Sarah Middlemiss- Ferns Kitchen

Ferns Kitchen is a social enterprise community café that aims to reduce social isolation and loneliness. Their vision is to provide a safe and welcoming café space for older people with nutritious and affordable homemade food as well as social activities.

 

Ferns came about when Viewpoint Housing asked us to provide a café within one of their sheltered complexes in South Edinburgh. The area is one of high deprivation and a growing older population, so it seemed a great starting point for a café aiming to tackle the issues older people have. Having worked in many cafes in my life I knew that there were difficulties making money running just a café so I have 2 other income strands to allow the café to run. Ferns does outside catering to other organisations as well as selling freshly made then frozen ready meals for people to buy and eat at home.

Ferns is open 5 days a week and has freshly made food and home baking every day. They offer training opportunities to volunteers who have barriers to employment with an 8-week programme where they can learn all areas of café work. One of their volunteers became a staff member last year. His first job, and he is a huge asset to the company as a baker.

Running your own business is amazing. Amazingly hard and just as amazingly exhilarating! Things change on a daily basis and 18 months on I have several different goals to the ones I started with but that is a great thing. A degree of flexibility with your project and ideas is good as there is no way to predict how things will turn out. I predicted a lot more sales in year 1 than I got but that’s ok. I learned from that and have more realistic goals now and new ideas to keep things moving and fresh. Being able to employ someone to come in and take over the development of the project into a more financially and viable venture is extremely exciting.

After 12 months of ups and downs running Ferns, Sarah knew they needed a development worker to bring more people into their lunch clubs, social events, and café but they didn’t yet have the funds to allow for this. The grant from Firstport made it possible for 2 jobs this year; a manager and a part-time development worker.

This has made and will to make, a massive difference to the organisation. Two dedicated staff with the time and energy to focus solely on the business is exactly what Ferns needs to find our feet and make our mark!

Firstport is a huge support to entrepreneurs like myself. Funding is essential at such an early stage of the business but so is the support. Being told you are doing something great and worthwhile is lovely to hear and Firstport tells me this often. It’s easy to lose track of why you are doing what you do when you’ve had a bad day, or indeed week, so having people around you who know the trials you face is invaluable!

I am looking forward to the rest of 2019. It offers endless possibilities for organisational growth now that we can dedicate ourselves to it. When I am told by a customer that they are so glad the café exists because without it they would be so lonely, I know I am doing what I truly love and for all the right reasons.

See Ferns Kitchen's full menu here, visit their website here, and follow them on twitter ‎@ferns_kitchen 

Sarah recently secured funding through our Build It award. If you have a social enterprise that is under two years old then you could qualify for funding too. Visit our funding page to find out more including a list of our next deadlines.