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Start-up social enterprise giving people a 'Fairshot' in life, Bianca Tavella

Bianca Tavella joined Purposely Podcast to tell her founder story with Fairshot Cafe

Londoner Bianca Tavella has overcome significant barriers to launch Fairshot café, a social enterprise providing employment and training opportunities for people with learning disabilities. She reflects on her own experiences and the effects of the global pandemic that put her funding model at risk and caused many sleepless nights.

Bianca tells us about her passion for helping people and how it was motivated by the local community she grew up in and her friendship with a young boy with disabilities.

Bianca’s Fair Shot Cafe is a unique start-up social enterprise cafe that will bring training and future employment to disabled young adults in West London, UK, in the setting of a high-end stylish coffee shop. Fair Shot café offers Traineeships to help young people transition to Apprenticeships and finally to permanent paid employment.

So, what is Café’s mission and vision?

Fairshot is a unique social enterprise cafe. And the whole concept behind that is that we want to train people, young adults with learning disabilities and give them employability skills.

‘Our mission is to change the way that people think about people with learning disabilities in the workplace and contrary to people’s opinion prove that it is truly possible for them to get a job and for them keep the job, they just need our support’.

93% of adults with learning disabilities are unemployed, which is insane. People always think that I’m making a mistake when I say that, even when I send them documents stating that, they kind of send it back… are you sure about this? Shocking also when you also consider that 80% of people with learning disabilities who enter mainstream employment either quit or get fired within two months’.

So, it hasn’t been without challenges and setbacks?

‘Quite a lot has changed in the last year. So back a year ago in March 2020 I'd raised 350k pounds to cover start-up costs. Obviously COVID hit and the economic consequence for us was losing $150k of that funding. The one positive is that it also meant that we regained 100% of our company back and for the last year I've been focusing on trying to raise as much money as I can. So, I'm very proud to report that we only have a further 30k of our start-up costs to raise and this includes our fixed costs for the first year.’

Tell us a bit more about how it works?

'I would like people to see our unique employability model and know that they can replicate it elsewhere. It's focused on exposing people with learning disabilities to five key aspects, including, the coffee side of things, food prep, there's working on the till, customer service and food hygiene.

Our model is based on breaking down tasks and training people to work together…i.e., someone takes an order of coffee, one person on preparing the milk, another one person pouring the milk into the cup and then that person then gets a cup of coffee to the customer. These repetitive tasks, day after day, become second nature and people begin to flourish.'

What personal experiences led you to want to start a social enterprise cafe?

‘It wasn’t just one experience it was a many over a number of years I think…’

‘So, I grew up part of this parish community which is why a lot of my focus is on community. It was a positive experience. I remember the priest would provide sign language for all spoken and sung words which attracted a lot of different people with real challenges. I just remember it being incredibly inclusive and that’s what I loved’.

‘Another experience was a close friend with a learning disability had a long-held dream to start a cheese-based restaurant. Initially I laughed because he was obsessed with cheese… but that really got me thinking about what is out there for people like him, where is the support to turn dreams like his into a reality. There really isn't much out there and I wanted to do something about that’.

You're in your 20s, where does your confidence come from?

‘I would say the confidence comes from my relationship with my family. I got to a point when I was 24 and the only thing holding me back was my age, I just felt a little bit young, and I didn't really think people were going to take me seriously. But then I found the confidence that my parents had built into me from a very young age I was fine. I just know that no matter what happens, even if this fails miserably, at least I know that I've tried, and I know that I've got my family to fall back on. I think that makes me more fortunate than most people.’

You are both Italian and English?

‘Yeah, I do really feel Italian with both of my parents being Italian. We’re a very Italian households in terms of what we eat, we also speak Italian at home all day. It's hard because you kind of grow up in this kind of Italian English lifestyle but you never really feel English. I have a dream that I one day take Fairshot to Italy… coffee back to where modern coffee drinking and café culture started’.

You experienced the effects of COVID yourself?

Yes, I actually got COVID right after my fundraising event in March 2020 and it hit me really hard. In fact, I am still suffering with the effects of Long COVID with symptoms going on for quite a long time. One day you're up the next day or down.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

‘I'm massively into reading and podcasts. It's not really one person… I love listening to Desert Island Disks as well as Oprah's podcast. Authors like Malcolm Gladwell. I just think that everything that he writes is mesmerizing and I think he dives deeper into everything even just the most simplest thing and he helps you to start thinking about them in such a different way.’


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