Client Story

Rainbow Cafe

  • Location: Cheshire
  • Sector: Food & Catering
  • Amount: £37k
  • Purpose: Bridging the funding gap
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Richard Euston, 34, came out as gay to his family on his 18th birthday.

“I had struggles with mental health and social isolation. Section 28 was still a thing when I was at school, so it took me a while to learn about gay culture.”

He went to university, then worked in the heritage sector for the next decade. “I didn’t have a community I felt I could connect with.”

Richard met the organisers of Chester Pride after getting involved with the council’s LGBTQ+ network. He volunteered as a steward in 2015. From there, he was asked to help with their website, and slowly his role expanded.

“I’ve always had a background in public engagement and outreach, but Chester Pride clicked for me. I was able to come out of my shell and combat my own social isolation issues.”

In 2018, he became a director of Chester Pride. Now, as Head of Charity, the organisation has expanded under his leadership.

“Pride creates a feeling that’s quite special. Just by saying come, be yourself, is having a huge impact on community cohesion, it’s quite humbling.”

500 people were expected at the first Pride in 2013; 2,500 turned up. Last year, 21,000 took part. It’s now the biggest non-racecourse event in the city.

Richard knows first-hand how Chester Pride changes lives; he met his now fiancé as a volunteer at the event.

But he saw there was more to be done.

“A lot of people had started to get in touch with us about issues they had. They just felt lost.”

In 2019, they created a helpline, Just Ask. It had 3,500 contacts in its first year, which doubled to 7,000 last year.

“It’s my job, my passion and my absolute privilege to keep growing that service,” Richard said.

“The LGBTQ+ community can feel alone and we make them realise they are not. Whatever issue people come to us with – whether it’s coming out, or gender transitioning, or abuse situations – there’s always a mental health component, and element of social isolation.”

The helpline supports, advocates on their behalf, and helps access to inclusive services.

It has saved lives: “We’re not a crisis service, we’re an advice line, but there are people who are only still alive because they reach out to us regularly. We hold their hand never letting them go until they’ve got the outcome they need.”

The cost of hosting Pride rose from £40k in 2017 to £120k, hitting profits.

“People were asking to work with us more, but we were struggling to find venues to host events and drop-in sessions. We needed a way to supplement revenue and have a base of operations.”

So, in May 2020, they opened a trading arm and new café, Rainbow Tea Rooms.

“It made sense to break the cycle of being reliant on grants and donations and create revenue streams we knew to be more reliable.”

Key Fund gave flexible loan funding of £37k to bridge the funding gap.

“We had secured extra NHS money, but there was a huge gap between spending and the money coming in. Without Key Fund, our helpline would have closed. The whole charity was in jeopardy.”

Last year, Chester Pride had a turnover of £210k. This year, the café alone is set to turnover £200k.

“It’s incredible. We forecasted for half of that. We’re blown away from the response.”

Chester Pride employs two full-time staff in the charity, and six full and part-timers in the café.

“As the café starts to rebuild our reserve, we’ve got the safety net of Key Fund’s flexible finance should we hit any other funding hiccups.”

“When you go to a bank, it’s very difficult without assets to get investment. But Key Fund completely understand how we operate. They know the difference you make, and want you to continue to make it. That understanding is phenomenal. It was nerve-wracking seeking this kind of finance, but they took a very precarious situation for us and made the process a reassuring one.”
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