EventsGroupsImpactNewsOCFYellow Submarine director Toby Staveley and Prime Minister David Cameron launch the new cafe in Witney

OCF was delighted to attend the grand opening of Yellow Submarine’s social enterprise cafe in Witney, which was unveiled during a surprise visit from the Prime Minister. The opening is the latest chapter of a success story that has seen OCF support Yellow Submarine from the very start.

Yellow Submarine is one of the most talked about charities in Oxfordshire. Winners of OCVA’s Charity of the Year Award earlier this year, the charity has gone from strength to strength since it started in 2010 as a provider of holidays for teenagers and young adults with learning disabilities. The new cafe, inside the Windrush Leisure Centre in Witney, will employ apprentices from a new area of the county.

The group is one of several thriving social enterprises in Oxfordshire that have received seed funding from Oxfordshire Community Foundation. As Toby Staveley, founder and director at Yellow Submarine, has said: “I’m proud to say our first ever grant (vote of confidence) came from OCF and the Grassroots Fund, less than five years ago, on the 14th July 2010!”.

The new cafe is the culmination of a fascinating journey taken by Toby and his trustees. Indeed, whilst OCF enthusiastically provided grant funding to the group in its early days, over time the trustees shared feedback that helped Toby rethink the charity’s funding model, looking at ways to become more sustainable and less reliant on one-off grants. The result was the evolution of the holiday scheme into a cafe that provided real, long-term employment opportunities for people who otherwise might remain isolated from the world of work, with OCF part funding the first few apprenticeships.

Using this more commercial model, the cafe brings in funds for the holidays, as well as receiving rave reviews in the local press and TripAdvisor for the quality of its product. Most recently, Yellow Submarine has been working with OCF’s Future-Building Fund, accessing significant funds that have given management the time and scope to expand the social enterprise, and to mastermind the Witney opening.

Prime Minister David Cameron, a Witney resident, attended the launch event and made a speech about the charity before cutting the ribbon. Commenting on the group’s success, the Prime Minister said: “I’m particularly delighted to be here today because it brings together the three things I’m madly passionate about. The first is the idea of social enterprise – bringing together a charitable idea with a belief in enterprise, and showing that making money and putting that money back into society and into doing good is a really great thing to do.

“The second thing is helping people with learning disabilities. I think it’s something we really need to do more of in our country – to make sure no-one is excluded. The idea of everyone being able to work, to be able to participate – that’s the vision we should have.

“And the third thing I love about all this is its creativity. Who would’ve thought that the right answer to find employment and to bring people together would be to set up a cafe? Only a social enterprise would be that creative, that innovative, that entrepreneurial.”

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