Coventry University training gets real results for Big Issue vendors

University news

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Press contact

Press Team

A social enterprise charity led by Coventry University has been working with Big Issue sellers in South Africa to help them develop new skills and access real work opportunities.

Tabeisa – which supports local entrepreneurs and business enterprise in disadvantaged communities – received funding from Comic Relief for the pioneering project, whose aim is to boost the vendors’ efforts to reintegrate with mainstream society and encourage them to start their own businesses.

Using a café in Bellville, Cape Town, as its base, the charity delivered an enterprise training programme to Big Issue sellers who were interested in gaining catering skills and potentially starting up a company.

Professor Jane Conlon, director of Tabeisa, worked in partnership with Lynne Clarke of Warwickshire College to train 14 vendors over a three week period over summer.

Tabeisa already employed six people from disadvantaged areas at the café, and it has now taken on the recent trainees to bake at weekends. The Big Issue vendors have started developing their own range of baked goods for the café, including muffins made with whole oranges grown in the Western Cape.

Professor Conlon, director of Tabeisa from Coventry University, said:

It was lovely to see the confidence gained by the vendors as they moved through the training programme. Several of the vendors are interested in starting their own business and the course has given them some of the skills they will need.  Two of the vendors are now busy working with one of our business advisors on the development of their business plan for their new catering business that they are going to start.

Doreen Dyida, a Big Issue seller for over twelve years, said:

I have always enjoyed cooking and would like to get a job in catering. However you always need experience to get a job, and this is the first time that I have been able to get real work experience.

By the end of the training I will have worked in a commercial kitchen and will have gained my hygiene certificate. I am really enjoying the work and now my future feels better.

In addition to the baking initiative, the Comic Relief-funded project is also providing Big Issue vendors with work placement opportunities at a number of Tabeisa’s partner organisations based in South Africa.

One such employer is Cape Town-based Streetwires, which produces handcrafted beads and wire art – within their first week the trainees had created bracelets which are now being sold in Tabeisa’s ‘Exclusive Roots’ shop in Oxford.

The Tabeisa project highlights Coventry University’s ongoing commitment to entrepreneurial initiatives, which last year saw it awarded the 2011 ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ accolade at the Times Higher Education awards.

For more information on the enterprise education programmes available at the University, please visit the website of the Institute for Applied Entrepreneurship at, or click here to learn more about Tabeisa.

For further information please contact Sarah-Jane Dean, communications assistant, or Alex Roache, external press and media relations officer, on +44 (0)24 7688 8245. Alternatively, please email or