“When I see my clients and how diverse their backgrounds are, it makes me happy.“
“I always wanted to be a social entrepreneur,” says Amelia. “Growing up in Lyon, I met my first refugee friends there. It gave me an insight into all the issues refugees in France have to face, especially to find work, become integrated and valued.”
Amelia first fell in love with coffee shops while studying in Scotland. By this time she had already started her first non-profit organisation, running a project in Kenya with her family. “Opening our ‘social coffee shop’ in Paris was the logical next step,” she recalls.
Café Bienvenue was incubated by Singa, a not-for-profit organisation, focused on the socio-professional integration of refugees. In addition to serving speciality coffee, fresh smoothies and healthy organic food, Café Bienvenue runs creative, cultural and social workshops. “The main idea is to create community and a safe atmosphere where everybody feels at home. We host a monthly Jam Session for musicians of different nationalities to play together, and weekly baby mornings to help newly arrived mums to make friends in Paris. We host Singa’s creative writing workshop and we have many more events coming, from jewellery-making to flower arranging.”
The latter builds on Café Bienvenue’s partnership with Du Pain & Des Roses, who teach ladies seeking asylum how to do flower arranging. Café Bienvenue sells these beautiful bouquets of organic flowers in order to fund the courses for the ladies. “We believe in sustainable and responsible consumption,” says Amelia. “Everything in our coffee shop has been sourced responsibly. We want to be a place where people can have a positive impact just by buying a drink or something to eat!”
Setting up Café Bienvenue has not been without its challenges, however. When they needed their business plan reviewed, Amelia and Mathieu sought the help of Positive Planet France, YBI’s member organisation, which supports microenterprises in disadvantaged urban neighbourhoods in order to address issues of poverty and exclusion in France. Positive Planet France seeks to provide a positive outlet for those with a business idea, especially young people like Amelia, and accompanies them step by step and free of charge.
“Positive Planet really helped us with all the administrative processes around opening a food business,” says Amelia. “Our mentor, Jessalyn Rouzic, is amazing! She had never opened a coffee shop herself, but she knew so much and has helped us comply with regulations. We really want to thank her. She has always encouraged us and given us a lot of advice. She is very dedicated to her mentees.”
Amelia has great plans for Café Bienvenue. “In order to keep our concept alive, we want to hold more events and workshops that create a connection and bring more people together. To do this you need a lot of volunteers and you have to find people who want to share their passion.” It is clear that Amelia has already found her passion.
“When you are a small business and start with nothing, every person who comes through your door makes you very happy. Imagine when people come back a second or a third time, it just makes our day!”