Risk and Reward

In business, risk is an every day fact. In the cafe and hospitality sector, tight margins makes the risk that much greater. When it comes to one of your biggest fixed costs - labour - it seems like taking a risk here is a risk too great. And yet our social enterprise was founded on the idea of taking a risk on people traditionally excluded from the labour market and training them to be ready to face the world of work.

Our trainees arrive often with previous voluntary experience but little to no cafe experience. They bring to us enthusiasm to learn and a willingness to take risks. By comparison with the general population their risks might seem small - greeting a customer, carrying a tray laden with drinks, starting a task without prompting. For some of our trainees, however, this is a leap into the unknown. With our team’s mentoring and the trainee’s own courage, these big risks become smaller and smaller until they are simply routine.

The progression rate from risk to routine varies depending on each trainee, but the benefits are soon apparent. Trainees build their confidence and self-esteem every time they complete a task successfully, and as they gain confidence, they build up more skills. For many, the highlight is using our coffee machine and serving members of the public. Once you’ve given a paying customer a latte you made after weeks or even months of painstaking training, all those big and little risks seem worth it.

Finally, there is the biggest risk a trainee can take - leaving Greenhouse for the world of work. Some of our trainees find employment while they are still with us. Others leave with a college course in mind.. Others still leave with new skills and new-found confidence. All of these outcomes are positive and celebrated at Greenhouse.

So, the risk is there, certainly, and whenever we take on a new trainee we don’t quite know the route their Greenhouse journey will take them. But what is certain is that the risk will have reward for everyone involved - from our customers, to our team and, most importantly, the trainee themselves.

Steven Jacobs