May 1, 2013

Mission Impossible

“Mr Hunt, here is your mission … Should you decide to accept it. A great little not-for-profit called STREAT needs some help. They have no money (as usual) and they want to print and sell 3,000 copies of a cookbook. OK, it is going to be a fabulous cookbook – but they don’t actually have a copy to show or sell to anyone!”

So, you start brainstorming and despairing in equal parts. How do you sell something you haven’t got, to get the money to produce it – and not get disavowed? This is for real; we are not talking movies here. Despair takes the lead.

Then the CEO says she needs over $150,000 to build a new café at Melbourne Central. Make no small plans, they say! Is it time to quit acting and go surfing for the summer? No, hang in there, smiling CEO says, “It’s possible because there is a thing called Pozible”.

“Run that riddle past me again,” says Hunt.

The good news is STREAT has lots of wonderful fans, because they really love the way its cafés and coffee business helps young homeless people get off the streets and into training and jobs in the hospitality industry.

Well guess what … the cookbook did turn out to be fabulous and has now hit good book shelves around Australia. On top of that, STREAT actually sold over 500 copies without even having a book to show anyone! Thanks to all those wonderful fans.

OK, that is a great result – but did they find a way to turn that fabulous little cookbook into a café?

“You bet,” says the smiling CEO.

Then how did this crazy plot all come together?

At the heart of it was an amazing, 90-day campaign on Pozible, Australia’s leading crowd-funding platform. By the end of the campaign (Nov 30, 2012) hundreds of people and many companies had pledged their support online by pre-ordering; copies of the cookbook, cups of coffee, bags of coffee, brunches, lunches, dinners, functions and all sorts of other items. This fantastic public and corporate support enabled STREAT to raise the cash and gather the in-kind support to build the new café – and it began operating in February!

The sole purpose of the café is to enable STREAT to provide many more thousands of hours of work experience, plus life skills and hospitality training, for young homeless and disengaged people in Melbourne.

The vibrant 160-page hardcover cookbook, a first for STREAT, is in selected stores now and will be formally launched in April at the official opening of the new café. It is filled with delicious recipes from around the world, created by STREAT’s executive chef, Rob Auger, as well as recipes from graduates and trainees of the STREAT hospitality-training program. The cookbook also features beautiful photography and artwork and a foreword and recipe from celebrity chef Poh Ling Yeow, of ABC’s Poh’s Kitchen.

The STREAT Cookbook was conceived in 2011, when publisher Jonette Wilton of Smudge Publishing featured STREAT in her own cookbook and fundraising dinner. This simple act of generosity, with the help of hundreds of others, raised about $4,000, which was put aside to be used as seed capital for STREAT’s cookbook.

Then in March 2012, STREAT and a bunch of talented volunteers, graphic designers, photographers, artists, communicators, chefs and trainees all started working frantically on the book. The final, fully designed and curated version of the book was ready for the printers in August. In September, STREAT launched the crowd-funding campaign on Pozible, which raised $41,406. Then Melbourne Central’s owners, The GPT Group, donated $40,000. Extra corporate sales of the cookbook and other major donations pushed the total cash raised to just on $115,000. In addition, architects Six Degrees and a number of other suppliers contributed over $85,000 of amazing in-kind support to help build the café.

Reflecting on the whole project now, STREAT’s co-founder and smiling CEO, Rebecca Scott, says, “It makes me think that anthropologist Margaret Mead was right when she said – ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has’. Well, we are not changing the world yet, but our fantastic little cookbook is really helping us change some young lives.”

Purchasing a copy of STREAT’s cookbook, or its coffee or frequenting their cafés, is a great way to take part in STREAT’s crusade to stop youth homelessness and to turn a young person’s life around.

Simply visit STREAT’s website:

What is STREAT? 

There are over 100 million people living and working on the world’s streets, and 105,000 of those people are in our own Australian communities. STREAT is a not-for-profit social enterprise that provides homeless and disengaged people aged 16 – 25 years with a supported pathway from the streets to careers in hospitality and other industries.

The organisation currently runs three cafés and a coffee roasting business in Melbourne where the young people receive their social support, life skills and hospitality training. STREAT is almost half way to becoming fully sustainable (i.e. generating all of its income needs through its businesses) and plans to  expand into other cities/states once that objective is achieved – in about 2015.

STREAT’s social support team works extremely hard to find young people who are willing and able to take on the program, which leads to accredited hospitality qualifications through the William Angliss Institute. Committing to three or six months of training is a big challenge. Turning up on time every day, in good shape, ready for a class or a café shift is one of the biggest challenges for the trainees. It is also their biggest achievement and the first key step in rebuilding young lives.

To date, 60 young people have taken part in the program and helped STREAT serve its customers over 400,000 meals and coffees. Through its businesses, STREAT gives all these wonderful customers a tangible way to help stop homelessness – through every delicious mouthful.


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