Businesswoman hopes OBE will bring further credibility to cafe

Ms Davina Tanner has won an OBE for her social enterprise with Norwich Prison, Cafe Britannia. Pictu

Ms Davina Tanner has won an OBE for her social enterprise with Norwich Prison, Cafe Britannia. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Photos

A Norfolk businesswoman who opened a café employing ex-offenders has celebrated being made an OBE at her medal collection ceremony last week.

Davina Tanner – entrepreneur, property developer and one-time general manager of Chapelfield shopping centre – was placed on the honours list in January and took her three best friends to London to receive the medal.

Ms Tanner left the shopping centre in 2013 to open Café Britannia, a social enterprise which employs inmates of Norwich Prison and ploughs profit back into the business and other charitable causes such as the Norfolk Foundation Trust.

Having opened the café on a shoestring of £20,000, including her own personal savings, Ms Tanner said it had been 'a bit of a monster of a project' at times – and was amazed to have received the royal recognition.

'This lends credibility to the café and the work it's doing,' said Ms Tanner, whose joint project with prison governer Will Styles sees re-offending rates reduce from the national average of 58pc to about 5pc.

'I feel so privileged and honoured to have been given it.

'I bought a new dress and a new hat for the day.'

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The social enterprise was given a year by previous justice minister Chris Grayling to prove itself after opening in 2014, and in its first year has turned over £450,000, with a projected £800,000 for this year – bringing hope it can pay off its debts.

'I'm a businesswoman at heart; I do work really hard,' said Ms Tanner. 'But I believe most people want to be law-abiding citizens. Prison is there to be punish, but it should also give people the skills to be useful again.'

The appeal of entrepreneurship is catching on among some of the cafe's employees, she added – with one prisoner who first went in at the age of 20 hoping to starting his own business soon after more than 18 years inside.