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Full Circle Cafe

Inspired by a local cafe in my area that employs x-criminals to get back on track, I picture a chain of cafes that arise in underserved communities designed to employ the un-employed while they work to build new skills and better position themselves for different career paths. Employees would rotate throughout the year to different aspects of the business- not only receiving hands on experience, but these weeks will be paired with workshops, mentors and training. One week they may be exposed to accounting and what it takes to financially run the restaurant. Another week they might be asked to assist with marketing/sales and getting more customers in the door. Restaurants involve supply chain, accounting, communications, customer support.

Photo of Molly Babbington
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One of my favorite things to do is simply sit in a cafe and write. It's hard not to observe all those around you who are also engaging in connecting with either other people, their novel, or enjoying a moment of calm over coffee.

Cafe's are global. I've had the opportunity to travel quite a bit and have sat to write in a cafe in rural guatemala, italy, morroco, south africa, ghana, egypt, greece, Canada, Panama, Turkey, and a variety of states in the US. Across these cafes, across the world- they all provide a similar experience. One that provides immediate community and acceptance.

Full Circle Cafe will open up this experience to provide a space that is run for purpose and a space that furthers youth employment opportunities. One of the hardest things about being unemployed is feeling alone and unclear where to try next. This space would let you know that not only are you not alone, but there is a world full of amazing opportunity waiting for you to be a part of- it's just a matter of navigating and understanding you are already a part of that circle. 

1. Sponsors to fund the initial start of the company
2. Employees (previously un-employed youths)
3. Mentors (A handful of experienced adults to facilitate the program and provide the training/launching the business). Ideally as the business grows, the employees that do not go on immediately to new jobs, become the mentors and train new members of the program. 
4. Speakers- I imagine a speaker series that occurs weekly for all the employees to attend after work-hours. These after-hours Full Circle meetings will also provide workshops (ex: Resume workshop)

The type of food and restaurant experience will depend on the location and existing community. A program like this would begin in one area, and then ideally scale out from there after proven succcess. 

Areas of the business to learn from:
1. Customer Service
2. Supply Chain (ordering, shipping and recieving of food each week)
3. Cooking (a great experience for one interested in culinary school ect.)
4. Accounting-being exposed to the basics of tracking the financials and making a business profitable
5. Marketing - handing both the website, social media, email marketin ect. As well any events hosted or grass-roots marketing
6. Sales- being able to gather increased interest wether on the ground or over the phone - helping creative evangelists for the cafe and ignite word fo mouth. 
Open to others areas here for those with restaurant experience or other..

Who does this idea benefit, who are the main players and what's in it for them?

Beneficiaries 1. Sponsors/Investors will financially gain once the business is up and running 2. Employees (18-25) (previously un-employed youths) are gaining skills, learning how to better position themselves, networking, collaborating, gaining a community, and also earning min. salary throughout 3. Mentors (30+) - this is a job for them, they are benefiting financially as they would for non-profit work as well as having the opportunity for daily impact 4. Speakers- These after-hours Full Circle meetings are run by volunteers

How is your idea specifically increasing access to employment opportunities and pathways for young people?

If you take the social-impact piece out of it for a moment, we are simply aiming to start a cafe/restaurant. The difference here is that we can utilize talented youth that are simply looking for their creative-confidence and enhance this cafe experience to be one of social-good. We are increasing employment in the short-term while providing them a job at min. wage, as well as improving their opportunity to step into longer-term career paths. Meanwhile, we have built a business thats giving back the economy and providing a space for acceptance.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

I have seen this model work well for a local cafe chain hiring those who have recently come out of Jail. The best "experiment" would be to simply spend time there and speak with those who helped get it going to better understand the risks, and learn from their experiences.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to receive from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

This is truly still in idea form- so I am open to all thoughts around the topic. Personally I have been a barista, but have not been part of actually starting a cafe so I would love to hear from anyone with experiences in that space. What comes to mind when reading this? What types of questions or concerns are there? What excites you about the idea?

The idea emerged from:

  • An individual

How do you envision your idea being implemented?

  • I'm more throwing the idea out there to inspire potential implementers


Join the conversation:

Photo of Stephan Dietrich

Is this concept just thought for coffee shops or also for other industries? Have you talked to people from the coffe shops, what they like most? What can you exclude from the start for example?

Photo of Molly Babbington

It's a good question - there definitely needs to be more research on the ground done inside the cafes

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