French Delicacy to Help the Homeless
25 February 2015 at 10:52 am
A young social entrepreneur is leveraging Melbourne’s trendy food truck scene by selling crepes to help the homeless – securing some very high-profile supporters along the way, writes Nadia Boyce in this week’s Spotlight on Social Enterprise.
Crepes for Change will see a crêpe cart roaming Victoria's streets, markets and festivals – and all the profits will go to the aid of over 40,000 young people sleeping rough in Australia each night.
In executing his idea, young social entrepreneur Daniel Poole will draw on the skills he has learned helping friends operate a creperie in Northcote and in his time living in France in the very region where crepes originated. It comes as no surprise that Poole’s recipe is a family one.
Poole’s concept will leverage the food truck trend in Melbourne, allowing Crepes for Change to avoid overheads and go straight to the consumer, to places where they know people will be.
The organisation will employ a for-profit business structure and derive revenue from the market, by making crêpes, rather than from donations.
Poole recently ran a 60-day crowdfunding campaign, raising over $12,000 in seed funding.
Having now put a deposit on a van, Poole is steadily gaining media exposure and endorsements from high-profile members of the community including Greens MP Adam Bandt.
Pro Bono Australia News spoke to Poole about his rollout plans, the value of media strategy, and the art of being truly thankful to your supporters.
Supporting the Social Enterprise Concept
Poole developed a social conscience early, looking to one of social enterprises great success stories in Australia – STREAT – for inspiration. STREAT started in 2010 as a humble coffee cart and is today redeveloping a Collingwood mansion into a youth training academy, cafe, artisan bakery, boutique coffee roastery, function centre and catering hub, providing training and work experience for over 250 young people per year.
“The seed for the project started years and years ago, back in high school,” Poole explains. “I used to get coffee from the STREAT in Melbourne Central. I became good friends with the people who worked there, and I would always talk to them about their ideology and what they were all about. I became really impassioned by the idea.”
“I’m a really big advocate of social enterprise…I feel like it’s the future of the charity model. I’m personally a bit disillusioned with the charity model. I just don’t think it’s sustainable. I think a lot of money goes to waste in administrative costs – and as charities get larger and larger, that just detracts from what they’re trying to do.”
Poole aims to make Crepes for Change completely self-sustainable and non-reliant on donations, with all profits after business costs to be reinvested in alleviating homelessness in Australia. Social impact will be administered in two ways – through a training program and support for other social enterprises.
“I’d like to support other social enterprises like STREAT rather than charities. They’re very efficient in what they do and they do a great job,” Poole says.
“We will also be trying to fund our own program to give hospitality and barista training to underprivileged young people, to hopefully then help them find a job in melbourne. Rather than just throwing money at them, giving them the skills to prosper on their own is really powerful and more valuable in my opinion.”
Getting to the point of even dreaming on such a scale has not been without challenge for Poole.
“I didn’t sit down and write a full-on pitch for Crepes for Change, it was something that developed over a long time. I was approaching organisations trying to get them on-side and was refining [my pitch] over the months I was doing that,” he says.
“It was something I struggled with at the start. When I first started contacting organisations, I was really still just at the idea stage. What I was trying to sell them was nothing more than that. That was really hard because you have no stability, legitimacy or proof you can achieve what you say you’re going to.”
Poole says Crepes for Change has been given invaluable support by the Propellor program, run by the Foundation for Young Australians. The program supports youth-led social change initiatives in local communities across Australia with grants and networking opportunities.
“I found that once we had even just created our website, had something concrete and somewhere to direct people for more information – that really went miles in the right direction. That’s a way the Propellor project helped us out,” he says.
Partners and Philanthropists
Crepes for Change’s progress to date is in part due to the astounding amount of high-profile endorsement Poole has leveraged.
"I’ve had a lot to do with the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) in the past and they’ve been really instrumental in getting us over the line, they’ve given us a bit of publicity and that’s how we became sponsored by Samsung. They found out about us and very kindly began to donate us things we needed such as fridges and rangehoods.”
“Having a few partners up there really does help to build your legitimacy and allows other organisations to have more confidence in your idea and more faith that you’ll be able to follow through – they won’t be seen as supporters of the project that ended up bombing.”
Poole says taking an active, front-foot approach to media strategy has proven a success.
“I think it’s enormously beneficial. Since the beginning I’ve been sending out emails to people trying to get a bit of traction and get people involved, because it’s so worth it when it does happen – it boosts our credibility and our legitimacy again.”
Crepes for Change has been endorsed by prominent public figures, including Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens, Adam Bandt, and former Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus QC. Charities such as the Oaktree Foundation have also publicly voiced their support for the project.
“I sent messages to pretty much every MP in the Greens, and a lot of them reposted it. The day that Adam Bandt did, we had I think $2000 in donations that day. That’s pretty worthwhile!
“You just need to really get into contact with people however you can, and keep trying. You’ll get a lot of responses from people who aren’t interested, people who say, ‘I’m sorry but we’ve got a really strict media policy and we can’t promote’, but others take an interest in it and get excited and do go the extra mile.
“Two of the skills that have been most important are what I’ve been trying to stress in my relationships with other people. The first is to be proactive,which of course is necessary if you’re launching something on your own. You have to spend the time contacting other people and getting them really excited about it.
“The second is to be grateful. If you’re diplomatic, and you’re genuinely grateful for the time and effort they’ve put in for you that will go a really long way. Whenever someone donates to our crowdfunding campaign, I take the time to send them an email thanking them for their contribution and telling them they’ve been a really important part of the project.
“I think you need to do things like that – since I’ve started doing that, I’ve noticed people become much more involved. They are much more likely to share the campaign on social media. Sometimes we’ll get one donation from somebody and then I’ll get a host of other donations from the same surname so I can only assume they have gone and told their family.”
Keeping the Faith
Looking forward, Poole says transparency and accountability to donors is key. The issue will be on his mind when Crepes for Change has to subtract business costs from its profits to determine how much it can donate.
“I think its important because you’re running a business, that you need to be realistic about what you can achieve.
“Transparency is something I’m really thinking about, and in the future I’d love to be able to create impact reports showing what we’ve done with the money we’ve raised.”
The organisation has put a deposit on a van, and the next few months will see Poole devoted to getting Crepes for Change operational, along with building networks – including databases of prospective events to attend and contact lists. Participation in an incubator program is also on the horizon as he seeks to address gaps in his own knowledge.
“For me personally, I have a hospitality and early-stage startup background, so in terms of the auditing requirements and accounting, I’m in the dark for a lot of it. I’m interested in being around people who have the skills that can help me out with that,” he says.
One key realisation recently helped Poole target his resources.
“I realised how difficult it is to get people to donate even a small amount of money. In the other startups I’ve been part of, I’d never done a crowdfunding campaign before.
“We’d just asked them to look at our website or give us a like on Facebook. There’s a big difference between getting people to like you and getting them to donate just one dollar.
“It requires you to really think about how to pitch what you’re doing and how you present yourself. You need to be really direct and really consistent,” he says.
“Essentially, you’ve got no time to lose.”