The Dacon Trust is a charity that provides people with learning disabilities a range of opportunities to gain purposeful work experience and training together. They have two operational bases – Level Best Art Café in Colchester (opened in 2008) and the Oasis Café in Manningtree (opened in 2013).

The training revolves around four social enterprise projects: Dacon Bake, Seasonal Produce, Horticulture and ArtCo.

  • Dacon Bake – Catering and running the café
  • Seasonal Produce – Making jams, chutneys, fruit cordials and gifts for special occasions
  • Horitculture – Growing produce on their allotment and working with park rangers
  • Artco – Art and design projects and the running of their art gallery

They currently provide training to over 70 trainees a week, supported by 12 staff members (full and part time) and two volunteers.

Level Best Art Cafe winter show

Invest ESSEX property search assistance

The property Dacon Trust operates in Colchester (Level Best Art Café) was coming to the end of a 10 year lease. The board of trustees were keen to find a property in Colchester which they could buy and would become their new Colchester base.

Invest ESSEX’s ERDF funded advisors were contacted to help with the property search and with accessing funding streams to financially support the new project.

Invest ESSEX has been a source of great support and knowledge. It has facilitated us to network with like minded charities and explore ways in which we may be able to work in partnership. Through their marketing contacts and knowledge of funding the on-going support of Invest ESSEX will be invaluable as we move towards opening a new service.

Alison Ling
Level Best Art Café

How Invest ESSEX has helped the Dacon Trust

As well as assisting the Dacon Trust with new premises, the charity met with Invest ESSEX SME Business Manager, Dave Watson, to discuss the Dacon Trust as a whole.

"Dave fully understood the needs of the Trust and what they were looking for support with. Dave came prepared to the meeting having researched about the Trust and what their current assets were. This made the meeting run really smoothly."

Alison Ling
Level Best Art Café

Through discussions with the Invest ESSEX SME Business Manager, together they identified land assets that the Trust had that could be better used to benefit the Trust. Dave put Dacon Trust in touch with another charity who were looking for land in Essex and whom the Trust continue to be in discussions with.

Dacon Trust are still in talks with regards to use land by another charity. The trust purchased a new property and they will be seeking support from Invest ESSEX to apply for funding to assist with this.

Level Best Art cafe allotment with kids

Invest ESSEX also facilitated one of Level Best’s team to attend a Social Media course that Invest ESSEX were running

"The staff member who attended the social media course has grown in confidence in their use of this. They have created events to publicise what we’re doing, started an Instagram account which is widely followed and has a better understanding of how to use Twitter and Facebook."

Alison Ling
Level Best Art Café


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Business support

Invest ESSEX helps companies to relocate or expand in Essex. Our work is delivered by the Let’s Do Business Group and is jointly funded by Essex County Council (ECC) and the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

For more information on how we can support your business, see here: SME Support page