Recently, I was asked by Chichester Herald to wrote an article on being an independent business and the bit we play in helping the homeless. This is the original version. The printed version was edited to be in the third person’s perspective.
HOPE IN A JAR
During the freezing month of February 2013, when we started work on Whipped & Baked – an independent bakery and coffee shop, we became aware of the world-weary looking individuals silently exiting the main park early in the mornings after having spent the night out sleeping rough. The seed of the Suspended Coffee scheme was planted by a friend and against all scepticism, we spearheaded the first scheme of its kind in West Sussex. Every pound donated by our customers banks two hot beverages for the homeless. Each hot drink is represented by a marble in a glass jar, placed strategically on our counter so that it is visible to those who are aware what the marbles represent. Every time we give a suspended coffee away, a marble is taken out of the jar.
Consumers have the potential to proactively steer the mood of the community towards social awareness. We acknowledge that when you harness consumers’ buying powers for positive change, it will contribute to a more thriving local economy. Since starting this scheme in March, which is supported by Chichester’s homeless charity StonePillow, we have been giving out 7 to 14 hot beverages every day. We have been told that what we offer is more that just a warming drink. It is a random act of kindness, acted upon on behalf of our generous customers who are sending out the message loud and clear that these recipients of Suspended Coffee are not invisible to them.
The success of such a simple scheme is down to the fact it delivers directly to the target group and avoids the usual administrative minefield often associated with fundraising. Whipped & Baked is passionate about helping other local businesses realise what role they could play in positively changing social imbalances locally. The idea behind the suspended coffee scheme is universally applicable and transferable to most businesses. All is needed is the willingness to participate and the realisation that the coffee could easily be a bag of chips or a simple Marmite sandwich. The point I am trying to make is this, whatever it is that you peddle, you could make this scheme fit your business model. You are, after all, the boss. This scheme can work without it detracting from your ability to generate an income.
Being fourth generation Cicestrian family with a long history in traditional shopkeeping, we understand the responsibility we have towards looking after our local community. We recognise the need to deconstruct conventional business models which more often than not, see the consumers as mere profit generators. These outdated models are irrelevant to small, independent community-minded businesses. Rather than allowing a generic model to dictate our business ‘etiquette’, we decided that we would tailor make a model that speaks to the heart of our need to achieve a personal/work life equilibrium. Four virtues stood out to us. Holistic. Organic, Philanthropic, Ethical. HOPE. That’s what those marbles in the jar truly represent.