Socially Enterprising: cooking up a winning recipe at The Larder

Today, we profile another social enterprise:

What’s the name of your company and who owns it?

The Larder, Livingston, West Lothian. We’re a company limited by guarantee with charitable status.

When was it set up?

2011.

What’s the company’s aim?

Our mission is to ‘Change Lives Through Food’. We’re a cook school who:

  • Provide cookery skills to people of all ages
  • Use 100% of profits to help young people into work
  • Provide training, skills, work experience, qualifications and personal achievement to young people aged 14-16 who are furthest from the job market.
  • Take young people through the employability pipeline with the ultimate aim of them reaching a positive destination, such as meaningful employment, training or returning to mainstream education.

What did you (owner) do previously?

Founder/manager Angela ran another social enterprise involved in supplying reasonably priced fruit and veg to the local community through retail at the likes of doctors’ surgeries.

Why be a social and not a private enterprise?

We are a business that does good. We are passionate about helping young people, but the funding is not available these days to sustain what we do in the traditional charity set-up so we have to ‘sell things’ to support all the good work that we do, and to keep the price of training which is paid for by high schools to a minimum.

How many staff/volunteers – and what did they do previously?

Six staff plus volunteers and sessional chefs, and a board of voluntary directors. Angela is from the third sector. Our finance officer is from a banking background. The training officer is an ex-chef who is now qualified to deliver SQA training. Our business development officer is from a recruitment background.

Kitchen Assistants are young people on work programmes. Sessional chefs are all employed elsewhere as chefs and work here as and when needed.

We also have active volunteers including an ex-home economics teacher and a retired police officer.

Who are your main customers?

Local residents of Livingston with disposable income. Local businesses buying our corporate team experiences. Local high schools who pay for young people to come here for training.

Tell us about your best trading experience?

Our most profitable  products are corporate team cookery days. We recently had one for Syngenta, a petrochemical company in Grangemouth. Their health and safety team came here to make chocolate eclairs for a day. They had a great team experience and we made a profit.

And the worst?

We let ourselves down when we set up cookery classes and then fail to fill them up: as our profit margins are tight, we make a loss in these instances.

And what are your future plans?

To fill up our cook school during the day with high school students benefitting from our training programme; in the evenings, weekends and school holidays with paying customers. To develop our café sales, outside catering revenue, build our profile in the local area, supplying to new markets such as Indian tourists visiting Edinburgh. To make use of the spare warehouse space we have at our premises to respond to food poverty in west Lothian.

For more information on The Larder, go here

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