The Power of Five

Climbing a mountain with Pret’s ex-homeless Rising Stars

20th July 2016

You wouldn’t know from the photo, but I’m pictured here with five extraordinary people. Each one of them has overcome incredible adversity, and gone from living on the streets to getting accommodation, a steady job, and beginning to rebuild their lives. It was taken earlier this month when I invited some of our Rising Stars (graduates of the Pret Apprenticeship Scheme for the Homeless) to climb a challenging mountain, the Grosser Rettenstein in Austria.

The warm-up hike with Victor, Lee, Pri, Aga, and Isobel

The warm-up hike with Victor, Lee, Pri, Aga, and Isobel

After a long hike and a tough scramble up the final 500 feet, four of the Apprentices were delighted to reach the summit, accompanied by our local guide. The fifth Apprentice, Isobel, suffered from dizziness and wisely decided to come down early. I have climbed the mountain before and was happy to accompany her. Isobel and I ended up talking about her life and experiences for many hours.

Just eighteen months ago, Isobel was living on the streets in Walthamstow. A charity worker introduced her to the Pret Apprenticeship Scheme and she now has a full time job in the kitchen of our shop at Stratford Station in East London.

A selfie halfway down the mountain

A selfie halfway down the mountain

As we made our descent from Grosser Rettenstein, I took Isobel through an exercise I have learned called "the Power of Five." I was taught this exercise by an executive coach and I was intrigued to see if it would help a Pret Apprentice as much as it helped me.

The exercise consists of coming up with five simple statements describing your life as you would like it to be in five years' time. Isobel took to it quickly, and within half an hour she had developed five statements about her desired life in 2021. I asked her permission to share them here and she has kindly agreed:

1.  To own or share ownership of a flat in London.
2. To develop my illustrating skills as much as I can.
3. To be a non-smoker who eats well and exercises regularly.
4. To have a stable and respectful relationship.
5. To be a General Manager of a Pret shop (or a good competitor).

I could feel Isobel growing in confidence as she narrowed down the five statements. That evening she told me that she was starting to feel a real sense of direction and purpose. Since returning from Austria she has already applied for a promotion at Pret that she previously thought she wasn't ready for.

Our intrepid hikers reach the summit with Giuseppe, Pret’s Apprentice Manager

Our intrepid hikers reach the summit with Giuseppe, Pret’s Apprentice Manager

The trip up the Rettenstein was an eye opener for all of us – the streets are now a distant memory for these apprentices. I can’t wait to see them flourish as Rising Stars, and how Isobel turns her Power of Five plan into reality.

Find out more about our homeless Apprentice Scheme here.

Tweet me your feedback @Cliveschlee


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Clive joined Pret as CEO in 2003.

He has over 25 years’ experience in the retail food business with Pret, Itsu and Jardine Matheson, the Hong Kong-based multi-national.

Say hello to @Cliveschlee

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Follow Clive for Pret company news (and views on the importance of good grammar).


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