Having taken inspiration from the legendary Joe Strummer, Belfast man Colin Mackey is putting people before profit to make a difference in the city.
Colin runs Belfast’s first socially driven juicery, and is far as we know it could be one of the first socially driven juiceries in the UK and possibly internationally.
The unique aspect of Mango Street is that Colin uses surplus profits and products to support local organisations who are committed to combating homelessness, alleviating food poverty, ensuring environmental sustainability and promoting health and wellbeing.
Colin explained why he went down the business route he’s chosen: “I wanted to start a social enterprise that was product-driven and addressed issues that I felt strongly about,” he said.
“A few years ago I was on a trip to the west coast of America and saw how homeless people live in Las Vegas and the West Coast. Seeing the extremes of excess and poverty in Vegas are unreal.
“I’ll never forget seeing a pregnant lady who was on the streets in the middle of heatwave. All she wanted was a drink of water. Then you see people walking around with all sorts of drinks, with money to burn and it just made me think there’s something a bit wrong with the world.
“I came back home and started finding out more about the homeless plight here.
“As well as people living on the streets you’ve got the issue of hidden homeless that people forget about or are not even aware of. These are people who sleep in cars or sofa surf, moving from one friend’s couch to the next. They are maybe holding down employment but struggling financially and just can’t afford a house to call their own.
“Realistically, you’re only a couple of pay cheques away from being homeless. It could happen to anyone. And it’s so easy to walk past people and ignore them and pretend this isn’t happening. But it is and it just comes down to treating people, especially those in need, with respect.
“Nobody should be out on the street or sleeping rough, especially when you look at the number of empty buildings. It’s heartbreaking to hear about so many homeless deaths recently in the city.”
He added: “It feels like the approach to tackling the homeless issue here is quite fragmented and sporadic in the city. There’s a lot of organisations and groups doing amazing work but it just needs to be better coordinated to avoid anything like this happening in the future.”
Colin said: “We donate surplus products and profits primarily to various local homeless shelters to offer those service users and staff, a healthier alternative to what might be available. We also give all pulp to local community garden and allotment projects.
“Customers are also given the option to ‘Pay It Forward’ and buy a juice for someone less fortunate than themselves through our Instant Karma initiative.”
The business implements a unique zero-waste production process, using cold-pressed technology and raw produce, organic where possible, from local independent suppliers. Juice is unpasteurised, containing no stabilizers, additives or preservatives and bottled using recycled glass instead of plastic.
Colin added: “The range has a three day shelf life. It’s fresh produce and I want to offer customers a genuinely raw product. So I’m not going to put chemicals or additives in it to give it a longer shelf life. If it says it’s raw, it’s got to be raw.
“I’ve been juicing personally for four or five years and I’ve put together all of the recipes myself just by trial and error and thinking what other people might like.”
Colin recognises that his socially driven juicery isn’t going to solve the problem on its own, but he’s happy to be playing his part and making a difference.
“From very early on, people told me you can’t sell a product or make a profit and be a social enterprise,” he said. “But that’s totally wrong! It’s just like any other business. It has to make money to make an impact. It’s just what you do with the profits, the products or the services that makes it different from a purely commercial business.
“I didn’t want to be an armchair warrior and just talk about it. I want to be positive in my actions and get my hands dirty.”
Colin, who had a stint as a trader in St George’s Market, continued: “I linked up with South Belfast Social Enterprise Hub, who have been an amazing form of support. Helping me with market research, developing a purpose built production space and so much more. Now I am also a Chiclet with Entrepreneurial Spark which has just launched its first Hatchery in Belfast. This is a fantastic intensive business accelerator programme that will really allow me to take Mango Street to the next level.
“The goal is for Mango Street to be the largest social enterprise brand in the UK and Ireland and benefit service users nationwide. And a personal highlight would be to have a pitch at somewhere like Glastonbury, but the logistics of selling glass bottles might be a problem. Further down the line I’m hoping to work out a way of selling at festivals.”
Colin told how Joe Strummer was his inspiration in life and business. His business’ name Mango Street is actually a B-side from the singer’s Island Hopping single.
“Joe Strummer is a massive influence,” said Colin. “Right from the early days of The Clash you could see that social fire in him. He evolved musically and personally, but the social consciousness never changed. He believed in people.
“If the world had more people like him it would be a better place.”
Mango Street launched in August 2015 with four core juices and most recently has added two new recipes which includes 100% raw orange & 100% raw pineapple. These are now available from stockists such as Yahi in Great Northern Mall as well as Raw Food Rebellion and Mardavrios on the Lisburn Road.
The specific numbers given to the juices all have significance to Colin. 84 is the year he was born, 7 is his lucky number and he even picked number 19 because he’s a Manchester United fan and that was the number of the title they won to beat Liverpool’s record, a match he was lucky enough to be at.
For full stockists and availability, visit mangostreet.co.uk where you can also view a live tracker to see exactly how much money is being put back into the local community, how many juices have been donated to shelters and how much pulp is being put to good use.