LONG STREET COFFEE, BREWING FOR CHANGE
By Jo Rittey | Photo via Gold and Grit Photography & Marie Valat
This is the story of Francois and Jane Marx, a young Melbourne couple attempting to make a difference to the lives of refugees and migrants through Long Street Coffee: part social enterprise, part café.
The idea for Long Street came from working as volunteers in the refugee community and from their hospitality experience. They didn’t start out trying to run a social enterprise and they don’t really want to label it as such.
In her conversations with the older women and mothers in the Collingwood community, Jane was asked if she could provide work for their daughters and sons. She thought if she could start a café, she could employ them. That’s what she knows. It’s her skill set. As Jane points out, if she had been a graphic artist, she might have been able to start a studio and provide graphic design courses. She and Francois both know hospitality, so it made sense to pursue this idea.
Through trial and error and working on this for three years, Jane And Francois have discovered that people don’t just start social enterprises. Usually they get funding first and trade under the name of a respected not for profit organisation or in partnership with someone else, but Jane and Francois don’t know anyone they can do that with. So they are running it as a small business and quite literally have started from nothing.
The first break came when Jane won the inaugural Woman’s Weekly – Women of the Future competition and was awarded funds that allowed Long Street Coffee to establish their ‘pop-up cafes’ at multiple community events around Melbourne.
The money was a godsend but when they started going to meetings and people couldn’t understand what they were trying to do, they thought photos and videos would help. They decided doing a pop-up café would be the best way to get these so that they could show rather than tell. But they couldn’t get anyone to let them trade because they had no trading history. In this instance, all their years in hospitality meant nothing. As a business, Long Street Coffee, everyone wanted to know what they had done before. And they had done nothing.
But eventually, Jane started working in the city at Thousand £ Bend, one of the many hospitality venues owned by Jerome Borazio. Famous for creating St Jerome’s Laneway Festival, Jerome gave them an ‘in’ and they got to do their pop up at 2014 Laneway Festival.
That was their big break. It gave them the confidence and the presence to move forward and find a permanent space. Which they have. In a laneway in the heart of Richmond (just off busy Hoddle Street). So far, they have been funding it all themselves by working seven days a week and giving it their all.
To raise funds for the fit-out of their new space and to hire their first two trainees, Jane and Francois turned to a Pozible Crowd Funding Campaign which ends on the morning of Christmas Eve.
With 4 days to go, you, too, can make a difference. Jump online at http://www.pozible.com/project/188268 to read more and make a pledge. There are some lovely rewards available, but you don’t have to give the reward amount, any donation will be very gratefully accepted.
Jo is a French teacher, has a PhD in Medieval French Literature and is caught up in the myth she can cram as much as possible into every day. You can read more on http://lyttelfishbigpond.blogspot.com.au/