Zest offers support and opportunities to people living in disadvantaged areas of Leeds. It aims to improve physical, mental, social and emotional wellbeing and runs a variety of community projects addressing issues such as social isolation and skills development. It has a particular focus on addressing health inequalities, as many residential areas in the vicinity are designated as 'food deserts' where the lack of healthy, fresh food being available has serious effects on residents' health.

Why the Weston Charity Awards?

Zest was facing substantial reductions in budget from local authority funded commissioning, even though their services are needed more than ever. It was looking to develop a new mixed model of funding for its work.

What we did

Early on, the project focused on clarifying the mission and aims of the charity, in particular on how to bring together the various community and healthy eating projects Zest provides.

Sustainable funding was a key challenge for the charity, so the Pilotlight team focused on creating a fundraising strategy that diversified the sources of the charity's income. As part of this new strategy it aimed to develop a cooking school as a social enterprise to generate funding for further project work. The Pilotlight team supported Zest with business planning in preparation for the school to open.


Zest now has a clear, unified understanding of its aims as a charity. Reviewing its mission and social objectives meant the trustees and staff team had broad discussions about their perspectives and ambitions for Zest, resulting in a better sense of engagement and motivation behind the charity as a whole.

In September 2017 Zest officially opened the Leeds Cookery School. Before working with Pilotlight Zest's leadership team was eager to move forward with the social enterprise but unsure how to do so, but after the marketing, commercial financial planning and leadership support offered by the Pilotlighters Susie Brown (Zest's CEO) now feels confident in this new enterprise and the team's ability to make it a success. The income the school provides will contribute to the charity's plan for mixed income, making it more secure and able to provide long-term, sustainable support to its community.

“Working with the Pilotlighters has given the Zest team confidence to think more commercially,” Susie commented, “we’re in a very different place now.”

Applications for the Weston Charity Awards will open again on Monday 3rd December 2018 and close on Friday 11th January 2019. Could your charity be a winner?