The past few weeks have gone in a blur and I have had neither the time nor the space even to think about a score for the day. I need to get back to that for my own sanity as much as anything else but until then I will simply record that I had a great day on Tuesday when I met Faisel Rahman from Fair Finance. Fair Finance provides a range of financial products for people who are “financially excluded.” This could mean the unbanked, the unemployed, or those who are on very low pay. The main competition for this group of people includes loan sharks (and although this is a severe problem for those at the mercy of unregulated lenders – as loan sharks are – it is actually a small number of people), regulated “door step” providers of financial services products, such as Provident Financial, and “pay day” lenders who lend small sums off the back of a pay cheque. If you have little or no money or assets and you need to borrow, historically you have had no choice but to go to one of these three providers. The key issue is that the rates of interest on the products provided, even by regulated lenders like these, is huge and, in the case of loan sharks, the collection methods can be brutal. Using these providers of credit can result in people being indebted for years and years, often at levels exponentially higher than the sum they borrowed in the first place.
Fair Finance does what it says on the tin. It offers financial services products, including loans, responsibly and fairly to those who would otherwise be forced to apply to the sources above. I wanted to meet Fair Finance because I want to be able to offer micro lending to people who would like to set up their own home baking business but who many not be able to afford the up front costs involved. These include the training offered by Bread Angels, bread tins, a mixing bowl, and the ingredients needed to get started. Thankfully Faisel loved the concept of Bread Angels and I loved Faisel’s attitude toward lending small sums of money. I don’t know about you, but I am utterly unable to formulate an opinion of someone unless I meet them. I need to “look into the whites of their eyes” and what I saw in the whites of Faisel’s eyes was a trustworthy and responsible man who will neither say “yes” nor “no” too readily when approached by someone who needs to borrow money. Further, under the right circumstances, Fair Finance will treat those needing to borrow money to set up a home baking business as “business borrowers”. This sounds the appropriate note, allowing the borrower to feel like a business person from the get go and allowing some flexibility in how the money is paid back. Fair Finance understands that it can take a a couple of weeks or months before a business person’s cash flow is up to the levels needed to start paying back. So, to Faisel and those at Fair Finance, a great big thank you.
Now that this last piece of the puzzle in in place, Bread Angels is seriously under development. The concept is this:
Virtuousbread.com has developed the course content for those who would like to set up a home baking business. The course will have three modules, each of which is about 4-5 hours, and will run once a week for three weeks. This modules include, how to bake a few basic loaves, how to market yourself in your neighbourhood, and how to manage a small business of this nature (regulation, insurance, environmental health, financial management, etc.). The content is swaddled in the vision of Virtuousbread.com which is to make good bread accessible locally. By good bread we mean made with good flour (organic, stone ground where possible), hand made bread. By local we mean bread that you can deliver on foot or by bicycle. because Virtuousbread.com cannot teach the nation (and that is our aim!) we have set up a social franchise.
The Bread Angels will be the teachers. They too take the Bread Angel course and they learn, in addition, how to grow their businesses – the focus of which is finding home bakers to teach as opposed to, or as well as, finding a market for their home baked bread, and how to assess potential home bakers and help them apply for micro finance to ensure success. Virtuousbread.com remains in charge of marketing at a top level, ongoing training and development, managing the alumni network of Bread Angels, and financial management. The Bread Angels can work as much or as little as they like and are completely in control of their business at their local level. The home bakers, similarly can work as much or as little as they like and are completely in control of their business at their local level. Home bakers keep whatever they earn. Bread Angels pay a small commission to Virtuousbread.com for every home baker they teach. That way everyone wins – the local community who has access to good bread, the home baker who makes a contribution and a little bit of money, the Bread Angel who makes a contribution and possibly a lot of money, and Virtuousbread.com who needs to make money in order to a) live b) grow and b) continue to change the world through bread.
We will kick off this programme in the new year with a pilot. We will teach 6-8 aspiring Bread Angels in the London area (sorry, but that is where we are and we have access to space to do the teaching locally). We aim to monitor that pilot for 3-6 months (ie work together to grow everyone’s teaching business and further develop the content as necessary) and then expand. The first six Bread Angels will get a discount on the normal course fee as a thank you for being part of a pilot and in anticipation of the fact that the course and concept will develop hugely as a result of the participants on the pilot.
If you would like to be a Bread Angel – that is someone who has your own social franchise in which you teach others to set up a home baking business, make good money and pay a small commission back to Virtuousbread.com, or have any questions about becoming a Bread Angel or a home baker please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss the cost and timing of the courses, including the initial pilot.
Think of this like Avon – only with bread.