadvantaged people into self employment status. So we came up with this idea, to offer an apprenticeship in business and barista skills, with the end goal of using these skills to set up on your own, running a micro coffee business.”
The social enterprise helps those who have been side-lined by society and supports them to become self employed as baristas. Tilley sees the entrepreneurial training as a way for talented but marginalised individuals to get back on their feet.
“We help you with the buying of stock, with ongoing marketing and support, paperwork, licensing and that sort of thing. And in return you run your coffee concession as a going concern, as a self employed person supported by the social enterprise.”
Tom Harris, the man on the red tricycle, is We Walk the Line’s first barrister and started trading four months ago, selling coffee from his mobile cart. As well as the charity shop Tom has been serving fantastic coffee at street markets and corporate events, including for Ben & Jerry’s, which he said was really busy but also good fun.
Kieron and his co-founder Mat Corbett have previously worked with dispossessed people and their experience is telling. The self employment model of We Walk the Line promotes independence with support that lasts for up to twenty-four months following the start of any new trading activity. Talking about what the social enterprise is offering trainees Kieron said:
“We can help them attain an accreditation in enterprise. It just so happens that our pilot phase is looking at developing skills in business and barista. But in five years time it could be business and floristry or business and cycle repairing for example.”
Moving forward We Walk the Line wants to expand by finding new locations to place its coffee carts. Hotel lobbies, train stations, corporate lobby spaces and charity shops are all on the agenda and in five years time they would like to have hundreds of people working for themselves, as self sufficient business people.
With coffee, floristry, cycle repair and catering are all on the horizon, Kieron explained: “Turning an idea into something sustainable is a challenge. The trick is to get the right person in the right pitch, selling the right product at the right price.”
Currently located at homeless charity Emmaus, the coffee cart is a great addition to the atmosphere of the shop. To find out more about We Walk the Line visit their website