REBECCA Scott began her working life as a scientist but swapped the lab for a new challenge when she discovered the power of social enterprise to influence change.
It was while working in Vietnam that Scott stumbled upon KOTO, a street youth cafe in Hanoi.
"I started to see the power of hospitality to change lives," she says of the "powerful experience".
The 46-year-old set about adopting the model and bringing it to Australia where she believed there was an opportunity to help the growing problem of homelessness.
She officially founded STREAT in 2009, a small cafe chain aimed at helping homeless people find new hope.
It was registered as an Australian charity in 2009 and began in March 2010 with a small food cart at Federation Square. There are now four STREAT cafes across Melbourne, the latest opening in Flemington last month.
The business gives young people aged 16 to 25, who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness, the chance to undertake a six-month traineeship that includes youth support.
Ms Scott hopes the enterprise, which has already trained 46 people and sold 130,000 meals and coffees, will continue to grow and help 100 young people each year by 2015.
"You're trying to build a social enterprise that can keep on scaling and help more and more young people."
She says young people who enter the program have "almost been thrown on the scrapheap by society" and are most likely destined for long-term unemployment.
It has given her great pride to see the transformation in people when given a chance, and
many graduates have become full-time apprentices in some of Melbourne's best restaurants.
"We know that they couldn't have done that on their own," Ms Scott says.
"We always held the strong belief that these young people are capable of anything if they're given the right opportunity."
STREAT plans include opening two more cafes, expanding its fledgling coffee roasting company, and developing a training program in the area of prevention.
Ms Scott says buying a coffee from STREAT might seem like a small contribution, but if done enough times it goes a long way. "This little choice can bring about a phenomenal change over time if you keep repeating these small transactions. This is a customer-led homelessness revolution."
STREAT is at 307 Racecourse Road, Flemington.