=Oslo is already known for its imaginative and engaging journalism, having been nominated in the Best Cultural Feature category at the upcoming INSP Awards in Manchester. But now, the Norwegian street paper has something very different to celebrate – the launch of their new social enterprise coffee shop, =Kaffe.
On June 28, one of Oslo’s most important streets – Akersgata – was closed off to celebrate the launch of the new coffee bar. =Kaffe employs former street paper vendors, and anyone who has been forced to sleep rough, in order to benefit, and raise awareness of, people who are suffering from the effects of poverty and homelessness.
The Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, and the country’s health minister, Bent Høie, were in attendance to help celebrate the unveiling of this new initiative.
Even Skyrud, a community worker at =Oslo and part of the team that help set up =Kaffe, said: “Our organisation has had the urge to establish other social enterprises since it started out twelve years ago.
“Two years ago we made the decision to establish a coffee bar. It was quite a steep learning curve, and a lot of hard work, but we did it and threw one hell of an opening party.”
Oslo is a haven for coffee lovers, and is considered one of Europe’s coffee capitals. The city boasts over 120 outlets for lovers of a hot cup of joe to get their fix, and Norwegians drink on average 3.6 cups a day.
Even says this did not put off =Oslo from achieving their goal: “There are a lot of potential customers, but also a lot of competition. We decided that even if we are a social enterprise, we are going to have the same high standards as any other cafe in the city. The only thing that separates us from the others, are the employees.”
So far, six of the seven baristas working at =Kaffe are former street paper sellers. Each of them has struggled with addiction and homelessness, and has never held down a regular job.
Even, and the team at =Oslo, hope the opportunity to work serving people coffee will provide them with a much needed boost, a daily routine and a chance to spur on individual enterprise within their lives.
One such person is 52-year-old Maud Anniken Nordengen. She has suffered from the same disadvantages and setbacks as the other employees, but after receiving extensive training, brushing up on some coffee knowledge, and learning the tools of the trade, she now has a more positive outlook on life.
She said: “This is my first day at work for 28 years. I don’t have a gap in my resume, but a crater. I was a drug addict for 20 years, but have been drug free for the last 20 months.
“I have used selling the street paper =Oslo as therapy. Every kind smile and hello has kept me going and made my day in a way that has kept me from temptation.
“I used to work as a waiter and a bartender, so I am familiar with the service part. But this was such a long time ago. The strangest thing about going to work is getting up at six in the morning, going out and watching the crowd of people who are also on their way to work. Just being a part of the whole routine.”
Social worker Gunvor Hægstad has been brought in to help manage the bar, and Even says her experience working with vendors at the street paper offices, as well as a background in the coffee industry, has been invaluable in help setting up the project.
He said: “Without her unique competence in both these areas, it would have been much harder to go through with the project. She is used to running a business, and we want to make it a business.
“=Oslo is a monthly magazine financed from the sale of it alone. No ads, no grants, no government or city funding.
“We want to accomplish the same thing with =Kaffe, and considering the queues we have seen since opening, we think we will succeed with this.”
In less than a month, =Kaffe has sold more than 250 cups of coffee each day.
It has even drawn the attention of famed Norwegian food and drink writer Anders Husa. In his review of the sleekly designed coffee bar, he raved about both the quality of the coffee and service, as well as what it is doing for the community: “The foundation’s new project is a whole new level of awesomeness.”