Case Studies

LaunchMe – Rascals Cafe

With LaunchMe now accepting expressions of interest we thought it would be a good idea to catch up with Dodie Piddock from Starting Step, a recent participant in LaunchMe, about some of the exciting challenges of starting a social enterprise.

With help and support from LaunchMe, Starting Step aim to set up a cafe bistro that will train people in hospitality and learn the environmental benefits of horticulture.

Let’s hear what Dodie had to say!

When setting up Rascals Café, why did you become a social enterprise?

I worked in the third sector for over 13 years and became aware that many people still fall through the cracks. I decided to set up a charity that would deliver real bespoke training for those isolated and far from the opportunity of gaining worthwhile employment.

When starting on their social enterprise journey, one of the most common questions we are asked is, What legal structure should I use? How did you settle on your legal structure, and where do you think deciding on a legal structure sits when starting?

I was determined to establish the company as limited by guarantee with charitable status, as it would offer us greater flexibility. After the charity was established, I understood that I also desired to develop a portfolio of social enterprises that would support the charity. Our first venture, Rascals Cafe, has helped fulfill this goal.

In addition to having a legal structure, a social enterprise requires setting up a board. How did you decide who to have on the board, and what was the process that helped you?

Building the board was one of the more challenging jobs when starting up. I needed supportive people who genuinely understood what I wanted to achieve. I began with those who had valuable skills and knew me well. I was also careful to have people with lived experience of both the people with whom we work and of social enterprises.

As a social enterprise, like many other businesses, you may need to hire staff or volunteers. How did you find this process, and how did you feel about handing over some responsibility?

This is still something that is a minefield. Upon opening the cafe, we faced the immediate task of finding the right employees. While we have experienced both success and disappointment in our staffing decisions, the process has been both fulfilling and frustrating. I still struggle with the idea of relinquishing control and the delegation of responsibilities.

You are currently receiving support through our Launch Me programme. How has this helped you in your social enterprise journey?

It is always invaluable to have other entrepreneurs going through the same challenges, albeit in different sectors, as sounding boards and confidantes. Launch Me gave expert advisors and friends who understood the trials and tribulations of setting up social enterprises.

Launch Me helps social entrepreneurs become investment ready. Why did you decide on a social investment model?

From the start of my journey, I have been adamant that I wanted to be independent of grant funding. My previous experiences showed me the many disadvantages of fitting within funders’ criteria. It is incredibly frustrating to be asked to be ‘people-centred and trauma-informed when a funder’s criteria almost guarantee this does not happen.

What benefits do you see in social investment, given the modest rise in social enterprises opting for repayable finances, as shown in the latest social enterprise census?

My reason is the flexibility and freedom to deliver real, worthwhile support and training without fitting within someone else’s criteria.

The Launch Me progamme provides participants with workshops designed to help them become investment ready, from social impact and finance management to market research. What workshop did you find most valuable, and how have you applied it in your everyday practice?

The Social impact and finance management workshops were beneficial. It was also good to hear from various specialists in different sectors. It is a combination of the workshops and business advisors that have given me helpful information for the daily running of both charity and its future subsidiaries.