Over 100,000 young people in the UK are experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Of those, 80-90% are struggling to get onto the job ladder. Unemployment is both a key driver and result of youth homelessness.
Addition is proud to support our client Spedal as they aim to tackle this issue. They provide young people who are homeless or in precarious housing situations with immediate employment as bike riders – and a stepping stone into long-term work. When riders join the Spedal crew, they prepare them for the workplace by giving them work experience, a confidence boost and a reference for future employers.
We’ve asked Spedal cofounder Kasia Cheng to shed some light on being a social entrepreneur for When It All Adds Up.
How did the idea for your business come about?
The idea for Spedal started when Monica, Kevin and I were fellows on the Year Here programme. Throughout Covid, we had spent time volunteering with people experiencing homelessness. Mon was spending a lot of time in a soup kitchen in Bethnal Green and Kevin was working at a homeless drop-in center in West London.
We had seen such a willingness to work from these guys, but there just weren’t enough flexible opportunities that would fit their needs. When you’re experiencing homelessness, you often can’t just jump straight into a nine to five. It’s just not feasible. You need a stepping stone to help you make that transition.
At the same time, Kevin was actually Deliveroo-ing as a side hustle. And we realised deliveries could act as this stepping stone. It’s a great job to start off with as it’s got a very low barrier to entry. The nature of doing deliveries also has a short-term rewards system in place. You complete a set of deliveries and you get paid. It naturally drives momentum and is a great way for these guys to start building a routine.
How do you market your business, and which tactics have been most successful?
Instagram has worked really well for us, because local businesses are very active on it. Often, companies are trying to build their brand and it’s managed by the owner or key decision makers. It’s a nice way to cut through the noise, and feels a lot more human than cold emailing.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
There’s something really special about being able to set our own company culture. Especially in the delivery industry, riders and drivers aren’t usually treated very well. So we try to combat this by having monthly meetups with our riders, where we get together over a lot of good food and coffee.
Our mission is to reimagine the gig economy as a force for good and so it’s important to us to create a supportive work environment. We want our approach to social impact to go beyond supporting our hostel riders and extend to creating a good company where people are treated well.
The agility you get in a start-up is also amazing. Because it’s a very small team and business, if we don’t like something, we can change it. There really isn’t a lot of red tape. We can respond very quickly to new information, which is great.
What are some things that kept you awake at the start, but in the end weren’t worth worrying about?
Oh, this is a good question! It’s a vague answer, but worrying about specific opportunities. Because the thing is, new opportunities are coming up all the time. So it’s never really worth worrying that much about one pitch or one client, because there’s so much out there.
I think you’re much more prone to it in the beginning when you’re starting out. There can be so much desire for external validation because you don’t know whether your idea is genius or trash. At the early stages, your sensitivity to failure is very high because you haven’t built up that much evidence around whether your idea is good or not.
What piece of advice would you give to college graduates who want to become entrepreneurs?
I’d say dive in head first and just go for it! Either work at a start-up first to build up some experience or get started with your own idea. I think it’s actually been a huge blessing that I haven’t gone into a corporate job right after university, like a lot of my peers. Because it means I have a much higher appetite for risk. When you’re in a high paying job, it takes a lot of courage to quit that comfort and stable paycheck.
What is your greatest fear and how do you manage fear?
Mission drift is a very real thing. There are definitely some weeks where I think ‘God, all we’re talking about is sales!’. Of course, you need to scale your business to make an impact but it’s a delicate balance. There are some weeks I’m afraid we’re slipping into becoming just like every other courier company out there.
What helps us with that is meeting up with our riders. It’s so simple, but you remember that they’re real people. When you’re not around them, it can be so easy to fall into the trap of thinking of your employees as cogs in the wheel. But they’re not. They’re people who deserve to be treated well, and hanging out with our riders helps us keep grounded.
Kasia Cheng is an Addition client and cofounder of Spedal.