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How Coffee is Helping the Homeless to Rebuild Their Lives

Walk around any shopping district in a major UK city these days, and you’ll see both ends of the economic spectrum. But perhaps the most stark sight you’ll come across is that of a homeless person sitting on the pavement with all of his worldly goods by his side. And what makes this kind of scene so jarring is that, quite often, you’ll see people hurtling past these troubled souls whilst clutching a £3 cup of coffee.

No one makes the conscious decision to live on the streets — it usually happens as a result of mental health problems, unemployment, abuse or simply slipping through the cracks of society. The vast majority of the homeless people in the UK simply want a helping hand to get back on track — which is where those £3 cups of coffee come in.

Social Entrepreneur Award

Small businessman Cemal Ezel from East Dulwich recently won a Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award for his work in setting up a coffee business that provides jobs and support for homeless people. Cemal was awarded the honour along with a cheque for £10,000 by former The Apprentice star Nick Hewer for his role in helping the homeless to help themselves.

Ezel’s incredible business focuses on training homeless people to become exceptional baristas. Not only does he provide the dignity that comes with honest employment, he gives all of his employees a London living wage and help with housing, claiming benefits and finding the counselling that many need in order to turn their lives around.

Cemel Ezel is the founder of the Old Spike Roastery and Change Please. It is the entrepreneur’s Change Please business that operates a series of coffee carts that provide jobs and a new life for homeless people in London. Ezel has formed a partnership with The Big Issue to connect with people who are ready to get back into work.

Cemel’s Old Spike Roastery is a highly successful business based in Peckham, London. This thriving coffee roastery also employs local homeless people, but that’s not to detract from the business’ success. This is a very successful, efficient and high quality operation that supplies beans to businesses across the capital.

Ready for expansion

Cemel said: “We train people to be baristas and roast coffee. We provide a fuller life service that is all about intervention. We want to enhance their entrepreneurial skills, and ultimately give them the skills they need to succeed independently in the workplace.

“We’ve just been asked to open up by a microchip company in Silicon Valley. So we’re opening up four coffee carts in their campus. So our plan is to expand our coffee cart business and wholesale operation in the UK. But we also want to expand our business in New York, San Francisco and LA.

“I’ve recently had a session with Karen Lynch of Belu Water. I was able to talk about all of the challenges and issues I’ve been facing, and she was able to help me with all of the business issues that have been worrying me.

Among the tips Karen offered for social entrepreneurs included the need for an effective governance structure. She also advised Cemal to learn to say no, and to be true to your values. However, her main piece of advice was how to develop the structure required to grow organically in the future.

The Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Programme is helping more than 2,000 young entrepreneurs to either set up or scale up their social business by 2020. It is hoped that the scheme will give people like Cemal both the cash and know-how to succeed — and improve local communities in the process.

Cemal has committed the £10,000 to growing Change Please and improving lives in the UK and beyond. While Cemal’s cause is an admirable one, it wouldn’t be possible if his business wasn’t able to make money. The coffee produced by Change Please and Old Spike Roastery is of the highest quality. Cemal has proved that making a profit and improving the lives of ordinary people aren’t mutually exclusive in the corporate world.