Chocolate maker, textile designer, chef… five Soho Chance winners tell us how far they’ve come
Our creative access programme is heading to New York. As applications open, last year’s mentees share their journeys so far
Wednesday 7 September 2022 By Anastasiia Fedorova
Sometimes an idea can change everything. Be it for design, the search for authentic flavour, innovative beauty treatments or any one of a thousand other new business ideas, being a creative entrepreneur involves trial and error, small victories and failures – and a great deal of resilience and passion.
Soho Chance (part of House Foundations) was established to help get those ideas, businesses and passions off the ground – to nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs working today to become the changemakers of tomorrow.
At Soho House, we believe that talent is distributed evenly, but opportunity is not. We want to use our platform to open doors for people from lower-socioeconomic and underrepresented backgrounds in the creative industries. Soho Chance is one of our creative access programmes. It invites emerging entrepreneurs to launch their project using the resources and infrastructure Soho House can provide.
Soho Chance offers emerging creatives the opportunity to develop a project in one of four areas: Food and Beverage, Design, Wellbeing and Creative. The winners receive mentoring, infrastructure and an opportunity to collaborate with our global team, along with access to our physical or digital spaces. Being open to a diverse range of businesses, we prioritise ideas that have a positive social or environmental impact.
Since its launch in 2021, we’ve run Soho Chance programmes in London and Chicago. Now we’re bringing Soho Chance to New York. As we eagerly await applications from one of the most wildly ambitious and creative cities in the world, what better time to look back at some of the past winners of the programme – and their journeys one year on.
Ranura Edirisinghe, textile designer
Winner of Design, London
Born in Sri Lanka and raised in the UK, designer Ranura Edirisinghe works across a range of disciplines with a particular focus on textiles, often drawing inspiration for craft, techniques and stories from his heritage. A graduate of London’s Central Saint Martins (where he was a recipient of the LVMH Grand Prix Scholarship), Edirisinghe is currently working with Soho Home to develop a textile collection that supports Sri Lankan artisans and puts rare traditional craft techniques at the forefront.
‘It was really important to me for the collection to be made in Sri Lanka to provide support and revenue stream for the local artisans,’ Edirisinghe explains. ‘We are working with batik dying, which is very labour intensive and you never know how the final result is going to look like exactly, which makes it unique.
‘Soho Chance, for me, has been a good education in terms of marrying my creative output with all the standards for a tangible product, like fire regulations and other practical criteria. The collection includes soft furnishings, and we’ve been working on combining natural materials with elements like lurex yarns which are very new for the artisans. We've made a selection of textiles and products, and we're at the sampling stage now – aiming to release the collection next year.’
Noor Freiha, founder of Kyoot chocolate
Winner of Food & Beverage, London
Former chemical engineer Noor Freiha’s lifelong obsession with chocolate led her to found her own contemporary, guilt-free take on the confectionary. Kyoot is a vegan, organic and gluten-free 70% dark chocolate bar, using all-natural, clean ingredients and eco-friendly packaging.
British Lebanese Freiha started the business by, in her own words, ‘putting her chemical engineering degree to use in the kitchen’ to come up with a perfect chocolate recipe. From its first iteration, Kyoot was a success among family and friends, encouraging her to take the idea to the next step and find Belgian chocolatiers who could match the quality, consistency and the taste of her homemade chocolate in larger quantities.
A member of Soho House since 2016, Freiha applied for Soho Chance upon the advice of one of House Managers she was friends with. Over the course of the project, she focused on rebranding the packaging in the style of ‘colourful 1970s bubble gum’. Kyoot is now currently stocked in all Soho House minibars, which has been a major step forward.
‘To get the Soho House listing and the mini bars was a huge thing which legitimised the business,’ she says. ‘We’re building a chocolate brand that speaks to creatives, and the Soho House audience is a perfect crowd for us. It also has allowed us to open conversations with other retailers.’
The next steps are the launch of two new flavours in September and plans to expand the network of retailers. For now, Kyoot is there to satisfy your midnight craving – with its vibrant flavours of vanilla quinoa pops and raspberry pink pepper, it might become your new obsession.
Stephen Sandoval, founder and chef of Sueños at Soho House Chicago
Winner of Food & Beverage, Chicago
Raised in San Diego, California, Stephen Sandoval has Mexican, New Orleans and Spanish roots – all of which have influenced his culinary journey. So far, Sandoval's quest to create robust flavours that give much-loved dishes a new life has taken him to Argentina, Mexico and Spain, followed by Chicago, where he worked at Rick Bayless’s wood-fire, seafood-focused Baja Mexican restaurant, Leña Brava.
Sandoval’s long-held dream to open his own space was given the opportunity to come to life, thanks to Soho Chance. Sueños (dreams in Spanish) offers a complex, enticing new take on Latin and Mediterranean flavours. Located at Soho House Chicago, it’s open five days a week, with brunch on Saturday and Sunday, as well as more upscale 12-course dinners twice a month.
‘I always had a dream to open my own spot, and part of that dream was being able to do those travels and really highlight some of my heritage,’ says Sandoval. ‘During the pandemic, I started doing private events for 14 guests and eventually went up to 22 guests. We got a lot of good publicity and were looking to open a brick and mortar. After one of the spots fell through, the Soho Chance opportunity came about – we applied and ended up winning.
‘It was the perfect platform for us. We hired an interior designer and I worked with a bunch of my artist friends to collaborate on some of the art that would fill the space. One of the most fun parts of the project was working with other creative, like-minded people. I was working on business plans for a restaurant, and this gave me the opportunity to really home in on one spot and actually follow through. It just gave us that sense of ownership and creating something that was always a dream.’
Chloe Levis, founder of Balm Wellness
Winner of wellbeing, London
Originally from Lancaster, Chloe Levis has always been deeply inspired by nature. After a few years’ working in acting and performance in London, she turned back to the calmer world of the northwest coast and the Lake District with a plan to focus on wellness and self-care. After training as a holistic therapist, Levis went on to create Balm Wellness, an eco-conscious wellness brand producing supplements and natural skincare.
As part of Soho Chance, she is currently developing a supplement blend of adaptogenic mushrooms for the inner ecosystem which supports naturally radiant skin – to be released as a collaboration between Soho Skin and Balm Wellness.
‘I make everything by hand at the moment, so it’s quite small-scale,’ says Levis. ‘Soho Chance has really given me an opportunity to expand and grow and see what the future of the brand could be.
‘Skin Shrooms is a powder blend that you would add into smoothies or sprinkle on food or add into your coffee. While developing the concept, we did a lot of brainstorming, competitive analysis and concept brief working towards launching the product next year.’
SoloSam, host of cooking show, House Special
Winner of Food & Beverage, Chicago
Cooking show and interview series, House Special – which is set for release this year – explores the intersection of food, art and creativity while highlighting unique personalities from Chicago’s creative scene. An acclaimed musical talent in both the Windy City and beyond, its creator, SoloSam, reveals that food and music have always been his main passions.
‘Early in my music career I realised how food occupies the same space that music does in my mind,’ he explains. ‘A song is very similar to a recipe and both of these forms of art take time and patience to develop artistic intuition.
‘Soho Chance has helped me build a show that puts that belief on the main stage and will allow viewers to have an inside perspective to this ideology. The programme has given me an opportunity to bring my concept of an interview series to a larger platform.
Do you have a business idea? There are four categories to apply for at Soho Chance NYC:
Design or sell a product with Soho Home
Start a new content idea with our creative team
Put a food and beverage product in our Houses
Interior design a space in one of our new sites
Soho Chance is one of our creative access programmes. As stated in our ESG report, by 2030, our goal is for 5% of our annual Soho House membership intake to be part of one of our creative access programmes. You can read more about all of our ESG goals and the progress we’re making towards them in our 2021 ESG report.