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Footprints opened last month. Mateo Rozo Henao
Footprints opened last month. Mateo Rozo Henao

Book café hopes to leave a good footprint

Georgina Hemmingway hopes that Footprints Café, which opened on Street 26 last month, will be the first in a network as far-reaching as Starbucks. The social enterprise serves coffee and food, but its primary focus is peddling books. Nearly 9,000 are currently en route from the UK.

The project will bring world-class resources to a small and underserved community, according to Hemmingway, the enterprise’s CEO.About a third are children’s books that will be donated to rural schools.

Another set will form an academic reference library for the Siem Reap community – including its many university students – located upstairs, away from the noise. The remainder – all fiction and young adult titles – will be on sale in the café.

Footprints has received funding from an investor who has agreed to sponsor three cafés over three years in Cambodia, with the possibility for regional expansion. “The big dream is that we have enough cafés that we can be self-sustaining,” Hemmingway says. She has in mind an ethical equivalent to bigger coffee chains.

The café will judge its performance by how it treats its people, including fair wages and professional training for its staff. Footprints is also invested in the environment: the café uses natural products, composts waste and doesn’t use plastic. “We’re a triple bottom-line social enterprise,” Hemmingway says. “We concentrate on people, planet and profits.”

Footprints also supports a number of local sellers, including a custom line from Ammo jewellery designers. A social enterprise hub with office space for community members will soon be developed. For Hemmingway, the model is simple. “Most people want to leave a positive footprint,” she says.

Footprints Café is located on Street 26, near Wat Bo. For more information, visit footprintcafes.org.

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