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Fair Shot: Giving everyone a chance

Founder & CEO of Fair Shot, Bianca Tavella, tells us all about her café that provides people with learning difficulties a chance to have a career

This is a feature from Issue 18 of Charitable Traveller.

What is Fair Shot?

Fair Shot is a café with a conscience, and we exist to combat the 95% unemployment rate among young adults with learning disabilities in the UK. We do that by running our 11-month long in-house training programme at Fair Shot, our café in Covent Garden, London, and having our in-house employment programme, where we make sure our graduates land sustainable and paid jobs.

Where did the idea come from?

It’s been a dream of mine ever since I was young. Through my local church in Fulham, I grew up with people with learning disabilities who were part of our community group and ever since I was three, I’d spend my weekends with them. Together with a guy called Zachistic, I came up with an idealised version of Fair Shot and it’s stuck with me ever since. When I was 23 I started working on it and it took three or four years to develop, we officially opened our first café in December 2021. After a year we had to move because that area was being regenerated, so we moved to our current site in February 2023.

What does it mean for you to be a social enterprise?

It’s to be a part of something that has a bigger purpose, and we’re making a worthwhile contribution in trying to solve society’s problems in our own way. Having a clear social purpose makes up for this being quite a hard job, as we feel like we’re doing something for the greater good.

Where did the idea come from?

It’s been a dream of mine ever since I was young. Through my local church in Fulham, I grew up with people with learning disabilities who were part of our community group and ever since I was three, I’d spend my weekends with them. Together with a guy called Zachistic, I came up with an idealised version of Fair Shot and it’s stuck with me ever since. When I was 23 I started working on it and it took three or four years to develop, then we officially opened our first café in December 2021. After a year we had to move because that area was being regenerated, so we moved to our current site in February 2023.

What does it mean for you to be a social enterprise?

It’s to be a part of something that has a bigger purpose, and we’re making a worthwhile contribution in trying to solve society’s problems in our own way. Having a clear social purpose makes up for this being quite a hard job, as we feel like we’re doing something for the greater good.

What impact do you have?

Every year we have a cohort of 12 trainees (increasing to 15 from September), and we’ll get 90 per cent of them into sustainable paid employment. But the bigger impact is that we get these 12 adults who have been marginalised their whole lives and been told they won’t amount to anything – to feel like they matter and that they do have potential. Our impact comes in many shapes and forms but it’s essentially a massive improvement in their confidence and in their independence that makes them feel like they’re contributing to society.
For example, one of our graduates is completely non-verbal, communicating only one-to-one via an iPad, and her parents thought she’d never have a job. But she came for an interview and I could tell she was understanding everything. She picked up the skills really quickly and within two months, was able to work three coffee stations at once, completely thrashing everyone else. and is basically a powerhouse. She’s now working at a café down the road and the team love her, they value her, and she works on the coffee machine all day. She doesn’t get bored, she’s super energetic and she absolutely loves being busy. Without Fair Shot, she would have just been at home doing very little, and I’m glad we’ve been able to open up her world.

What are the challenges you face?

There are a couple of main things. Firstly, the hospitality industry has a bad rap for not appreciating the people who work in it, and for what they can bring. I’d like to see a change in hearts and minds, and for people to recognise that there are other people from other walks of life that are equally valid, and it’s our responsibility to welcome them.
Secondly, I’d like attitudes about employment opportunities for people with learning disabilities to change. We’re showing that, given the chance, these people can have fulfilling employment, and I think the number one thing to combat this stigma is for us to not be scared to ask questions and not be scared to say the wrong thing. Come and have a coffee at Fair Shot and see for yourself the change we’re bringing about.

Lastly, what's next for Fair Shott?
The biggest hurdle for us right now is that our impact model works really well but what we’re trying to understand is how our financial model can be more sustainable so we can break even and, in the future, expand. The need is clearly there, and I feel that I have a responsibility to roll this out to other parts of London and the UK.
Creating Opportunities

Fair Shot is a café in London’s Covent Garden that gives adults with learning disabilities the chance to have a fulfilling career in the hospitality industry. Find out more here.

This is a feature from Issue 18 of Charitable Traveller.