Josh and I pride ourselves on being very transparent and collaborative entrepreneurs. We are the source of considerable enterprise opportunities and substantial support for our community and the vast majority of people are really supportive and behind us all the way.
Over the last year, since we launched our fundraising to invest in the community, we have also endured some really vindictive behaviour by a handful of people.
We completely expected to have our critics and are more than happy to openly answer any questions about us and our business honestly. But what these people have subjected us to is more serious than just a few people who doubt us or simply don’t like us. These people are deeply motivated to turn people against us – they want us to fail.
They’ve turned up at our early fundraising events purely to try and publicly humiliate us, when that didn’t work they went online to attempt to influence a wider audience that we are con artists.
Even though our fundraising and our business is very successful, the animosity is still happening in the background, in fact the better we do and the more we benefit the community, the more they seem to want to do to undermine us.
We would prefer to focus on our business and live in peace than have to repeatedly deal with this harassment – usually after we publicly share good news or our growth plans.
They have shared our business plans online in chat forums to the masses, as if they were exclusively exposing confidential plans – yet we had made them widely available in our community and displayed them in local pubs and shops, so hardly a secret. They have tried to discredit our social benefits and impact as faked and they claim this is not a community venture because it is a standard limited company.
We have been very open about this too, we are deliberately not legally structured as a social enterprise or charity, or a community organisation – so we can make money and return a profit without being slowed down by bureaucracy, but the company is run, owned and funded entirely by local people.
Despite these people being determined to sabotage us we’ve raised over £500,000 from local people and we have already repaid over £100,000, a year earlier than in our business plans because the shop is so successful – we have made over three times our estimated annual sales in just 9 months. We have no debts beyond our community funders. Our limited company owns the village shop premises without any debt secured upon it and we have no commercial funding.
This is a commercially viable business but it is also a catalyst for social change in this community. We are a small business that has spent over £150k with local independent businesses and provided new jobs for local people with lots of benefits such as being able to bring their children to work to save on childcare.
Our long term plan is to continue to run the shop as a profit making business, reinvesting the money to provide more useful services to the community and help for local small businesses to grow alongside us.
We have no plans to sell the shop or changing our social purpose and we also have no intention of moving from Newhouse Farm. We are living where we want to live and doing what we want to do with our lives.
With or without further community investment we are extending the shop, buying more property this year to run as incubator hubs for small businesses and creating sales generating activities with our enterprise hub.
As the shop has not ‘spectacularly failed’ as these critics predicted, they have now started focusing their attention on damaging our reputation as social entrepreneurs and raising doubts about the grant funding we’ve been awarded in the past.
This week we received this email from a concerned local pledger who is a friend of ours.
‘I am hearing rumours about your business some of which cause me concern. That you have had money for a bike scheme to be set up in Par and that this hasn’t happened and also that you have had funding to take guys in with early learning difficulties and that this isn’t happening . Perhaps to stop these rumours from spreading it may be an idea to put something in a news e mail out to all your investors?’
After we replied with a full account of the facts ‘Thank you so much for the information, I wasn’t questioning the marvellous work you are both doing, I was concerned about the possible damage these rumours could do to your reputation as there are people out there spreading them’.
So here are the facts if you have heard this latest rumour.
The bike scheme is fully operational, it has been run by Josh as his own project with help from local young people for over 2 years. He was grant funded first by myself (I have made the majority contribution of physical support and funding), Par Bay Big Local and UnLtd awarded him grants to support the project, after it was started. Josh has never taken an income or personally benefited from this project.
It has tangible assets worth more than the financial contributions he received from grants because he spent the money wisely over 2 years and added value to the business by collaborating with local organisations like Park Leisure who have provided a purpose built storage facility, their staff time and they do not charge the scheme for their support.
The sales income from this venture provides work for local young people, maintains the bikes and pays for new equipment.
It is totally self sustaining and requires no further funding to operate into the future.
The great benefit to this venture, beyond being useful as a bike hire scheme, is how it engages the attention of young people who are looking for work or advice help to start their own business. Over 50 young people have interacted with the scheme in 2 years and benefited from Josh’s entrepreneurial experience – http://parbaybikehire.com/
We have never ever received any funding to provide supported work for people with learning difficulties. However we do employ people with disabilities and provide paid work experience because like everyone we work with they earned their place on our team by being great people and hardworking – http://tywardreath.co.uk/meet-joe-stockroom-hero/
At Newhouse Farm we have helped start enterprising community projects from a nano brewery, beekeeping, archaeology and local social history projects and the bike hire scheme and all of them are thriving with lots of local people involved and very low expenditure.
We have never charged a local resident or community groups for anything we do at the farm. This has included free accommodation, use of business premises, our expertise and advice, event hosting, all refreshments, food, equipment, promotion, websites, social media activities and support we have provided for their micro ventures and community projects.
In conclusion – we have been advised to take legal action against the people who continue to harass and defame us but rather than waste our money and energy defending our reputation we have chosen to rely on our integrity instead.