Image shows 3 people behind the desk at a cafe

Café van Gogh is a restaurant with a social and environmental mission in Brixton. Apart from serving delicious vegan and seasonally changing food, the restaurant also provides employment and training opportunities for people additional needs, like learning disabilities and mental health challenges.

3 years (extended to 5 due to the pandemic)
Cost of capital
Amount invested
£19,200 (unsecured)
Product type
Unsecured loan (incl. overdrafts)

The employment rate of people with learning disabilities is around 5%. Café van Gogh aims to change this by employing people with special needs and proving that they can play a valuable part in our economy. Each employee receives personal support from a job coach and has employment contracts that are designed around their needs.

Not only do employees gain valuable skills and earn a wage, but confidence and wellbeing levels are also improved.


Having gained £20k of investment in setting up Café van Gogh in 2015, the two directors decided in 2018 to try extending their food offering to breakfast hours. After some time, it became clear that the breakfast menu did not generate enough income and it caused Café van Gogh to run at a loss and required an investment to get back on their feet.


The directors approached Big Issue Invest to explore social investment to support cashflow. They made the decision to remove their breakfast offering and also undertook a wider review of the menu, marketing and profit margins. This process helped Café van Gogh to return to financial stability.


Café Van Gogh generates income via trading food and drink. The cost of a job coach role is covered by their charity partner, Toucan Employment, who supports employees with special needs within the restaurant.


Investment from Big Issue Invest allowed Café van Gogh to bridge a cashflow shortfall to return to profitability and support more people with special needs into training and work. Café van Gogh now annually supports 5-10 people with special needs to gain an income, skills and confidence. In 2023, Café van Gogh repaid their loan in full and are now also running a successful breakfast/brunch offering on Saturdays.


"We really enjoyed our contact with BII. It opened so many doors for us, extended our professional network and we also benefited from other expert resources that they were able to offer. Big thanks to them for their support."

Steven Clarke, Director, Café Van Gogh

"We are so pleased to have been able to support Café van Gogh in their trailblazing work, not only supporting people into employment within their own organisation, but also acting as a role model for other organisations who are thinking about their own impact journeys."

Linda Wickstrom, Investment Manager, Big Issue Invest