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Leeds SOUP

There is only one thing in life more heartwarming than a hot bowl of freshly prepared soup, and that’s localised grass-roots charities. Combining the two in Leeds is a close knit group of friends with backgrounds in the digital sector but a real passion for community enterprise.

As people take their seats for SOUP4 and the tantalising smell of butter bean & bacon soup fills the air, we sit down with co-founder Josh Nesbitt to discuss the concept.

Born in Detroit from the ashes of the recession, SOUP is a localised micro-funding event that has spread to cities across the world; Leeds of course is no exception.

The idea behind SOUP is simple but brilliantly effective. Charities, businesses and start-ups in need of cash contact the organisers and four are chosen to pitch on the night of the event. Those in attendance pay £10 for entry and are granted a seat in the audience, a hearty portion of soup, and a singular voting token.

Given five minutes each, the four charities take it in turns to pitch their ideas, followed by another 5 minutes Q&A with the audience. Once all the pitching is over, the audience fills themselves up on soup and cake whilst they muse over which organisation should receive their vote. Once all the votes are in, they are counted and the winner takes home 100% of the ticket money, as well as any sponsorship the event has received.

“We’re quite adamant there’s no fees taken out of it” Josh explains. “The charity should take the whole money, we don’t take anything out of that.”

“The last event was won by CATCH,” Josh adds – referring to the youth work charity in Harehills. “Ash from the organisation pitched with a young boy called Dawid, they did a really great pitch and everyone was really inspired because Dawid could only speak Polish until a couple of years ago, and the charity had helped him learn English. He presented part of the pitch so it was pretty cool to see.”

As with every event, the last SOUP winner is invited back to show the audience where their money has gone, and Ash and Dawid steal hearts once again whilst showing off their Harehills youth centre revamp, funded by the £3,000 they took from SOUP3.

“When people get the money, we don’t want to rush them into spending it. We want to see it spent properly.” Josh clarifies. “After CATCH won the money, me and Tom went and saw what they had spent it on and we were just amazed. Ash has worked so hard to get a lot of different ties to come together and he holds down a full time job on the police force. I think it’s amazing. It’s quite inspiring for people to see so we invite them along. We have quite a loyal audience too so it’s great for them.”

Tonight, the pot tallies up to £1,335 after a last minute donation of £300 from digital agency Parallax. But the beauty of SOUP is that it isn’t just about winning the money; the event itself is a great networking opportunity for both the organisations and those in attendance. The pitchers use their platform as a call to arms for volunteers, and important connections are made during intervals.

As with all Leeds SOUP events, there is a diverse range of pitching businesses tonight. Taking the microphone at The Tetley are: Growing Better, Kissing it Better, Pump ’n’ Grind and Wild Goose Wellbeing; all very different businesses, charities and social enterprises with core motivations to give back to the community.

Each speaker touched the heart of those in attendance with stories that were heartwarming, funny and painfully relatable at times, and each idea was a righteous one, making it all the harder to choose.

After people filled up on the delicious choices of soup (provided by Taste) to the beautiful music of Molly Anna, their votes were cast and counted.

The tough choice revealed an eventual winner in the form of Growing Better, a recently established social enterprise based around urban farming and the therapeutic nature it can bring to those with mental health.

According to Growing Better founder Rob Moores: “It was totally unexpected, and has been a massive vote of confidence in what we’re trying to achieve and the way we’ve gone about it.” 

“We’re going to put the money into our site and help it become more accessible for the people we serve.”

The immense feeling of connectivity and community that SOUP facilitates was epitomised as Rob explained during his acceptance speech that he would be taking £1,000 of the pot and splitting the remainder between the other organisations.

What the minds behind SOUP have created is an incredible platform that brings about ideas and discussion focused on the community, but more importantly it connects those who are trying to better the world from the ground up.

Leeds SOUP is now on its fourth event, with four a year planned for the future. “Four times a year is the most we feel comfortable asking people to come and give money,” Josh Explains. “Because it is money out of people’s pockets as well as giving up their precious time for it.”

“We want as many people to turn up to each event as possible. Maybe we’ll grow out of The Tetley soon, we grew out of The Adelphi. We want it to hopefully snowball the more people know about it.”

“All the money raised on the door goes into the pot, so the more people that turn up, the larger it is. The last prize fund was three grand and the one before was a grand so it really differs depending on the ticket sales and sponsorship. We are trying at the moment to find more consistent sponsors so we can always ensure a higher prize fund. So hopefully more local businesses will begin to support it.”

If you want to pitch at the next SOUP, sponsor the event, or simply be in attendance – visit http://www.leeds-soup.co.uk/ for more information.

All photos courtesy of Tom Joy – Instagram: @tomjoyphoto

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