Spedal: making the gig economy a force for good

WeWhoDo sat down with Monica Pun and Kevin Fay to discuss their sustainable courier service - combining social impact with a booming industry.

With unemployment rife and the delivery sector booming, it couldn’t be a better time to launch a service that aims to address the former and exploit the latter. 

Spedal’s goal is to provide immediate employment to those at risk of youth homelessness and provide a crucial stepping stone into long-term work.

The fact that over 100,000 young people in the UK are experiencing, or are at risk of experiencing, homelessness demonstrates how Spedal’s work is truly invaluable.

Read my conversation with the inspiring co-founders, Kevin and Monica, below:

So, where did the idea for Spedal come from? 

Kevin: The idea for Spedal started when I was volunteering at the Barons Court Project, a drop-in centre for people experiencing homelessness and mental health conditions. I met some really great young people with so much ambition, but so little opportunity. It was then that I saw the potential and wanted to help them fulfil it. 

I was also working as a Deliveroo driver whilst studying and knew this was a great way to make money and a valuable job in terms of transferable skills.

As it happens, all these thoughts also coincided with the huge boom of the delivery sector and how there was a massive demand for courier services during the pandemic. 

Monica: Similar to Kevin, I was volunteering at a local soup kitchen in Bethnal Green and saw how so many people had fallen through the cracks in the system, through no fault of their own. It wasn’t that they were unwilling to work, but rather they couldn’t find work because of lack of resources, lack of experience and difficulty to commit to set hours. 

So, as part of the Year Here programme, Kevin, Kasia, and I came together to start building our early idea for Spedal. In true Lean Startup fashion, we hopped on our bikes and started testing out our offering ourselves. As founders, we knew how important it was to keep trialling and learning. Later, we got accepted onto the incubator programme and pitched at a live Crowdbacker event for seed funding. 

The key idea is that we wanted to match this important social need with the booming delivery market, and we are really proud of the progress we have made so far from Autumn 2020 to now!

How does Spedal work? 

Kevin: When riders join the Spedal crew, we prepare them for the workplace by giving them work experience, building their confidence and a reference for future employers.  Meanwhile, we pay them a fair wage and provide job support, helping them on their journey to full time work.

Currently, our riders operate in East London, helping to deliver parcels for businesses, and we are looking to grow our offering to C2C. This is a model that is pretty common in my home country of Argentina, and is something that I think will grow in a post-Covid UK.

But, before we grow out in that way, we want to ensure more consistent deliveries for our riders. This is crucial for their development, and also provides them with a routine and stability. 

Monica: We recruit our riders through homelessness charities and hostels and are currently in the process of co-designing the rider experience with them. Their support workers are also great in helping us understand their life circumstances and the wider system.

From an environmental perspective, running Spedal from bikes also means that we are automatically zero emission compared to other courier services. So, this gives Spedal both environmental and social benefits for its customers and drivers!

We are currently connected with social impact advisors, and have ongoing conversations with St Mungos and the YMCA for potential partnership opportunities.

Where do you think your personal ambition for social impact projects comes from?

Monica: Social impact has always been super important to me and probably started way back when I was a Girl Guide. It then grew and developed as I volunteered across Africa and India, and now as I’ve learnt more about social enterprise. Doing my postgrad, I realised that business can be a force for good and a vehicle for change. I wanted to be part of that force.

Kevin:  It’s the same for me… I’ve been involved with homelessness for about 10 years and I think Spedal was always a natural progression for me: turning my professional experience into a business. 

Where do you see Spedal growing? 

Kevin: I see Spedal growing in two ways. The first way would be geographically. We want to expand our service beyond London and target other cities where homelesness and lack of opportunity is rife. The second is more of a cultural change. We want to inspire other gig economy businesses to shift to a ‘force for good’ model. 

A key idea we want to emphasise is that the gig economy doesn’t have to be exploitative; it can actually be built to suit the needs of the people who are keeping it afloat. With recent cases like Uber, it is clear that society is also beginning to shift to that mindset too. 

Monica: We are building out a training programme for all of our riders to make sure they are as safe on the road as possible. We also supply our bikes through BuzzBike, who kindly donate bikes to us and take care of repairs and accessories. We see partnerships like this really growing in the future, alongside opportunities to collaborate on community projects.

This article has been posted as part of the Sustainable Start-up Series run by WeWhoDo:  building a community of world-leading experts to help sustainable businesses thrive. For more information about Spedal click here.

Spedal is a valued member of our Sustainable Start-up Community. To join the community, click here

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