We are currently experiencing a massive threat to the survival of the business at its current location at the Elephant and Castle, due to the ongoing regeneration and gentrification of the area. We currently operate from a converted horse trailer, designed for a one (wo) man operation. It is positioned at the Elephant and Castle Market near the Shopping Centre. Due to the insufficiency of the set up funds in 2016, we are not able to go mobile, and also do not have the ability to provide our own electricity, we are currently renting a space at the Elephant and Castle market and permanently hooked up the power supply at the market. This is a luxury we will not have once the Shopping Centre is demolished in March 2019.
We are on a countdown to closure...
Our goal is to generate enough funds from the present appeal to re-furbish the current trailer, and make it durable enough to become a mobile unit, so we can move to a new location within Elephant and Castle, and be able to move it back to storage possibly miles from the trading post at the Elephant, be able to generate our own power supply. We aim to build a bigger trailer providing employment for 6 or more people in the short run, and within the next five years, be able to count a staff of 50 people or more as we build more trailers to position in different areas of greater London.
Our Vision is to create a fun, friendly...
Vibrant, and inclusive, customer-oriented mobile enterprise. We pay homage to the Cowboy/Cowgirl culture of the resilient fortitude of the pioneers of the American West. It is my aim to create a fun place to work in the modern era of the service-oriented and catering industry. We will be able to attend events such as birthday parties, weddings, summer music events, local markets, corporate events, and even aim for a place at the races (horse/car) held in the UK in the future. This will help generate employment for local communities. It will be an ambition fulfilled to finally give back to the country (England) that has thus far rescued me in times of hardship for myself and my family.
Here is my story of hardship...
To begin with, I arrived in the UK in October 2013 due to immigration difficulties in America having lived and worked in Texas since 2001. I was an owner operator Trucker leased to JB Hunt and had delivered goods across America for over 9 years. On 17th September 2013, I was picked up by Texas immigration authorities in front of my house in Richmond Texas. I had just placed my other two Children (girls) aged 9 and 6 on the bus to school, and was sauntering back to the house to feed my 3 year-old daughter her breakfast. My wife was on a night shift - so was not home at the time. The immigration authorities followed the US procedure of handcuffing me hand and foot.
After informing them that I had a 3 year-old still in the house, they agreed to allow me to go in and feed her and then wait for my wife to return from work. After my wife arrived, obviously distressed knowing that our lives was about to change drastically, It was then that I was driven to the immigration detention. The next time I saw my other two girls and my wife was several days later behind a glass screen at the Texas immigration detention centre. On the 30th of September I driven to the airport by an armed immigration officer. I was put on the plane back to London, England.
I arrived back on the 1st of October 2013 to a country I had not seen in since 2001. I was all alone and had $40 my wife had given me, and a letter from the British Consulate in Texas, on what to do upon my arrival back in UK. I looked at my phone list, it then occurred to me that I had a relative that may be able to assist, but it was a long short, because I had not spoken to her since 1998. I called her and she was shocked to hear my plight, but agreed to put me up for just one night. I got a train to Earls Court, where she picked me up. I was very happy to see a familiar face, I’ll never forget her, and I owe that lady a lot. I will find a way to pay her back in some way in the future. She allowed me to spend the night on her living room floor. I went to bed refusing to think about my life in Texas, and the wife and children i had left behind. I would have lost my mind if I dwelt on it. I managed to blank it out of my mind, so as to get my first night of rest since my arrest, and after having shared a cell with murderers, rapists, fraudsters, alcoholics on their way to being deported to their countries of origin.
Homelessness in London...
I awoke that morning in London knowing that I was about to become homeless. Then I remembered the letter I’d gotten from the British Consulate while in detention in Texas. It was my last resort. I picked up the phone and dialled Prisoners Abroad. I got a very re-assuring voice on the line. She asked me to call back in a few minutes whilst they look for my details. I asked myself: ‘what if they hadn’t gotten my details?’ The streets beckoned. Then the warmly-voiced woman called me back, and asked me to find my way to Finsbury Park (their location). When I arrived at ‘Prisoners Abroad’ and they were so welcoming, they assigned me a mentor and someone to assist me in all things to do with resettling back into the public life in UK. I was given a room in a backpacker’s hostel which I shared with 3 others. I was there for a few months. I began looking for a job. Things were looking up.
That November, my wife brought our 3 girls aged 9, 6 and 3 to London hoping for a permanent family reunion. After being detained at the airport for 15 hours, myself and our daughters were allowed to stay. Unfortunately, due to my wife being an American citizen had to leave within 3 months: which she did. She made numerous attempts thereafter to come and visit us, and after arriving at Heathrow Airport in her final attempt, she was 3 months pregnant with our son. She was put back on the plane without ever leaving the airport and not even permitted visual contact with our kids. It was heartbreaking. It was two long years before she saw them again, and was by then allowed permanent residence.
How I became the Black Cowboy...
I hastened my efforts to find a job but to no avail; so I applied for a loan from the Government Enterprise Program (GEP). I was given a mentor and was able to get a loan for £2,500.00 to start a business. I managed to acquire a coffee machine on credit, and ordered a waffle machine from Belgium, which I bought outright for £800.00. I purchased a horse trailer in order to enhance the business and generate more sales. I then applied for, and received, a further £12,000 loan from the GEP. Unfortunately, the amount I could borrow was not enough to pay for a professional trailer conversion, so I built the trailer by myself, with the enthusiastic help of my daughters. We built the trailer in just 3 weeks. It was August 2015 and ‘The Black Cowboy, Coffee & Waffles’ enterprise was up galloping and prosperous: yeeha!
Trouble on the ranch...
However, after nearly 18 months of growing success, paying back loans as well, and taking care of my family, my business is under threat from the socio-economic cleansing process known as ‘gentrification’. I am now faced with either losing the business, or show some resourcefulness, and fight back with the help of supporters of hard-working, aspirational, folk such as myself and my family.
What you can do to help...
‘No man is an island’, and so it is to you that I ask to help me build the business with a view to providing future employment for local people. A humble donation will help us fight back against gentrification in the present, and to build for a brighter future.
All that remains for me to say is: thank you for patiently reading of my personal trials and tribulations; and thank you especially if you decide within your hearts to make a small contribution to our cause. Until we meet again...
The Black Cowboy
- stephanie burrell
- Christina Wilson
- Robyn Guthrie
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