Kickstarter Redemption Roasters: The Prison-Based Coffee Roastery

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 What we do

Redemption Roasters is the world’s only behind-bars specialty coffee company. We are a social enterprise. At our roastery and training centre inside Aylesbury Prison we teach coffee skills to young offenders. After they’re released, we employ them in our expanding chain of London coffee shops.

The specialty coffee we roast is served in our coffee shops to customers and it’s also sold to wholesale clients.

We want to make our coffee available to more people. By launching a coffee pod range, we aim to do just that.

Why we do what we do

The state of re-offending in the UK is troubling:

  • 74% of young offenders re-offend within one year of being released from custody;
  • £7-10 billion is the estimated cost of re-offending to the UK Treasury every year (£131,000 for each re-offender);
  • 64% of ex-offenders are unemployed two years after being released; and
  • Offenders are 50% less likely to re-offend if they leave prison with skills and a job.

And that’s just the financial cost. The societal cost wouldn’t fit on this page.

We believe that teaching offenders coffee skills in prison and offering them a job in coffee on release can pave the way to a job in a growing industry. This will make them less likely to fall back into the cycle of re-offending and incarceration.

How does it work?

Any inmate at Aylesbury Prison can apply for our program. Once accepted, they are given in-depth training in a syllabus devised by our Head of Coffee, Harry Graham. During the course, our ‘Trainees’ learn everything there is to know about coffee (or all you need to know anyway!)

They are taught competition-level barista skills across both classic and state-of-the-art equipment. This is complimented by studying the science behind coffee roasting and the entire journey from growing to drinking.

At any one time, we have ten Trainees working for us and learning in the roastery. When their release date arrives, assuming they’ve proved themselves, we can take them to the next stage – working with us in the outside world. Collaborating with a number of state and voluntary organisations, we make arrangements for our ‘Graduates’ to be employed in our coffee shops, even helping them re-locate if necessary.

After working with us for a time, we aim to support them into more senior roles in the industry, either at Redemption or other companies. The ultimate goal is for our Graduates to stand on their own two feet as independent coffee professionals; valued not for their having overcome a difficult situation, but for their skills.

Does it work?

On the inside…the prison has reported that since starting the program our Trainees exhibit higher levels of self-esteem, improved mood, better willingness to engage and reduced tendencies towards violence or using drugs. We were unsurprised to learn this – Trainees have even requested to work on Sundays. For them, the program is clearly working.

On the outside…our first graduate, Talib, was released in October 2017. He is currently working in our Bloomsbury cafe and is one of the most valued members of the team. His passion for coffee as well as his technical skills have developed rapidly. So much so, he has recently been accepted as Head Barista at a highly coveted London specialty coffee shop. He has not re-offended.

So, what next?

Pods are getting big. In the UK, sales of domestic coffee pod machines have been growing at rates of up to 45% year on year. Now, over 15% of British households have one.

As you might guess from what we do, the notion that specialty coffee should be for everyone is in our DNA. That’s why we decided to launch a coffee pod range. Our pods are recyclable, compatible with your Nespresso machine and, above all, delicious!

We are a small enterprise and the upfront costs of bringing a pod range to market are significant. We hope you’ll feel moved to help meet these by supporting our Kickstarter. It’s a great cup and a great cause; we’re raising the bar.

Risks and challenges

The primary risk centers around timing. We aim to be in a position to ship pods within three months of the Kickstarter closing. However, as is the case with all product releases in any industry, we may suffer delays. These may be in connection with packaging, R&D or factors completely without our control such as machinery used by third parties.

Overall though, the material risks on the project are limited. Internally, we have an experienced team of coffee and business professionals. Any third party contractors involved are highly skilled and we have worked with them in the past. Also, this project is a small part of a larger business so, in the event complications do arise, the impact on the company at large will be limited.


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