Client Story

New Hope Valley

  • Location: Manchester
  • Sector: Food & Catering
  • Amount: £25k
  • Purpose: Expansion and Growth
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Esther Oludipe’s father came to the UK in the ‘60s to study dentistry. She was born in London and after completing his studies, her father took the family back to Nigeria.

Later, Esther followed in his footsteps, coming to the UK in the ‘90s to study pharmacy.

“I’ve always felt like everyone is here on this earth on a mission and you just need to find out what that is,” she said. “When I was young, I used to say to my sisters, ‘oh this plant can treat this ailment.’ When I realised pharmacy involves plants healing people, I thought, I’ve found my mission.”

Client story Esther did the research for her PhD at King’s College, London, and finished her thesis in Nigeria. Her professor in the UK wanted her to do a postdoctorate. She returned, and stayed.

When she came to England, her husband, a vet, followed his own ambition to be a pastor and established a church in Manchester in 2001.

In 2012, they set up a free community café. Esther led on the enterprise. People started donating items, including sofas, wardrobes, and dining tables, so they sought out a space for a furniture charity shop.

“I thought, now this is a social enterprise,” Esther said.

She enrolled in the School for Social Entrepreneurs in Liverpool and became a Fellow, before taking a scale-up programme in London.

“I was then able to set up the social enterprise in a way that it could offer employment to some of our volunteers, like our Chief Transport Officer. When he started with us in 2012, he was homeless – we didn’t know he was sleeping in a container at the back of the church.”

Based in Manchester and Stockport, Highway Hope set up in 2013 as a CIO. Today, they have three main sites from which they run the café, a food bank – donating 300 food parcels a month – a discount food shop, and second-hand furniture shop. They host social nights, bringing different ethnic communities together, a weekly meal club and run an educational programme for underachieving children with more than 150 children. In addition, they offer a digitally inclusive club for IT skills, run an online store, a music school, a sewing and dressmaking project and a beauty salon with workshops on skin-care for ethnic minorities. They also run a gardening project, supporting people to grow their own veg.

Highway Hope supports anyone in poverty, particularly the long-term unemployed, Black, Asian, and ethnic minorities.

There are six full-time employees, several sessional paid-workers, and an army of around 70 volunteers.

Esther’s skill of juggling so much is delegation: “I ask, who does this cap fit? Who will wear it well, and be passionate about it, and really run with the vision?”

When she found such a person to transform the community café into a commercial social enterprise – a Master’s student called OJ – she applied for a loan and grant from Key Fund.

OJ is working with architectural students to make it a go-to café, complete with gift shop, as it’s situated in a prime spot. It will encourage people to buy drinks for those who can’t afford them. “We call it the Cup of Hope,” Esther said.

Once it’s established, the hope is profits will bolster the CIO, which has an annual turnover of £400k, however reserves are low at around £15k, and running costs increased during the cost-of-living crisis.

The café also aims to offer a space for people to find emotional support. It currently has a ‘talking table’ but hopes to introduce professional counselling.

“When we started, a lot of people used to self-harm or threaten suicide. Just having someone to talk to means we’ve not had as many incidents, but the cost of living is pushing people to the limit. We just want to make sure the café is open and we are there for people.”

Key Fund’s support was vital. “It’s impossible to get a loan from a bank because they say there isn’t certainty that the business will grow, it’s a charity, it’s a social enterprise. So, for Key Fund to be able to come in is a great thing.”

Esther said: “When I discovered our church was in an area of deprivation, I thought we must do something about it. The numbers are on the increase, but if I have the opportunity to do something, and if I can find people who can help do it, I just need to empower it.”
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