Startup Vegan Social Enterprise

by Phoenix Robinson in London, Greater London, England

Startup Vegan Social Enterprise

Green Elephant, Vegan cafe providing a hub for lower income & minority communities to gain access to positive well being therapies and food

by Phoenix Robinson in London, Greater London, England

We did it
On 27th March 2018 we successfully raised £535 with 19 supporters in 56 days

Welcome to my page, beautiful people. Thank you so much for taking time to visit.

The Big Idea 

The aim for Green Elephant is to build a community cafe offering a space for people to socialise, eat, drink and be a part of a community cohesion movement. The cafe will sell homemade baked goods, nutritious lunch items, hot drinks and smoothies. Green Elephant’s promise is to produce nutritional vegan food packed full of flavour, never compromising on the eating experience. We offer extremely reasonable prices allowing the whole community to enjoy a healthy and positive alternative to eating and drinking when out and about. Where possible, the ingredients used are locally sourced, supporting community gardens and some of the vegetables are home grown.

Our Social Aims

Green Elephant will offer free one-to-one counselling provided by counselling students, as well as other positive wellbeing therapies. We aim to reduce the amount of individuals who are not gaining access to therapy due to financial or mental health constraints. Our social enterprise aims are to:

Offer paid jobs to young ethnic minority men who are not in education, employment or training, allowing them greater prospects to future employment.

Develop various free group activities to enable the community to get together such as; reading groups, crochet classes, meditation and storytelling, focusing on oral histories from various cultures.

Mental Health and Food

It is very well known that what you eat plays a crucialrole in your physical health,  However, there is a large amount of research that suggests what you eat plays an equally crucial a role in your mental health. Most people are able to recognise bloating or heartburn after eating certain foods, but few are able to recognise the impact these types of foods, as well asthe environment in which theyare consumed, can have on their mood. We have all heard of the term 'gut feeling' or felt butterflies. These sensations are real and not to be ignored.In fact, 95% of serotonin is produced in the gut demonstrating the importance of our digestive system and our mental health. This is why the gut is sometimes referred to as our 'Second Brain’. Onecan derive from this information that stomach or intestinal aggravation maybe acausal factor ofstress, low mood, depression or anxiety.

Who am I and what is Green Elephant?

After spending my childhood as a vegetarian and then eating meat as a teenager, I was led, following a lecture I attended I decided to research veganism. After learning about the detrimental impact on the environment, the torture and murder of billions of animals yearly in the UK and the effect of animal agriculture on people worldwide, how could I not go vegan? Having been the cook in my family from a young age -as a resultof being brought up by a working single mother- after becoming vegan I naturally started cooking vegan food for friends and family and thoroughly enjoyed it, as it allowed me to spread the word of veganism whilst providing wholesome, nutritious food. After a short while I started making vegan baked goods and selling them to people all over London. I called this business Green Elephant.

Eventually I began to struggle to work for companies where I regularly had to prepare meat and dairy foods. I decided to apply for a few different pop ups with Green Elephant. I sold my home (a beloved Narrow Boat) to push my business idea forward as I needed collateral. After losing a lot of money trying and testing my brand in different places I took a break. I always knew eventually I would want to have Green Elephant as a way to bring the community together, especially supporting young people and those who struggle with mental health. However, I wasn't quite sure how to go about making this a possibility. Serendipity is a great thing. One day a man came into the coffee shop I worked in and requested a vegan option (if any vegans are reading this, you know this made my heart smile), so I made him a roasted veg hummus and avocado sourdough sandwich. Of course, we started chatting as vegans do. I told him about Green Elephant (It would be great if a Monica from friends moment was about to happen but no). John was CEO of an organisation called OLMEC, which offers a free 12-week course called First Steps to Social Enterprise solely for BAME women. I started that course 2 days later, it was a safe and warm place to learn and grow. I gained a lot of confidence and developed my ideas. Two months later I was offered a small, casual trading pitch in South East London (Lewisham).

I graduated from university with a degree in counselling. I chose this course after much deliberation and college drop outs as I am a natural empathetic and caring person, hence counselling felt fitting to my personality. After many years of my own mental health being a burden, I started going to counselling. This was compulsory for my accredited course; however, I could only just about afford the sessions with the combination of student loan and working. I had to stop. I went to my GP for help, I was prescribed anti-depressants. This is really all you get offered when you are poor. This made me realise that given the demographics of the UK, unfortunately BAME people on low incomes find counselling very difficult to access, partly due to cultural stigma and partly due to their lower income. Realising this I fell out of love with my degree subject, as I didn't want to be part of something that is not inclusive of the people I come from. I tried very hard to get work in the field; however, I wasn’t successful in gaining employment within the counselling field, as it is very much a closed sector, unless you have connections already. And if you are BAME and working class, you don’t have connections. It appears that certain demographics are over-represented in both in providing counselling and accessing it. This led me to ask the following questions:

If we are not the counsellor or the therapist where is our support?

How do we talk to our families or our children about feeling as though your world is ending?

How do we explain these feelings when we don't know ourselves?

And this my friends is where Green Elephant comes in.

Big Bucks

£20,000 Will be put towards a deposit on a commercial property to rent as well as to cover 2 months of rent, utilities and business rates on a space.

All the pounds and pennies less than that will be put towards continuing to push the health of south east London in a positive direction.  Reaching £1000 will allow us to start our well being therapies by renting a space to use weekly and paying staff to run them.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this (I went on a bit). If you feel my plan or feel my experience and point of view please donate whatever you can to this project, let us build our communities together.

I’ll end on this quote:

"When you invite someone to sit at your table and you want to cook for them, you're inviting a person into your life"

Maya Angelou

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