The success of a business is determined by more than just profits. Social enterprises are becoming more prevalent as new generations of workers look for companies that they better connect with. The Creator Awards celebrates the most innovative of social enterprises.
We spoke to Cemal Ezel, Founder and CEO of Change Please and winner at the London Creator Awards about his greatest achievements to date and the failures which drove him to success.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
Walking past people in the streets who are homeless and asking us for money and not knowing what to do.
Give us the elevator pitch
Change Please finds people who are homeless and rough sleepers and trains them to be baristas. Then providing a job, housing, bank account and therapy, we support them into a new job after 6 months. We have 33 coffee bars across the UK and supply some of the biggest companies in the UK and we are now moving to the US.
Describe your experience of the Creator Awards
It’s been incredible. Sometimes awards events take up a great deal of time to enter and process with minimal return. However the WeWork Creator Awards is the opposite, it doesn’t mean we need to take a lot of time out of work but the impact for us is huge. Also, the PR reach from winning is amazing and it is as valuable as the money won.
What’s been your biggest achievement to date?
We have won the “Worlds Best Social Enterprise 2018” award, which has been incredible for us and also we have supported 213 people this year.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
Trying to show that doing social good and having a focus on social impact will not compromise the quality of our coffee.
What’s your team structure like?
I am the CEO of the organisation and then I have two managing directors reporting into me. One person from the social impact side and the other from the commercial side. They then both have their respective teams.
What was your dream career as a child?
To be an accountant, then I realised I was not great at math.
Name one past failure that contributed to your success.
When in my early 20s I sold a business for a small amount of money out of a lack of confidence and then I saw it flourish and grow into quite a large company. That pain has really driven me.
What advice would you give to someone considering starting their own business or applying for a job at a startup?
Don’t wait for everything to be perfect as you will learn more by making mistakes. Seek out the problems!
Why is London a good place to grow a business?
London’s social enterprise scene has never been stronger. Corporates are really keen to work with us as they can do good when buying our coffee for their offices while still tasting great.
What’s your ultimate ambition?
We want to firstly dramatically reduce homelessness in the cities in which we open and we hope to do that in partnership with WeWork. For example by WeWork using our coffee in San Francisco, will reduce homelessness by 11% in 4 years. In London, 8% in 4 years for example. That’s just one company wanting to make change to their local communities and all they have to do is change where they buy their coffee. If a large group of companies do the same we can really make a huge difference to the lives of many people.
What’s the one thing you wish people knew about your business?
We provide housing to people that are homeless in 10 days. And we’ve won four Great Taste Awards in the UK and also the Great Producer Award for coffee in 2018 – so our coffee tastes amazing.
What’s one thing you want to learn or achieve in 2019?
How to be a good father, as hopefully our first child will be born in February.