Bridging the gap between foster care and independence while providing great coffee in a supportive, community-driven environment.

The Problem:

In Philadelphia 1,100 youth age out of foster care annually. 1 in 4 will end up incarcerated, 1 in 3 will live in poverty and 95% will leave the system without a source of income.

For these youth a lack of educational attainment, job opportunities, and community support create an increasingly difficult environment for success. The Monkey & The Elephant is setting out to change that.

The Inspiration:

In the winter of 2008, Lisa traveled to South Africa. While there she met a 16 year old Zimbabwean refugee who had left his family at the age of 14 for a better education and future.

He was receiving housing, schooling and food from a local organization. At 18, he was no longer eligible for their support services. With 2 years left of schooling he stayed with friends as he reapplied for refugee status. He was soon told that his refugee status renewal would be denied. He risked deportation and would have to return to Zimbabwe. It was a really dangerous time, and they decided to have a passcode when they talked to make sure he was safe. They decided that they'd identify each other by their favorite animals. Lisa's is the monkey. His is the elephant. It was important to Lisa in naming the cafe that she honor the person who inspired the idea. In November of 2012, The Monkey & The Elephant was born.

The Solution:

The Monkey and The Elephant will be a cafe employing former foster youth. We will offer job and life skills training in a supportive, community driven environment.

Community will be an extremely strong component of The Monkey & The Elephant offering support to participants both during and after their participation in the program. We will connect the youth with mentors in The Monkey & The Elephant community and work to strengthen mentor relationships they may have with an adult who is present in their lives. A key issue for youth who age out of care is the lack of consistent, strong relationships with adults that can guide them through the aging-out process. The M&E mentor will be a stable force in each youth's life. The community created will provide lasting human connections to the youth, a factor that is critical for achieving self-sufficiency in adulthood.

The employment program will be tiered so youth have a sense of accomplishment as they move through the program. In addition to learning how to make delicious coffee, youth will learn skills in communication, leadership, teamwork and customer service. They will also receive their certificate in safe food handling procedures.

Support Services we will offer (either on site or through partner organizations):
  • Workforce Development
  • Leadership Training
  • Mentors!
  • Connect with support service agencies for:
    • housing
    • counseling services
    • financial literacy
    • GED/higher education/vocational traning

    The Ask: (here's where you come in)

    We have tentative agreements in place on locations in the Manayunk and Mt Airy section of Philadelphia, but in order to operate in any location, we have some equipment and product to purchase. The biggest equipment expense is the cornerstone of any coffee shop - the espresso machine. The machine we have our hearts set on is the Synesso Cyncra, it's cost is $10,000. This US-made machine is built to last and during it's lifetime, will require minimal upkeep and repair.

    The additional money we are looking to raise will go toward the rest of the equipment and supplies needed to start the pop-up and pilot our program. This includes, but is not limited to: Coffee grinders (for drip and espresso), water pump for the espresso machine, water boiler, refrigerators, capital for product and paper goods, permits and licensing and of course we want to pay our youth hire - so we will need some money in the bank to start that off.

    We ran a pop-up cafe selling drip coffee from November to June at Taffet's Bakery in the Italian Market section of Philadelphia. With the supplies listed above, we will be equipped to open a full coffee and espresso bar in a location where we can operate daily. With everyday operations, we will be able to pilot our program working with youth full-time.  We will also be able to build a following of people who want to support great coffee with a great purpose. The success of The Monkey & The Elephant will be dependent on backing up our great mission with a great product.


    So join us. Become a part of the community building The Monkey & The Elephant.  Your contribution is critical in fulfulling our vision to bridge the gap through foster care and independence through coffee.