Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Fari Maghami, of Coastal Eden Cafe, located in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

The Eden Cafe is a social enterprise run by Coastal Church, dedicated to providing the Vancouver Downtown Eastside (DTES) with great coffee and homemade food in a welcoming space for people from all walks of life. Part of our approach to serving our community is providing a transitional employment and training program for people with barriers.

Tell us about yourself

The idea to open the Eden Cafe started initially when we visited a similar project run by the Message Trust in Manchester, UK., and experienced first-hand the impact they were having in some of the toughest neighbourhoods in the city (and globally) through their Eden teams and social enterprise endeavours.

With our love for God and the people of Downtown Eastside, we wanted to help with poverty alleviation and holistic community development by choosing a Gospel-centered Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) approach. The first stage of our ABCD strategy for sustainable community-driven development was to implement the Message Trust neighbourhood transformation model and send an Eden team to live in the heart of DTES in 2017. The Eden team is a group of devoted Christians who intentionally move long-term into the heart of a disadvantaged community to love and care for their neighbours. This includes caring for those struggling with addictions, mental health disorders, homelessness, unemployment, and poverty.

The next stage of our ABCD strategy was implemented in 2019 when we opened Coastal Eden Cafe as a social enterprise to help make our city a better place and support people in rebuilding their lives. Through our Eden Cafe transitional employment and training program, we provide jobs to people who otherwise might be excluded from the workforce due to past addictions, incarceration, or mental health challenges.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

One of our biggest accomplishments as a social enterprise has been to not only survive a global pandemic with all of the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions but also thrive by remaining true to our faith and values. We achieved this by remaining outwardly focused and thinking about our neighbours in need rather than focusing on the survival of the Cafe. We partnered with non-profit organizations in Downtown Eastside that were already loving and caring for the poor and marginalized population in our city. During the season of uncertainty and social isolation, Coastal Eden Cafe was used as a central hub to prepare and distribute meals and baked goods for vulnerable individuals.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

One of the hardest things about running a social enterprise is the amount of time it requires from you, your family, and your friends. There is simply no way around it. It takes a lot of time to start a business from scratch and to grow a successful enterprise. There are, of course, ways to wisely manage one's schedule and set healthy boundaries, but if you are the owner or the manager of a business, there is a different weight you carry on your shoulders. Typically an owner or manager carries a clear vision, mission, and responsibility for the business (or social enterprise) that not many others do on the team. Their business is very close to their heart, and it goes beyond simply doing a task and making revenue. It drives them, and it requires a sacrifice of time that could be spent elsewhere with family and friends.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Find multiple business mentors to teach you and give you wise counsel. Start asking wise people you trust the hard questions and remain teachable regardless of your success level. Whenever you meet up with your mentors, have your questions ready and make sure you have already wrestled with the questions by yourself so that you can communicate the issues clearly.
  2. Focus on serving people rather than making money. If your focus is mainly on the accumulation of wealth, it will become your master, and you will end up serving it. Money is a cruel master. I understand that people usually do not look into starting a social enterprise because their goal is typically to make a lot of money rather than making an impact on society. Even if you are starting a for-profit business, it is always better to think about how you can best serve people with your product or service. Those who put people before profit will always be happier at the end of the day. There will always be a greater level of joy and satisfaction in what you do when the focus is on serving people well through your business rather than seeing people as dollar signs.
  3. Hire and train people with barriers who might otherwise be excluded from the workforce. If we want to contribute toward a healthy and functioning society, we need to take a look at how we treat people with barriers such as those with disabilities and those who are underprivileged. I think many local businesses care about their communities and want to see crime, addictions, homelessness, poverty, unemployment, and even incarceration numbers drop. However, many business owners don't think they can or don't know how to directly make a difference in those areas. We believe businesses do have a role to play in healthy community development by creating restorative job positions. One way to get started in hiring people with barriers is to look at your hiring policies to see whether people with criminal records can access jobs within your business. Can you provide more in-depth on-the-job training for people with lower skills? A second way to intentionally hire marginalized people is to partner with a non-profit organization to find job seekers.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

This is not a story about one person starting and running a business but about a local church community coming together to help make the city a better place.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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