‘Using the capitalist mindset to generate change’: The UK’s first coffee roastery social enterprise

Interview with the owner of Old Spike Roastery. Originally published in South West Londoner in January 2020.

The UK’s first social enterprise coffee roastery started out in 2015 as a tiny coffee shop in Peckham.

Now, Old Spike Roastery has moved to a bigger site and is responsible for employing 14 homeless people who have been taught at their training school.

Owner Richard Robinson said: “Social ethos is at the heart of everything we do.

“Helping people is a great thing to do, and it’s also a point of difference as a business.

“We need to expand the business in order to keep helping people, so the two go hand in hand.”

Half of Old Spike’s profits are donated to the training academy.

“There’s a real focus on employment,” Richard said.

Jobs include working in the cafe, assisting in coffee production and delivering coffee to all Old Spike’s wholesale customers.

Thomas, an employee, started working for the business in 2016 on a part time basis in line with his Universal Credit requirements. 

Nearly four years later, he’s now qualified to lead the training academy. 

Old Spike’s trajectory coincided with the boom in speciality coffee, which contributed to their success. 

Their coffee beans are sourced by the direct trade model, which means farmers are paid according to the quality of the beans.

Importers work directly with the farmers to produce the best quality beans, which in turn generates more income for the farmers. 

“It’s better than fair trade,” Richard said.

Nearby restaurant the Coal Rooms, housed in Peckham Rye station’s former ticket office, is their employment partner.

It uses the same social enterprise model, except with steak on the menu rather than espresso. 

“We’re using the capitalist mindset to generate change,” explained Richard.

Sustainable toilet paper is also on the cards as a future project for the team.

From lattes to loo roll, Old Spike is continuing to pave the way for an alternative business model in south east London.

Featured image: pexels.com

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