July 14, 2016
Jobs created: 2 full-time and 11 part-time employees.
Stage of the enterprise: Partially sustainable
Proportion of revenue from trade: 61%
Reach: Bendigo and surrounds
ABOUT PEPPERGREEN FARM CATERING
Peppergreen Farm Catering (PFC) is a social enterprise of Bendigo Access Employment. PFC operates as a food service business, offering catering options focused on local produce to the Bendigo area. Its social purpose is to provide opportunities for supported employment and on-the-job skill development in catering and hospitality to people with a disability. PFC is also a training provider that delivers nationally recognised vocational training in hospitality.
The proceeds from both the catering and training business are reinvested to provide services that empower people with a disability; people all too often excluded from the job market.
PFC first began as Milk Bar, which was within a state-funded Bendigo Access community hub. From that grew a small catering business, which in 2013, emerged as a social enterprise.
A commercial kitchen with a dual purpose
PFC currently has two full-time employees and 11 part-time employees in their commercial kitchen. Their part-time employees work an average of eight hours per week. It receives funding from the Commonwealth Department of Social Services per supported employee based on an assessment of their needs. PFC is able to provide supported employment for people that have moderate levels of intellectual, psychosocial and/or physical disability.
PFC is also a Registered Training Organisation and delivers vocational training from this same site.
PFC has developed a strong point of difference to be one of only two social enterprise caterers in the area. A new product line in take-home meals has shown excellent demand, and after running at a loss last year, PFC has now managed to make an operating surplus in the first half of 2015. The two streams of business combined (sales of catering and training) generate 61% of their revenue.
PFC has no trouble filling advertised catering jobs, in particular women who are looking to work indoors. “There hasn’t traditionally been a lot of options in the Bendigo area for people who want to work indoors. So we’ve found that catering seems to be really attractive, especially to younger people with disability,” notes Bendigo Access Executive Manager of Enterprise and Innovation, Jenny Heenan.
A LaTrobe University Social Work student currently measures client satisfaction through regular surveys, and is looking at measuring social impact through employment and training outcomes.
Building a mission with Social Traders
“Before Social Traders came on board, one of our main issues was some mission-based confusion in our team,” says Jenny. “Some staff initially thought our social purpose was to provide low-cost meals to the aged, rather than providing employment.”
Through Social Traders’ enterprise development program, PFC was able to build a shared language with staff around their mission. “Sometimes you make assumptions that you’re all on the same page as each other, and you’re not,” says Jenny.
Future business targets
Part of the PFC vision is to increase the employment offered to people outside the client group, that is those without a disability. The aim of this is to expose people with a disability to greater social networks and to improve productivity.
Over 2015/16, PFC plans to increase commercial revenue by 45% (to $480k p.a.), a target they could hit with the addition of a second commercial kitchen and a second delivery vehicle. “Our fast-paced work environment is not really suitable for all our clients,” says Jenny. “So we have put on a couple of people who need that slower pace at the end of the day when all the business is done. As well as increasing our revenue, part of our business case for a second kitchen is to make other products such as preserves, and to have a space that’s slower-paced for those people who function at that level.”