Our Story

We are a net positive business creating opportunities for migrant and refugee women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds by providing inclusive employment and practical training through innovative vegetarian cafés.

Our journey

The idea of Stepping Stone was born
In 2015, three young Australian friends came up with an idea: Cafe Stepping Stone. Our mission? Use hospitality to change lives. Having spent years working in cafes and restaurants, we knew firsthand how a job in this industry could teach skills fast and welcome all kinds of backgrounds.
Our first stop? Cartagena, Colombia
In 2017, we established their first cafe in the vibrant Getsemani neighbourhood, aiming to create a safe and comfortable space that facilitated learning, growth and confidence to provide quality, comprehensive training and employment to the local disadvantaged youth. Through practical experience, our cafe would provide opportunities and skills to give them the skills, confidence and the “stepping stone” needed to progress in their future and give them the freedom that comes with choice and opportunity. Over three years, we trained 40+ youth living in poverty, and the café earned its reputation as the top breakfast spot in town.
Coming home to Australia
In 2020, unfortunately, due to COVID, the cafe in Cartagena was forced to close. Still, two of our founders, Hannah and Vanessa, found an opportunity to continue creating change closer to home.
Completing a social enterprise accelerator program

In June 2020, we participated in both of The Mill House Venture social enterprise venture programs. In 2020, the accelerator program, GRIST, which has helped us form valuable relationships, deeply analyse our impact narrative and join a like minded and passionate for purpose community. In 2021, we were selected to participate in their bespoke graduate program, REFINE.

Learn more about Mill House Ventures
Our new home? Strathnairn
In August 2020, Stepping Stone found its new home at Strathnairn Arts in West Belconnen. We identified a new target population that would benefit most greatly from our business model – migrant and refugee women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Visit us in Strathnairn
Opening our coffee van
From August 2021 to April 2023, we operated the coffee van in Ginninderry's Display Village. This provided a unique opportunity for our team to develop their skills and practice working autonomously.
We began catering
We started catering in 2020, small jobs for Strathnairn Arts & Ginninderry. Word quickly got out and we were asked to do many morning teas, lunches and community events around Canberra. This grew to be a big part of our business and we are currently at capacity for 2023.
Our second location? Dickson
In August 2023, with support from the ACT Government, we opened a second location in Dickson.
Visit us in Dickson
We started selling cakes
In 2023, we also began selling cakes
Purchase a cake

Why migrant and refugee women?

This group faces the highest barriers to entering the Australian workforce. These include:
  • The refugee and resettlement experience and its impact on job-seeking
  • Discrimination in employment
  • Lack of appropriate services to support employment transition
  • Limited access to transport and affordable housing close to employment
  • Limited recognition of skills, qualifications and experience
  • Limited English proficiency
  • Pressures of juggling employment and domestic responsibilities
  • Lack of Australian work experience & knowledge of Australian workplace culture and systems

In the news

Our impact [in Australia]

Number of CALD, Migrant & Refugee women we've employed since 2020
Since our Canberra opening in July 2020, we've employed and trained 43 women from diverse migrant and refugee backgrounds. We're excited to see this number continue to grow!
Number of employees who arrived in Australia as refugees
68% of our employees arrived in Australia as refugees within the last 10 years.
Percentage of our revenue that goes to beneficiary wages and superannuation
For every $10 you spend at Stepping Stone, $5.10 directly supports our beneficiaries. Over half our income goes to wages and superannuation, with an estimated $480,000 set for beneficiary wages this year.