BeanBag Café was founded by Roy, the idea probably being inspired by too much coffee one day! After working in large corporations for 28 years, most recently as marketing director in an international software company, he developed a passion for social enterprise and community cafés. He then developed and ran the Switch Youth Café in Maidstone for four years. He also started and coordinates the volunteer-run ‘pop up’ community café at Staplehurst Free Church which is open every Saturday which has been the model for our concept. Alongside his work for BeanBag Café CIC he is a General Manager for The Enterprise Foundation, a charity which provides workspace and support to start-up businesses and social entrepreneurs.
This is partly a family business as Rebecca is Roy’s eldest daughter and the family jokes that coffee runs in their veins! In 2006 she began working at Caffé Nero whilst “trying to decide what to do with her life”. However she found she excelled at the job and, despite being only 20, became a store manager in just one year. Eight years, a marriage and two children later, she felt it was time to use this experience for something more rewarding for the soul. In helping Roy set up the community café at the church in Staplehurst and volunteering there on a regular basis, she also developed the passion to share the concept with others. In 2014 BeanBag Café was founded to use the acquired skills and knowledge to facilitate other people setting up community cafes.
The Great Good Place Book
The books ‘Celebrating the Third Place
’ and ‘The Great Good Place
’ were significant influences on the development of our ideas. In these publications Ray Oldenburg argues that “third places” – where people can gather, put aside the concerns of work and home, and hang out simply for the pleasures of good company and lively conversation – are the heart of a community’s social vitality and the grassroots of democracy.
You can click each book name above to view the book on Amazon UK.
Taking a lead role in developing the Switch Youth Café in Maidstone has been part of the inspiration for setting up the BeanBag Community Café Projects initiative. The project was primarily designed as an after school café as a safe haven for young people and where health and wellbeing interventions could be provided, particularly to young people demonstrating risky behaviour. The youth café typically saw around 10,000 visits from young people each year including many repeat visitors. The Café enabled youth workers to engage with young people in an informal and non-intrusive way. Conversation across 18 different health topic areas were tallied each day and there in a typical year there would be over 4,000 of these ‘brief interventions’ recorded.
In the first four years and during the daytime when not in use by young people, the Youth Café was hired out to 54 different youth and adult community groups from across Maidstone for their own meetings and support group work. People just loved being in a café setting rather than an office or clinic but one in which they were able to have exclusive use if required. Income from Café sales, hiring of the venue and commissioned health-intervention work enabled the project to build up significant reserves to make it sustainable after initial grant funding streams ended.
The Café at the Free Church
, Staplehurst has provided the blueprint for the BeanBag concept. During the construction of the Church’s new building the project team came up with the idea of putting a servery area between the kitchen and one of the larger resource rooms, something that wasn’t in the original plan. The idea for running a community café took shape and opened on the same day as the launch event for the new building in April 2013.
The Café is open every Saturday, mainly in term time, from 10am to 2pm and run by a team five staff each week from a pool of 15 volunteers. The number of customers each week is usually between 30 and 40, mostly during the lunchtime period and with the greater proportion being people from within Staplehurst who do not regularly attend the church. This includes families, residents of nearby care homes for people with learning disabilities, and single people who get together every week. Special events can bring in up to 70 customers with takings and donations on such days exceeding £250. The Café operates at about 50% ‘profit margin’ with the surplus funds being used to invest in new equipment for the Café and the Church or to support wider work and good causes.