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Why am I so excited about a car air freshener?

This isn’t just your ordinary car air freshener it’s a Charlie, The Van @ Backup air freshener. The reason it makes me so happy is because of what it represents.

The very first time I proposed a Coffee Van at the Trustee Board they said no. 5 years ago I submitted a business case and the Trustees QUITE RIGHTLY said no. The business case wasn’t strong enough, we had no track record for social enterprise or business. They commented that I had taken this rejection surprisingly well… I answered ‘that’s because I know I will have a Van.’

So, I went away and did some more homework, found a couple of experts to help me and submitted a bid for £10k for some feasibility work. Got that, did it, submitted a new spangly business case with cash flow forecasts, risk assessments, contingency plans etc to the Board and they said; proceed with caution. 

I submitted a social enterprise bid for £65k and got that. The Van began.

We partnered up with Rijo 42, a national but locally founded coffee supplier. Their ethics matched ours and they are belting coffees! We could have opted for cheaper brands but we didn’t want pity purchases, we wanted repeat business and knew we’d need a dam good tasting drink.  So Rijo 42 was perfect.

The same for the cakes, we could have gone to a cash and carry but we didn’t. We only use local sole traders who make the best homemade bespoke cakes and biscuits and are delicious. 

We officially launched The Van, affectionately known as Charlie, named after a founder Trustee of Backup, serving coffee and cakes in March 2020; balloons and press release – the works! Covid lockdowns came and we couldn’t trade.  Our new Van coordinator got another job because she’d been unable to get going and the job was not fulfilling. I wondered whether I should jack it in.

2 more Van coordinators came and went in 18 months and I really wondered whether I should jack it in. Becky, The Vans mobile barrista, (she is so much more) joined our team in 2021 and The Van is still building momentum.

What is it?

The Van is a social enterprise designed to trade as a profit making business which pushes all its profits back in to the charity as income. It is managed by a paid colleague (Becky) and supported by lots of wonderful volunteers. Those volunteers include Backups current and ex residents who will learn new skills to assist with their own development and employability. The Van also acts as a marketing tool, spreading the word about Backup, our work and how every cup of coffee assists us to tackle homelessness amongst young people.

So what we have now is a flourishing service (we need more bookings!) and Charlie is a popular feature wherever he goes.

We now have official air fresheners and key rings with Charlie The Van on, they are for sale on the Backup website shop. I couldn’t be more delighted. More awareness raising and more funds generated.


To me they represent:-

Vision - I knew the idea would work. I don’t why, I just did.

Governance - Backup has a Trustee Board that are safe, risk averse as well as aspirational and innovative.

Persistence - My first attempt was a no, so I went away, did some work and tried again. Then kept trying every time we hit a hurdle.

Strategy - A low risk social enterprise has paved the way now for us to attempt something bigger. We have a track record in business.

Freedom - The income is not restricted.

Profile - The Van raises the profile of our work to eradicate homelessness.

Partnership - We have been able to work with some amazing people as a result of this. Especially Rijo 42, Nichols plc, Bolton MBC food festival and Park Run.

Bolton - It isn’t limited to Bolton but brings added value to it.

Economy - The Van as a business uses local suppliers and supports the local economy. It has also created a full time job role and volunteering opportunities so that too contributes to the growth and stability of the local economy.

Learning - I have learned so much through this service and as an organization we have learned about business, sales, marketing, profits and vehicle maintainenece!

The car air freshener (and key ring) gives me hope, job satisfaction and a little bit of joy. I am almost at my 11 year anniversary at Backup and still I love being here and what we achieve as a team.

If you want to book The Van, volunteer on it, promote it in any way please get in touch with Becky on 01204 520183. The air fresheners and key rings are for sale;



Backup Charity values infographic

What We Do!

BACKUP provide multiple services across Bolton to young people aged 16-25 years who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness. Read here about all the supported accommodation which includes emergency housing, temporary accommodation, short and medium stay supported housing. Also the non accommodation based support work that focusses on mental health, employment support and much more.

Young people can live in more than one Backup service as they make progress and develop more independence prior to moving on completely. The different services are designed to meet various levels and ranges of needs.


This year
we accomodated

young people

Our Events

Every year Backup delivers multiple events for fundraising. Each one is designed to raise awareness and much needed money to support young people who are homeless. Annually we have our core events; Gala Ball, Golf Day and Ladies Lunch. We also have other events that are different each year so that we can have a wider appeal to all.

Fundraising and Events

Back Up North West's cartoon character called Charlie