Crêpes for Change

This article first appeared on Benojo on April 18, 2016. Image courtesy of Crêpes for Change.

Crêpes for Change is Australia’s first non-profit crêpe food truck. The Melbourne-based social enterprise is the work of brothers Dan and Liam Poole and exists to help eliminate youth homelessness in Australia. We spoke to its founder Dan to learn more.

Turning inspiration into action

Crêpes for Change is a crêpe food truck that provides young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness with tangible skills and professional development opportunities. All of its profits are used to fund programs that support disadvantaged young Australians.

“The project was started by myself and my brother Liam in late 2014, having been inspired by our time living in France and by the power of social enterprise that we observed from the success of other Melbourne social enterprises like STREAT,” explains Dan.

“We decided to run a crowd-funding campaign to fund the van, during which we were able to successfully raise just over $12,000. We then received a further $10,000 over five grants, and have most recently been the lucky recipients of the Jetstar Flying Start grant worth $30,000 in cash and flights.”

Good things ahead

Since launching in early August, the Crêpes for Change food van has operated at over 100 events, spanning festivals, weddings and school and social events. They have grown a team of committed team of volunteers and have solid plans in place to expand their impact.

“I definitely think the best is still to come,” says Dan. “We’re still in our baby stages – we started from scratch with zero funding, so we spent a long time simply raising money to buy our van and all of our equipment to get started, as well as expansions such as the Coffee Cart Changing Lives [a soon to be launched standalone non-profit coffee catering service] to build our capacity. We’re gearing up for our first ‘impact donation’ in the coming months: where we hand over a substantial amount of money raised through our operations to a charity working in the youth homelessness space to help deliver a project that will change the lives of those who need it.”

The experience has also been a rich one for Dan, professionally and personally. “So far, in my own life personally, developing Crêpes for Change has been absolutely incredible. Not only has it brought my brother Liam and I closer from working on it together, but almost everyone involved in the project has become a close personal friend and the source of lots of happiness and good times. From a professional perspective, Crêpes for Change has also allowed me to develop lots of invaluable skills that I wouldn’t trade for anything.”

The rise of the social enterprise

An avid supporter of the social enterprise model, Dan describes them as “the future for charities that want to be sustainable, because they focus on creating a great business or product that people actually want” over relying solely on donations or government funding.

“In our case, we run what on the outside looks pretty similar to a regular food truck, in that we sell crepes and coffee with a view to making money, except that we then use the profits we create to fund programs that enable disadvantaged young people to avoid or escape from homelessness.”

Dan encourages anyone interested in developing a charitable project to explore the social enterprise model. “Crêpes for Change is 100 per cent non-profit, but I don’t think that’s necessary to achieve great social results. Organisations like Who Gives A Crap are pioneers in the space and who have proven that social enterprise is more than just a fad – it’s something that’s going to change the non-profit and for-profit sectors alike.”

As a young entrepreneur, Dan says the best piece of advice he can offer those looking to pursue a dream is – just go for it! “Starting any business is a long journey, each with its own unique challenges and obstacles. Equally important though is to redefine your perception of ‘success’ and ‘failure’. To me, the concepts are interrelated, and both are a necessary part of entrepreneurship. ‘Failure’ isn’t finding out your business or idea won’t work. That’s just a step in the path to success – eventually you’ll find one that will work. The only way you can fail is by giving up or to stop believing in yourself and your vision.”

He adds: “There will be people along the way that will doubt you, question your motives, laugh at you, and try to dissuade you – but that’s all part of it. If you listen to those people, then you’re probably not motivated enough to follow through with your idea anyway. I believe strongly that your twenties are the time for risk-taking and experimenting. If you fall flat on your back and wonder what happened, you can be confident that you know where you went wrong and will be better off because of it.”