Career

These Crêpes Help The Homeless, So They’re Technically Guilt-Free

If you thought nothing could taste sweeter than gooey Nutella on a warm crêpe, what about knowing your dollars were supporting homeless youth in Melbourne to better their lives? That’s reason enough to return for seconds, at least.

Creating lasting change

crepe alley

Providing a (delicious) service guarantees a revenue stream.

Dan Poole, law student and crêpe connoisseur, created Australia’s first non-profit crêpe food truck in late 2014 with his brother, Liam. Their mission? To eliminate youth homelessness, inspired by the success of hospitality enterprises providing training and support for disadvantaged youth, such as STREAT and Kinfolk cafe in Melbourne.

His plan with Crêpes for Change is to raise enough money to train disadvantaged young people in coffee- and crêpe-making, and partner them with cafes to provide jobs. “Our goal is to be able to employ, train and support young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and allow them to find long-term employment and prosper on their own.”

Dan has utilised a for-profit business model of creating revenue through making crepes instead of asking for donations. He then invests the profits (minus business costs) back into their cause. Did we mention he’s 21?

Why crêpes?

nutella crepe

This crêpe is technically guilt-free.

But why would a student of law and Chinese decide on crêpes? “I often get asked by people where the seemingly arbitrary idea to use a French dessert as a tool for social change came from,” Dan says.

As a high school student, Dan had spent a semester in the home of crêpes – Brittany, France. Every Friday night was designated crêpe night for his host family and their extended relatives. After mastering the art of spinning these light, crispy circles of deliciousness each week, he was gifted the legendary secret family recipe.

An idea needs a resilient owner

dan

Confidence to back a good idea; Dan Poole.

It’s one thing to be great at making crêpes, but running a business and a social enterprise is an entirely a different beast, especially for someone with no prior experience beyond volunteer roles and working in crêperies.

“Anyone can dream, and there are a million great ideas floating around,” Dan says. “The hard part is identifying which of those are worth pursuing, and being honest with yourself about the feasibility of your idea.”

Dan admits that the journey to pursuing your idea can be difficult. “There will be people along the way that will doubt you, question your motives, laugh at you, and try to dissuade you,” he says. But now is always better than later to give your idea a shot. “I believe strongly that your 20s are the time for risk-taking and experimenting. If you fall flat on your back and wonder what happened, you can be confident that you know where you went wrong and will be better off because of it.”

Far from falling flat, Liam and Dan have so far raised $60,000 since launching in August 2015. And there is no shortage of demand for Crêpes For Change at events and universities – Dan receives at least five daily emails, inviting his truck to events around town.

Creating something from nothing

triple crepe

Triple threat.

So how did they get it off the ground? “To begin with, we had exactly $0 in capital,” Dan admits. “We thought we had a solid concept and compelling ethos [so] we decided to run a crowd-funding campaign to fund the first van.”

Their crowd funding campaign raised $12,000, plus they received five successful grants which provided an additional $10,000 to cover the custom-designed van and equipment costs. They have also just been awarded the Jetstar Flying Start grant of $30,000, which will go towards an expansion into a coffee van and youth training initiative.

The van also relies on a mix of paid workers and volunteers to keep operating costs to a minimum. “Given we are primarily run by volunteers, our costs are low – meaning that the vast majority of this amount is pure ‘profit’ that can be used to work towards our mission.”

The next phase

crepes for change

Happy place.

Hoping to have the second project up and running by March, the plans are currently with the architects designing the coffee cart. Dan hopes to use the cart to train disadvantaged youth in the art of coffee making: “Down the line, we definitely plan to use it as an avenue to help train the young people we set out to support, however to begin with, it will be staffed in the same way as our crêpe van – with a combination of volunteers and paid staff.”

While they are already making a social impact, starting with an empty bank balance means the brothers are still paying off equipment and operating costs. “This stage is almost over,” Dan explains, “and we’re really excited about partnering with amazing organisations this year to start making the difference we set out to make.”

Their plan, in agreement with the volunteers and supporters, is to focus on expansion to ensure they are able to provide the greatest benefit to young homeless Australians.

Right now, the recently appointed Impact Team is looking at who to partner with. “We’ve already met with quite a few different homelessness organisations to find out what their metrics of success and effectiveness are,” Dan explains. “The decision is being made right now.”

Supporters can make donations via their website.

Find the van at markets, private events and festivals around Melbourne by following their Facebook, Instagram or by heading their events page.


Cat Woods is a writer, editor and blogger in Melbourne. She is also a yoga, barre and pilates instructor with a passion for fitness, lipstick, 90s electroclash and yoga pants. 

All images: Crêpes for Change