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Editions

Cafe with a wheely good purpose

01 Feb 2017

Cafe with a wheely good purpose Image

Users at Library at the Dock will be heartened to know that their support of the library’s cafe is helping disadvantaged young people.

Social enterprise Whitelion took over the running of the cafe in November, and the charity plans to add a further five “static” cafes around Melbourne in 2017.

Enterprise manager Rob Brown explained that, in the past, Wheelly Good Coffee had confined itself to providing coffee at events or other “mobile” opportunities.

The Docklands library is the group’s first chance to expose its trainees to the “real life” experience that comes via a bricks and mortar establishment.

He said exceptional customer service was one of the planks of the Wheelly Good Coffee brand, but this had been impossible to achieve without a permanent outlet. The staff are encouraged to run the business.

Some six disadvantaged young people are sharing the shifts at Library at the Dock, including weekends – which promises to brighten the lives of Victoria Harbour residents more used to “cafe closed” signs.

Mr Brown has thrown himself into building the social enterprise since recently retiring from corporate life.

“I always said I would give back when I could,” Mr Brown told Docklands News. He explained that he had experienced a tough upbringing in working class Glasgow but had been educated on a private school bursary and had gone on to achieve success at the highest corporate levels.

And, as an abstaining-alcoholic with an ice-addicted son, he knows first-hand about addictive behaviour – which is often at the root of social disadvantage.

“You have to fill the gap with something else if you are going to beat the addiction,” Mr Brown said, which may explain the frenetic way he throws himself into everything he does.

For trainee Rhiannon Cheong, 22, her issue was not addiction but, rather, depression. She explained that she had been with Wheelly Good Coffee for a number of years now and that the experience had built her skills and confidence.

She expects to start a cadetship in transport logistics early this year.

Ross Bellos has been training baristas for Wheelly Good Coffee for many years and finds success stories like Rhiannon’s very personally rewarding.

“Sometimes things don’t go to plan, but it’s great to see people like Rhiannon getting ahead,” he said.

Mr Brown explained that Whitelion has a number of charities, including Wheelly Good Coffee. It’s focus has traditionally been rehabilitation of young offenders but had expanded to include social disadvantage of any type.

It’s aim with Wheelly Good Coffee, he said, was to produce: “Fully trained baristas capable of working in any cafe at the same level and capacity as those who don’t come from disadvantage.”

His ambition is to grow the business to the point where franchises can be offered to successful participants.

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