Interview: Tap Social Movement – social justice and craft beer

Tap Social Movement is a social enterprise brewery that works to help ex-prison offenders by providing employment opportunities to those who may otherwise struggle to find work. 

Last month, New Start got in touch with Tess, founder of the brewery to hear more about the business and its story.

The brewery began in 2015 when Tess left her job as a support worker for ex-prison offenders in Canda and came to live with her sister Amy, and her boyfriend Paul in London for the summer.

At the time, Amy was working as a policy advisor for the Ministry of Justice, and Paul was a criminal barrister.

Having come from an entrepreneurial background, Amy and Tess had always wanted to start their own business, and combining their joint passion for social justice seemed like the perfect path to take.

‘The three of us have a lot of experience of working with people who have been through the system and who have had zero opportunities to turn their lives around due to the lack of prospects and lack of opportunity,’ said Tess.

‘We were looking to start a business together by working with people in that category.’

The brewery side of the business came second. When Tess came to live with her sister she spent the summer working at a craft beer bar.

‘The three of us spent lots of time going to different taprooms and breweries that summer, and on the side, we were constantly thinking and talking about what we were going to do with our business.

‘It sounds corny’ she said, ‘but the idea literally came to us over a beer.’

‘We were sat in a taproom when we all realised that it made so much sense to pair what we were trying to do with the craft beer world.

‘There is so much opportunity and so many skills in the industry. From the actual brewing, the packaging and distribution, the warehousing, accounts, sales, marketing and front of house.

‘It’s the perfect kind of environment to get people excited about going back to work and to help people gain skills that are transferable to so many different types of jobs.

With a leap of faith and not much planning, the three of them packed up their jobs in London and moved to Oxford, found a site, and Tap Social Movement began from there.

At the time of writing, Tap Social Movement has six full-time employees from the prison sector, they are people who are still serving sentences, who are post-release or those who have struggled to find work due to their criminal record.

According to Tess, the majority of challenges that they have faced haven’t come from the people they have employed but from the prison sector itself.

‘The prison sector is vastly underfunded so it’s not unusual for people to just not turn up to work because there has been some kind of admin error at the prison and we haven’t been notified.’

When I asked about the future of Tap Social Movement, despite the uncertainty of the current climate they have grand plans to expand their sites, with two new venues set to open in Summer 2020.

But their overarching aim and vision for the future is to influence others so that what they are doing is no longer an exceptional story.

‘We hope that in the future we will just be a standard business doing what every business should do.

‘In the end, it only benefits society to support people out of the prison system, in terms of taxpayers, in terms of safety, there are so many reasons.

‘We hope that more people will recognise this and more businesses will jump on board.’

Photo Credit – Tap Social Movement

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