Located at the base of Donkey Wheel House, a building filled with businesses dedicated to having a positive impact through what they do, Kinfolk is an amazing café addressing social inclusion through great coffee and seasonal food. Although the odds seemed to be against this idea whenever Jarrod and his co-founders started Kinfolk in 2010, the cafe has already raised more than $150,000, something only possible through the commitment and support of volunteers, staff, suppliers and customers.
The volunteers are the driving force of the social enterprise and their contributions make a difference with 100% of the profits being donated to partner charities every year. Customers are given a coffee bean after ordering and can choose to put it into a jar to vote for distributing the cafe's profits to one of the projects supported by Kinfolk.
The stories of Jarrod are inspiring and the Kinfolk community is truly unique. It was a great pleasure to meet with Jarrod and some of the volunteers and discover more about the social business model and the driving forces! I hope you will enjoy the stories below and one day get to taste a coffee at Kinfolk.
At the beginning, we didn’t have any of the things you need to start a business. Apart from a bunch of really dedicated people, we didn’t have money, we didn’t have assets and we didn’t have much experience. We did a lot of planning, but we there weren’t many social enterprise models which we could compare ourselves to. So, we had to be pioneering and work it out as we went along. There was a lot of rapid change in the first couple of years which was very challenging in terms of managing expectations of the team and our community. There was no roadmap so we found that we were often responding to external factors. All of this made for quite a reactive couple of years. We were constantly trying to make sure that we were keeping our customers and stakeholders happy as well as operating the business. Due to hard work and a bit of luck, we got through that unpredictable time and then we were able to add structure to the business.
For us, as a business and as a community, diversity is where all the answers are. We are lucky to have such a large community made up of people who have all kinds of different views and perspectives. Even though it might take a bit more time to develop a final strategy, this diversity allows us to be so much more thorough and make stronger decisions. You cannot find the answers by just sitting in your own head or sitting with the same people all the time. On any given day, you can have a dozen different nationalities working as part of the staff, you can have people volunteering who might be transitioning from prison or people with disabilities or people from a country where English might be the second language. They might be retired or their kids might have left home. When you explore problems with a group of people with such a wide range of skills and experiences, the solutions have a positive long term impact on your business. Over the years, some people have really risen to the challenge and have become incredible role models and leaders for the business.
I have to make time and space for myself. I think it’s very easy when you work in an organisation which is as dynamic and diverse as Kinfolk, with so many things going on all the time, to just let it dictate the way you live. You let the business take control instead of you maintaining control over your life and the things that are important to you. I’ve definitely learned over the last six years that if I can stay true to things that are important to me, in my everyday living, I can actually give a lot more and be a lot more effective in the work I do in Kinfolk as well. But that has definitely been a hard lesson to learn.
We are here for a purpose bigger than ourselves and we do our best to work together and support one another to achieve that bigger goal.
My role, more than just coming up with good ideas, is about having important conversations with the team and helping ideas to come out so that by the time we’re ready to act, the plan has been explored within a diverse group of people. This is one of our greatest strengths.
I think I can learn just as much from sharing a meal with you as I can with anyone else regardless their experience. I always try to be open and mindful about everyone I meet and every conversation I have.
Never underestimate how important negative feedback is. There were a lot of people who said the business wouldn’t work, but when someone says you can’t do something, there’s usually a reason. Proving that you can find sustainable solutions to problems early on will give you a great foundation for when you launch the business. It’s so important to think of potential problems earlier rather than later. Your friends will want to be supportive and won’t necessarily want to give you hard feedback. But if everyone just told you “that’s great” all the time, you would launch the business and come across all the problems when it’s a lot harder to deal with. I think it’s really valuable for your own exploration and discovery of ideas to talk to people who don’t agree with you. And often people who are the most opposed to your idea are actually not that far away from being a huge supporter of your work. They give that criticism because they care about what you’re doing. In fact, you might even end up bringing them on board. It’s really important to make use of all feedback, no matter how difficult it might seem. I always encourage naysayers to say nay.
It goes without saying that Jarrod and the whole team of Kinfolk are passionate about making a positive difference through food and coffee. If you want to learn more about the activities of the cafe, check out their website. You'll love it.