Anisa, 19, (left) and Felix, 19, (right) being trained by Natalie, 33, (centre)

Boss & Brew: Butetown enterprise uses coffee to tackle youth unemployment

Initiative offers free barista training to young people in Cardiff

A NEW social enterprise in Butetown is helping young adults find work by giving them free barista training courses.

Boss & Brew Academy is a non-profit organisation which began teaching 16 to 24-year-olds about the speciality coffee industry in July 2021.

“Even though it’s all centred on coffee, coffee really is just the medium to bring these young people out again, help them grow in confidence and improve their self-esteem,” said founder and director Natalie Hodgkinson, 33, who lives in Butetown.

“There’s a massive well-being aspect to this, which for me is the biggest reward. To see someone come in really shy, maybe not very confident and then come out of their shell over the two days – that’s what it’s all about,” she said.

Natalie initially wanted to run a speciality coffee cart for event hire and started doing donation-based coffee deliveries during lockdown so she could save money for training equipment.

“The long-term goal was always to try and incorporate some type of education programme for young people. All profits we make are reinvested into the business so we can provide more training courses for the community,” said Natalie.

The latest barista workshop took place in Little Man Garage – where Natalie herself was trained – on November 20 and 21 and was funded by Cardiff Council’s Into Work Service. The course finished with a coffee pop-up where the public were invited to try the trainees’ coffee for free.

 “When we do the pop-ups, one of the requirements for customers is that they have to have some patience because we want to teach trainees how to make coffee correctly, without pressure, so that when they go into work they don’t have to learn that part from scratch,” said Natalie.

Natalie also teaches them the history and origins of coffee.

“I think that if you have an understanding of where the coffee came from, the number of hands it’s passed through – from growing the bean right through to roasting it and then a barista serving it – then you have more respect for your craft and you will have done that coffee justice.”

Boss & Brew has worked with local organisations to provide this training including Cardiff Youth Service, Greenhill School, Into Work Advice Service and Cardiff Women’s Aid – who will be hosting a training course with Natalie soon.

Asiya Hakoma, 16, from Grangetown, took part in Boss & Brew’s first training course in July at Butetown Pavilion and got a part-time job as a barista just two weeks later.

“I’m very happy I did this course and I definitely recommend it. It 100% helped me get the job that I have now and being paid the living wage at 16 years old is amazing,” she said.

“To get a job you need experience, but then in order to get experience you need to have a job!

“But now, because of this training, I’ve got a job and my manager gives me the responsibility to close up on my own and I love that I’m given that trust and that opportunity.”

Trainees learn every step of the process, from coffee bean farming to latte art

We always say this, but you can’t be what you can’t see in any type of industry, including in the specialty coffee industry

Seven of Natalie’s graduates now have jobs in barista roles but Boss & Brew also wants to improve well-being and increase diversity in the speciality coffee industry.

“We always say this, but you can’t be what you can’t see in any type of industry, including in the specialty coffee industry,” said Natalie.

“That’s one of the reasons why it was important to me to begin this programme in Butetown and Grangetown where I grew up, to offer it to the youth here who are crying out for these opportunities.

“From a mental health point of view, the difference I’ve seen this have on some of these young people has way surpassed my expectations.

“If somebody from this course this weekend goes on to get a job – amazing, that’s fantastic. But if they don’t, and all they get from it was having a laugh, meeting new people and growing in confidence – that’s the real win.”

Natalie will soon announce dates for upcoming training courses on the Boss & Brew Academy twitter page.