2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the Big Issue. Since launching, they have helped tens of thousands of vulnerable people to take control of their lives by giving them ‘a hand up, not a hand out’.
The launch of the first ‘street’ magazine was not only revolutionary for the publishing industry, it was an entirely new way to help the homeless. Vendors are still selling the Big Issue to this day, and last year alone we put more than £5 million in their pockets. But, the magazine industry is changing. Great content is constantly available online, and the number of free publications handed out on the streets is ever increasing. Despite maintaining our circulation levels, homelessness is a growing problem and we need new ways to tackle the problem.
We approached the Big Issue with an idea. Despite the pressures facing the magazine industry, the £8 billion coffee industry in the UK is booming. An individual might purchase a magazine once a fortnight, but easily buys multiple coffees every week, often walking past a Big Issue vendor to queue up in a major coffee chain. If we could tap in to this demand, and provide homeless people with the skills and equipment required to sell great coffee, we could have a massive impact on homelessness.
We knew we had to find a way to do it, but the challenge was delivering a cup of coffee that could compete on an increasingly competitive high street. It was at this stage we met Cemal Ezel who had just launched the Old Spike Roastery in Peckham, a coffee supplier set up to help homeless people in the community, where they roast and sell great tasting, ethically sourced coffee. We have worked with a number of local councils and charities to find our first team of eight baristas. They are each housed as part of the programme, paid London Living Wage and provided with ongoing training and support. After six months in the programme they will be offered employment by one of our partners, allowing Change Please to help the next group of people to get back on their feet.
We are very proud to have launched Change Please today. The vans can be found in prominent London locations like Covent Garden and Borough, and their locations are announced daily on the Change Please Twitter page and website. All profit will be reinvested to help us expand rapidly throughout London and beyond, with another twenty carts planned for the New Year.
The name and brand was designed by us to be highly distinctive in a market of familiar brands. We needed to maintain the personality of our vendors within the coffee sector and plan to have a lot of fun doing this. The name Change Please comes down to what we want people to do. We believe that if we could get people to just change where they buy their coffee, we really could change the world and we will get many more people off the streets.
Since launching this morning we’ve seen Change Please trending on Twitter throughout the day. The press have also welcomed the idea, seeing broad coverage including:
The Guardian, BBC, Independent, City A.M., Huffington Post UK, Telegraph, Manchester Evening News, Evening Standard, Marketing Week and The Grocer.
Please find your nearest van and go buy a coffee! Doing so really could change the face of homelessness in the UK for good.
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