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  • purposelypodcast

Mission driven founder, Sarah Dann-Hoare founder Project Employ

Sarah, a regular walker along her local beach, combines exercise with podcast episodes to help her learn, develop and find inspiration. On this particular occasion, she listened to an interview with Bianca Tavella, the founder of Fair Shot Café in the UK (on Purposely Ep #48). Fair Shot is a social enterprise café that supports young adults with learning disabilities in finding jobs in the hospitality industry. As Sarah immersed herself in Bianca's founder story, she experienced a profound and personal reaction. Although she had never met Bianca or heard of Fair Shot before, Sarah felt a mix of inspiration and frustration that someone else had brought her dream to life before she could. At this point Sarah has been trying to open a training café, the first in NZ, for over eight years.


That walk and podcast episode were a turning point for Sarah. She felt compelled to take action and bring her dream to life in New Zealand.



In September 2021, Sarah and her founding trustees launched Project Employ, opening their first training café in Takapuna on Auckland's North Shore. It was a few kilometres away from the beach where Sarah had made the decision to turn her dream into reality. Since then, they have opened a second café in partnership with Air New Zealand, located in the airline's Auckland Headquarters. Sarah successfully shared her dream with others, including volunteers and funders, and the progress made by the charity has been remarkable.


Sarah defies the stereotype of a charity founder or CEO. Despite her extensive experience in special needs education for schools and charities, she lacks leadership experience. She openly admits to experiencing imposter syndrome and having to overcome a crisis of confidence to bring Project Employ to life. Sarah's belief in her mission stems from her firsthand experience as a teacher, witnessing the transformative power of belief and support in someone's life.


The reality is that people with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be unemployed compared to non-disabled individuals, both in New Zealand and globally. Project Employ's vision is to create a community where young people with intellectual or learning disabilities have meaningful, paid employment, just like any other member of society. Unlike Fair Shot Café, Project Employ doesn't solely focus on hospitality. While work experience in serving and food preparation builds confidence, it also empowers individuals to pursue their dreams and contribute to society.

Starting a charity is incredibly challenging. It requires a clear mission, vision, and, most importantly, funding to get off the ground. Convincing funders to support your vision is one of the toughest tasks. Funders seek confidence, a track record, and assurance that their funds will be used effectively to make a significant impact.


Sarah has achieved the near-impossible. With little to no previous experience or personal wealth, she leveraged her dream, lived experience, and passion for people with disabilities to launch and scale Project Employ. She successfully convinced funders to believe in her vision. Sarah was also willing to sacrifice her own earning power, initially working for free to get the project started. She acknowledges that none of this would have been possible without the early founding team and volunteers who brought the experience she lacked. Together, they are making it happen. Most importantly, graduates of Project Employ are finding employment, and those who haven't yet secured a job have gained significant confidence and self-belief.

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