Where are they now: Roll for the Soul

Better Bristol Campaign

Our Better Bristol campaign aims to showcase and promote the cities amazing projects and creativity. To celebrate, we’re taking a look at some past Bristol projects to see what difference they have made.

Today we’re taking a look at Roll for the Soul – a community focused bike café in Bristol. They overfunded back in October 2012, raising £12,917 from 213 backers in 45 days. We caught up with Rob to find out where Roll for the Soul is now and what sort impact it has made on Bristol…

Rob - Roll for the Soul

How is Roll for the Soul doing?

We’ve been open for two and half years, so it feels like things have settled down a lot from the early days. We’re lucky to have a really stable team, so we all know pretty well what we’re trying to do and can focus on trying to do it as well as we can.

It’s tough financially, as we try to pay a decent wage and buy stock that leaves us with a clear conscience, but part of what we’re trying to do is show – to ourselves as much as anyone – that we can run a business that respects people and planet as well as supporting itself. And we’re still here, so it’s working so far!

Has much changed from your initial plan?

We definitely feel that the place has developed a personality now, which incorporates some things that we didn’t envisage and perhaps doesn’t incorporate some that we did. We’ve realised that the stuff we like most is anything where someone’s getting off their backside and doing something for the love of it.

So music’s a good example of that. And we’re lucky that bands that we like seem to like playing at RftS, so it’s a lot of fun. We’re also really pleased that lots of other non-profits and voluntary groups – cycling and otherwise – use the space for meetings and events. Its’ really nice to feel that we’re supporting a lot of grassroots efforts to do good things. That’s the stuff that makes the world go round.

How has the Bristol community reacted to RftS?

Some people like us and some people probably don’t; same as any business or organisation. But we certainly have plenty of regulars, which is lovely and generally the feedback we get is good.

We probably appeal most to people who are interested in some of the social and environmental issues that we’re interested in, but we have a pretty varied selection of people coming in through the week.

How do you balance your social aims with making enough money?

It’s a challenge in some ways. We have an aspiration to someday be able to pass on some surplus to other organisations in Bristol who do stuff that we think is important (The Bristol Bike Project, which was a huge inspiration for us, for example).

But that’s a way off, as we’re still paying back loans that we took to start the business. But we’re pretty happy that we’re providing something useful for the city through what we’re able to do now. Most of that is in-kind support of various kinds for other organisations, and fortunately we’re able to offer a fair bit of that.

Better Bristol Quote - Roll for the Soul

How did you find the crowdfunding experience?

It was great. And of course the money was a huge part of why we see it as a success, but the opportunity to meet and engage with people was a fantastic unexpected benefit. Most of our supporters were in Bristol, so we distributed rewards in person and met loads of people that way.

A good number of them later helped us out with fitting out our premises, all on a voluntary basis, and have since become regular customers. So we feel very grateful to those people, and it’s lovely that crowdfunding gave us the opportunity to get to know them.

Roll for the Soul

What do you think of the Better Bristol Campaign?

It’s important because of something I mentioned earlier, I think. Most of us aren’t capable of some huge breakthrough that will change the world, but we are all capable of making our little part of the world a bit better. And if enough people do that, it has a big impact.

Hopefully Better Bristol will help get a few more projects off the ground. Bristol’s brilliant at grassroots projects of all kinds, but sometimes they need a bit of funding to get them going.

You can find out more about Better Bristol by visiting the website. Or follow the conversation on twitter with #betterbristol!


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