iSmooth director Erika Beynon explained the difference the move has made to the project: “Since the move there’s been more customers coming through the door which has helped the staff and service users build up their confidence because they’re interacting more and using more social skills, which is very important.”
Fellow director Siantel Wotherspoon added: “It’s also brought an awareness in the community that people with learning difficulties have a purpose in life and can achieve a lot more than people give them credit for.
“We also have more scope now to take on not only people with learning difficulties but some of the disadvantaged in our community. We’re working with the probation service, people with substance misuse, mental health issues and other disadvantaged young people who for whatever, reason are not able to move on.”
Such is the confidence gained by service users and staff that it has led to finding employment for a number of individuals. Two young men who started posts at the start of 2012 will be taking up places in university and college later in the year.
“Since being with us they’ve had the confidence to do this,” said Erika.
“It’s quite emotional seeing the difference this project does for these young people. They just needed that support and nurturing to geat them where they wanted to go. They knew where they wanted to go, they’ve just been shown the path to get there.”
Funding of £40,980 from the Targeted Finance Package (TFP) will fund the post of a Business Development Manager for 15-months. The role will have two-functions. To develop the usage and external catering side of the business and to research the development of the creation of a franchise or replicating the business model. The funding will also go towards marketing costs, internet community café set-up costs, franchising fees and recruitment costs.
“A lot of people want to start community cafes but don’t know how to, “said Erika.
“We’re looking at creating a website to share good practice. They can use the same kind of model which makes it easier to share health and safety plans and environment plans which are already in place.
“The position funded by TFP will look into it in more detail before committing to one package, to decide if it should be a franchise or replicating the model and which model it should be.”
Speaking of the TFP application process Erika said it was no harder than any other grant process. She added: “The application itself was done quite quickly, but the continuing officer support throughout and also after being awarded the funding has been very important. “With a lot of other grants you receive the funding and that’s the end of the story. But it’s been nice to have the continuous support from officers afterwards.”
Established in June 2010 by a group of parents, carers and people with learning disabilities, iSmooth offers training in customer service, stock control, cleaning, packing, numeracy, health and safety, food hygiene and cooking skills.
Shy Christian, who is going to study video arts at Swansea University, said: "When I first started I could hardly speak to anyone. I was very shy.
"However, everyone has been so friendly, it has helped me build my confidence which will be a great help for me with my university studies."
Curt, who is going to Coleg Sir Gâr in September to train as an electrician, said working in iSmooth had also led to meeting new friends.
He said: "I was quite nervous at the beginning, but it's been such an experience and everyone is so friendly and great to work with.
"We're all a great team and they've been brilliant people to work with, really hard workers who have so much enthusiasm. We've all bonded."
A COMMUNITY cafe in Ammanford has helped two friends grow in confidence as they start their journey into further education.
Curt Bale, from Glanaman, and Christian McGee, from Tairgwaith, both aged 20, and former Amman Valley School pupils, have been working full-time at iSmooth community cafe on College Road since the start of this year.
Changing the location of a community café in the centre of Ammanford has opened up the doors for those with learning disabilities to learn new skills and increase their confidence.
iSmooth, based on College Street, is a registered company Limited by Guarantee established in June 2010 by a group of parents/ carers and people with a learning disability.
It offers training in customer service; stock control; cleaning; packing; numeracy; health & safety & food hygiene, cooking skills, which in turn creates confidence building and customer care.
Five years previously the project started out as a smaller coffee shop in another part of the town.