Heather  - Manager

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Heather started her career training as a chef at a hotel in Eastbourne. She then worked in Bexhill as a bakery assistant and cook. Her hobby of making and decorating celebration cakes turned into a successful business, with Cottage Cakes previously situated just across the road from where Strive Café is now.

More recently she has worked at St Mary’s School and College supporting young people with special needs, initially as care staff and then as interim Head of Care.

She was approached to manage the Strive Cafe project as her varied experience in both catering and special needs perfectly matches the role. Heather is excited about the managerial position which enables staff to offer a first-rate customer experience in the cafe alongside developing their own confidence, skill-set and career pathways.

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John - Cafe Assistant

John has many skills alongside his learning disability. He requires a supported work environment to give him confidence to make the most of his ability. He benefits from time and support to learn the routines and build his skills.

He is a very understanding and sociable person who relates well with people. Strive Café provides an environment where his strengths with customer service, food preparation and working the coffee machine can be put to good use.

He currently attends Little Gate Farm alongside his paid employment at Strive Café that has Job Coach support. He lives locally and loves a good coffee!

Other Learning Disability


Nat - Cafe Assistant

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Nat has benefited from special education providing support for his speech and language disorder, dyspraxia and associated difficulties. His progress at St Mary’s School and College in Bexhill led to three years specialising in hospitality at Foxes Academy in Somerset and Boveridge College in Dorset. He was student of the year at Foxes in 2018 and recently achieved a National Vocation Qualification  (NVQ) in hospitality.

Strive Café has enabled Nat to launch his career, using his skills and knowledge and working as part of a team to provide a first-rate customer café experience. He is delighted to be the first member of staff at Strive and is committed to the cafe's success. Nat is now quite expert at running the cafe.

Hayden - Cafe Assistant

Hayden recently joined the team as part of the government's Kickstart employment scheme. He is working 25 hours a week in the cafe, so you are likely to meet him when you call in. Hayden is autistic and he built his experience in catering and hospitality when studying and working at East Sussex College in Hastings. 

Hayden is involved in all areas of operations - everything including coffee, cooking, cleaning  and cashing up!           

Ex-Cafe Assistant

Ben was our first cafe assistant with learning disability to gain his first paid employment at Strive Cafe and then move on to alternative paid employment. Ben benefitted from Little Gate   


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Farm job coach support for some of his journey at Strive.

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Strive Cafe is always on the look-out to support individuals with learning disability in diverse ways in addition to providing paid employment to cafe assistants. Please contact us if you know of partnership opportunities or individuals with a talent that we could support, like Sam below.

Sam Kirimli Photography

Sam is a local prize-winning photographer with autism who came to our attention visiting the cafe as a customer taking some stunning photographs. He enjoys working at Friary Gardeners with the Parchment Trust. Sam has won many photography awards including 'Best overall' for Mencap's national photography competition.


We are delighted to promote his exceptional ability and offer him some work - many of the photos on this website have been taken by Sam.

A selection of Sam's photos are displayed in the cafe. Customers are able to purchase canvases, mounted prints and cards of his photographs.

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Planting in the Courtyard - Friary Gardeners

The cultivation of plants in our courtyard was developed in 2021 by gardeners (who have learning disability) in partnership with Friary Gardeners, part of The Parchment Trust.

Flowers and produce from the Courtyard will help make the courtyard look attractive, in addition to providing fresh herbs and produce for the cafe and creating meaningful horticulture opportunities for the gardeners. 


Directors of Strive Cafe are unpaid.

Their combined skills and experience

oversee the vision, strategy and business plan.

Mary Briggs - Director









Mary has broad experience in education and working with young people. Following a degree in English and Education at Cambridge University, she has taught and led in state, independent and international schools. Additionally she had a successful career in children's books including running her own business and working for a leading book publishing company managing the publicity and promotions of authors including Terry Pratchett and Jacqueline Wilson. 

Mary has recently focused on facilitating development of vision, strategy and business opportunities in education and disability organisations. She is currently trustee of SEN Opportunities, a charity supporting organisations involved in a broad range of special needs. She was previously chair of trustees of an independent residential special school.  One of her children has learning difficulties, especially in communication, speech and interaction.

Mary's focus for Strive Cafe is to provide expertise in business development and marketing and develop partnerships with national organisations.

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Sally Wickens - Director











Sally has varied catering management and special needs experience. She runs a successful and popular pub and restaurant in East Sussex.

She has a passion for supporting disability having fought tirelessly over the last twenty years to ensure her son is provided with the best possible environment to achieve his potential. Her understanding is also personal because of her severe dyslexia that was completely undiagnosed during her school years. Her success in work has demonstrated that in the right environment you can succeed.

She is trustee of a residential special school and has many contacts with local disability groups and organisations.

Sally's focus for Strive Cafe is to support the  cafe operations. She oversees quality control of customer service, catering, staff management, food hygiene and health and safety standards.

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Jamie Wickens - Director




Jamie is a Master Butcher having started his career as a Saturday boy aged 13. He runs a successful butcher and delicatessen (a haven for foodies) within the family pub and restaurant. He has a wide range of knowledge of food and wines and strong contacts within the industry. 

He has been a Sunday Times top ten butcher and won numerous awards for his products. His prize-winning sausages will be included in the Strive Cafe menu! 

Through the journey of his son’s education he has developed his interest in the outcomes of young adults with learning difficulties as they progress in to adulthood, a key strand of the cafe's mission.

Jamie's focus for Strive Cafe is  to monitor food quality, customer service and capital development. 

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Nicholas Briggs - Director









Nick is a graduate engineer and PWC trained chartered accountant whose experience includes working as Chief Financial Officer, Board Director and portfolio Finance Director for a range of companies, particularly in energy, engineering and product development industries. He has extensive experience of strategic, financial, legal and commercial operations. 

He has supported a variety of charities as Trustee. His interest in disability stems from one of his three children who has special needs, providing him with first-hand experience of the challenges and potential for success.

Nick's focus for Strive Cafe is to provide strategic, commercial, legal and financial expertise. Nick is driving our vision to create a sustainable break-even business model alongside the mission of providing paid fulfilling employment to staff with learning difficulties.

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