Putting the Joy into Oak Tree House

Joy has worked as the chef for our extra care sheltered housing scheme, Oak Tree House in Reading since 2012. When Reading Borough Council stopped subsidising the catering contract, our Employment and Financial Inclusion team supported Joy to set up her own catering business and take over the catering at the scheme.

Here, we speak to Joy to find out more about Joy’s Café

‘I’d been working for the previous contracted catering company as a chef at Oak Tree House since the scheme opened in 2012.  Over this time, I’d built up a great love for the scheme and its residents and was sad to think I’d no longer be able to provide the catering service.

‘The team at Oak Tree House were keen to keep me on too and after a chat with them I came up with an idea, I decided to start my own business – Joy’s café.

‘I didn’t know where to start to be honest, so Tina who’s a Community Investment Co-ordinator for Catalyst put me in touch with one of the team’s employment and financial inclusion co-ordinators, who really helped me. Matt helped me to create my business plan, recommended local training sessions for small businesses and he even helped me fund a much-needed laptop and essential kitchen equipment.

‘I couldn’t have done it without them and I’m really happy with how my business has grown. I love working at Oak Tree House and both the team and residents always encourage me and give me the opportunity to make something of myself. It’s hard work, but I keep at it because it’s so worthwhile working there. I like to think of my café as the social hub of the scheme. I run themed social evenings like our Caribbean Night, which give the residents lots of opportunities to socialise.

I’ve continued to provide food seven days a week throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, because I know a lot of the residents depend on me. Things have obviously been a lot quieter, but I’m still here serving food and being a little extra company during this tough time for many.’

Community Investment Co-ordinator, Tina, has worked closely with Joy over the years and was thrilled when Joy decided to take the leap and start Joy’s café.

Tina said, ‘Joy has been an integral part of the service we offer our residents since she started working at Oak Tree House. When the funding expired for the catering contract, we wanted to do all we could to continue the service.’

Joy is more than just the cook, she has always done more than what’s in her job description. She puts on activities for the residents, gets their shopping and is always available to listen when someone wants to talk.
Tina, Community Investment Co-ordinator

‘She’s been especially important throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and various lockdowns. Although we weren’t allowed on site, she was there every day making sure the residents had a hot meal and helping access any additional things they needed.’

How we supported Joy’s business

Matt who is an Employment and Financial Inclusion Co-ordinator at Catalyst, first met with Joy to discuss her business idea and how he could support back in 2012. He made sure she had all the practical help she needed to start the business, including going through a business plan and encouraging her to attend local business start-up training.

Matt said, ‘I helped Joy to attend some one-to-one business sessions with a local business advisor and supported her to apply for funding via our Catalyst Housing Charitable Trust (CHCT) grants, for a laptop and some kitchen equipment.  I now meet with Joy every so often to catch up on how everything is going and discuss any additional ways I can support her.

‘Joy has now also catered for two of our Communities events at a local community centre, which has built her profile within the community. I can see Joy’s business going from strength to strength.’

How our Employment and Skills team can help you

Our employment and skills service support customers to develop the skills and training needed to increase employment opportunities and career progression. They also offer one-to-one support to help any customers who are thinking about starting their own business, offering them advice and guidance on how to do this.

Find out more and contact the team

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