Introducing Zena Bees Café

August marked the opening of Zena Bees Café in Hollins, Oldham, a new local business part-funded by The Apprentice Academy. The café has been an instant hit with the locals, with many regular customers enjoying the homecooked food on offer. But this café is about more than just providing food for the locals and making a profit. Jim Clarke, the Outreach Director at The Apprentice Academy, and Zena Bruder set up the café to provide opportunities for young people in the area.

Right now, three months after opening, the café employs 5 people including two local young people. It also acts as a community hub for local people and offers valuable training programmes for staff. Over the coming months, the goal is to run more outreach projects in the local area.

The Zena Bees mantra is simple; “We are a community café for all, serving great food and drink, as well as providing training and career opportunities for young people.”

So, what inspired the opening? What opportunities have been provided and what has been achieved so far? Here is an introduction to Zena Bees!

What inspired the opening

Many years before the café opened, Jim set up sister company YP Potential, a CIC which has the goal of unlocking the potential of young people. There are a whole host of projects that YP gets involved in, including sport, music, and dance programmes. Over the years, the programmes have helped, inspired, and supported hundreds of young people.

During this time, Jim met Zena, and they worked together at YP on the project called Beatz and Eatz, which won a European Social Funding bid to help engage people through music and food into work. This included a group of people who were on universal credit volunteering at the project making meals for a local food bank – preparing over 600 meals over winter 2020/21. The food bank project still continues today. Jim and the team have also set up a food enterprise making things like bread-and-butter pudding from donated, end of shelf-life bread, from supermarkets.

Following this, the pair looked at new ways to get young people employed and started to draw up plans for a new community-driven centre. As a young person, Zena was in care and her first job was in a café, which helped her find a positive pathway in life. She always aspired to open her own café. Jim had discovered another programme that Jamie Oliver ran in the past, his Fifteen restaurants, which provided training for 15 young, disadvantaged people a year. These have sadly closed now, but Jim was inspired by the concept behind them.

Ideas were drawn up, with plans for Zena to work as the manager of the café, with Jim working on outreach projects. After 2 months of renovation work, the café opened at the end of August 2021. Zena Bees was born!

Providing opportunities for young people

Oldham is one of the most deprived towns in the UK, with people in some areas suffering from low incomes, and worse, long-term unemployment. The town needs more opportunities for young people. Despite some problems, the town is very well connected. Jim has been working with organisations and institutions in the local area, these include:

  • Jigsaw Homes – Men and Women shelter
  • New Bridge Academy
  • Local JobCentre Plus in Oldham Town Centre.

Jim has also taken advantage of the government’s ‘Kickstart’ scheme, employing two young people to work at the café. This scheme provides funding to employers to create new jobs for 16- to 24-year-olds who receive Universal Credit, who are at risk of long-term unemployment.

The employees at the café have also been put through various cooking programmes and food hygiene courses, giving them a solid foundation of knowledge and skills to build from.

Right now, the café has 5 employees.

What has been achieved so far

A huge amount has been achieved since the opening of the café. Jim and Zena are very proud of the staff. They are earning and learning, just like on an apprenticeship programme. So many skills are being utilised to run the business, including catering and customer service. Furthermore, a relationship with the local community has been built. Who knows where the café will be 12 months from now, but one thing is for certain – it has been a great addition to the Hollins community!

Where to find and contact info for Zena Bees

Address – 208a Chapel Rd, Oldham OL8 4QL
Phone number – 0161 681 7533
Facebook – @ZenaBeesCafe