Initiative: BETTR BARISTA
Everything started from love ... for coffee.
Tania Chew, Content and Communication manager Pamela, the founder, has a background in technology. She run her own web-consulting company. After doing that for a while, she asked herself: is that really what I want to do? She felt there is a greater calling. She always believed that if you run your own business, you should be making the maximum out of it and always doing it in a responsible way. She also always loved coffee, she used to live in Australia, where they have fantastic coffee. So, she took some time off and went back to school, to learn more about coffee. Along that journey she came up with this idea of the Coffee Academy with a social mission. She came back to Singapore to put it into action.
Bettr Barista organizes 6-month barista trainings for people from disadvantaged background.
Tania: It’s a full time training. Five days per week. Participants go through a barista skills training, but also emotional training, they work with our psychologist to deal with things like confidence, self-esteem, management of difficult life situation back home. It’s not enough to give a job to somebody, especially if he/she comes from a difficult situation. We try to empower people from within so they learn how to manage themselves better. Then, we have also a physical component such as joga, dance classes, rock climbing… it’s all part of a holistic approach to development. If you come from a disadvantaged background that’s something quite new to you, that’s why we need 6 months. During that time we also work with our social partners, specialty cafes, where participants can work as interns.
Bettr Barista has operated for more than 4 years, finishing successfully 15 courses for people in need. They also organize commercial courses as a part of their business model to be able to sustain the social enterprise. They got different kind of rewards and quite huge recognition. But, as usually, the way was not that easy.
Tania: Every day is challenging, there is so many different aspects in what we do. Number one is that because we are a social enterprise, we don’t have a big corporate budget. And with all the things we want to do, funds disappear very quickly. Sometimes we have to be in five different places at once. I think you need a certain kind of personality to enjoy working in the start-up scene. Another challenge is obviously the very colorful interactions with all different personalities stepping by our door every day. Even in our social program, everybody is so different and sometimes we feel we are parents to fifty children at once. Even if they are not necessarily young, it feels like being a mother to a forty-five years old, or sixty years old person. And obviously being a school like that, school which help people from disadvantaged background, you are also emotionally involved in what is going on in their lives, at their homes, the problems they face, you can’t run away from it. It can be challenging. You may sit at 3AM because somebody calls and needs to speak with you.
And they speak, they make themselves available. Because they believe in what they are doing. They put their passions and values into actions, claiming that work should be something more than just earning money.
Pamela Chng, founder: We spend so much time working. I think it’s important to ask ourselves how can we spend this time in the best possible way. How can we make money and help others at the same time? All in all, this is the whole idea of business: to create a product or service which meet somebody’s needs, solve problems. We just use this model for solving important problems. We have a lot of problems in the world and we cannot just wait for the government to solve them. We need to solve them ourselves and business seems to be a good idea for doing that.
More about Bettr Barista: bettrbarista.com