It is a Saturday afternoon and a small, newly opened cafe in Bethnal Green is heaving with a mix of students and local hipsters in animated conversation. Behind the bar, three expert baristas deftly serve up flat white after americano after chai latte. The only difference between this cafe and the other identikit independent cafes lining Bethnal Green Road? A dedication to supporting London’s homeless through social enterprise that’s as good as the quality of its artisan coffees.
Second Shot is the brainchild of UCL Economics student and former President of UCLU Enactus, Julius Ibrahim (below centre). Having found a way to combine his two main passions of hospitality and tackling homelessness through the concept of a hybrid cafe and social enterprise, Julius has taken the past year off university exclusively to make his dream into a reality.
After securing enough funding from a crowdsourcing campaign and socially minded investors, Julius has secured the perfect premises in the heart of London’s East End, where rapid gentrification on the one hand meets the harsh reality of the area’s relative deprivation.
Julius’s hipster cafe with a difference arguably brings these two elements together with its innovative charitable mission. He says: “Ultimately, I want to be a flag-bearer for social enterprise. I want to get to a place where customers demand social impact from their businesses, because there’s no reason why every business can’t be a social enterprise.”
How does Second Shot ultimately help the most vulnerable members of the community? It exclusively employs staff from a background of homelessness, who are referred from Crisis, the UK’s largest anti-homelessness charity. They are then trained in hospitality, which aims to provide a full support package for gaining further employment after their six-month rotating placement at Second Shot is over. The cafe therefore aims to provide a long-term solution, not just a quick fix to the homelessness epidemic.
I spoke to full-time barista Ephy Beckford (below right), who was coping well with the demands of a busy opening day. He was referred to Second Shot from Crisis, and couldn’t be happier with his present situation. When asked what he hopes to gain from working at the cafe, he said: “I hope Julius gives me a second shot!”
The cafe does more than just employ the homeless; it also transforms into a community hub for homelessness after its opening hours, where all its unsold food and the results from its pay-it-forward system will reach a wider segment of the homeless population. This system allows customers to buy coffee, cake and even meals for the homeless during the day, and all purchases are hand-drawn onto a special wall that serves as a fun visual reminder of its serious purpose.
Julius’s high hopes for Second Shot are a sign of Londoners’ increasing demand for social responsibility from their businesses. For now, all we can do is support them on their mission to change lives, one espresso at a time.