Two entrepreneurs who are behind a new social enterprise hoping to employ homeless people to sell soup have said of the venture: “Think The Big Issue but tastier”.
Jonny Wright and Stu Trewhella raised £3,000 in just 14 days in an online fundraiser to fund Soupahero.
The enterprising London-based pair, who both work in TV, have now set up a limited company and are in the process of buying their first bike and experimenting with flavours for their soups to “punkify” classic flavours.
Jonny and Stu plan to kick off with a bike that has to be tethered to a power point, so aim to launch in Soupahero in London food markets.
They hope to start out selling soups in a ‘buy one, give one’ model with a homeless person provided with a healthy bowl for every one sold.
But the duo have big plans to make the enterprise mobile in the future, employing homeless people on a London Living Wage to sell the soup as well as receiving additional commission and training to help them lift themselves out of poverty.
The ultimate goal is to expand beyond London and to run a network of bikes in other major cities in the UK within five to seven years.
If the story sounds familiar, it’s because The Big Issue made more than a passing impression on Jonny, 35, who cheekily described Soupahero as “Think The Big Issue but tastier” in the online fundraiser.
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Thai Spiced Butternut Squash with Roasted Lime and Coriander SideChicks. A spicy kick with a zesty taste. Vegan and Awesome. #veganuary #soup #soupgang #soupreme #streetfood #socialenterprise #homeless #sidechicks #soupahero #beaherobuyasoup #newbusiness #startup #soupforchange
“The Big Issue was a big inspiration,” he told us. “I remember watching a GMTV interview with John Bird in about 1995 or 96 when I would have been about eight or nine. That’s when I first learned about The Big Issue’s business model and that stuck with me forever. Over Christmas family and friends have been asking what we’re doing and The Big Issue has been our go-to for explaining that.
“We want to become a beacon of hope for homeless people, offering them a hot meal and employment. Ideally it wouldn’t be needed but in the age of austerity and rising homelessness, I find that heart-breaking and I felt like I needed to do something.”
There are currently around 2,000 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.
Soupahero has already been a short-term success story as Jonny first came up for the idea while in the bath, stewing over the general election result last month.
Things have moved quickly from there. More than £3,200 was quickly raised on JustGiving while the pair used a pal’s commercial kitchen in Dalston to dream up their vegetable soups and experiment in “Willy Wonka-ing them up a bit”. One thing that is certain is that soups will be accompanied with ‘sidechicks’ – roasted chickpeas that are flavoured to go with the main dish.
Soupahero’s rapid rise means that they are still in the midst of preparations for launch – but Stu, 34, insists that their fundraising success has intensified their efforts to make a success of the soup bikes when they launch in the next few months.
“The support that we have received has kind of blown us away a little bit,” said Stu. “It is giving us more focus to get out there as soon as possible and to really make this a sustainable business and not just a flash in the pan. We want to offer a high-quality vegetable dish to keep people healthy too.”
The JustGiving page for Soupahero is still open until April and can be reached here.