February was an incredibly productive month that has once again exceeded all our expectations. The shop is going fantastically well – it is making more money and lots of friends!
For the last couple of weeks I have also returned to delivering my corporate coaching work, which is not only bringing in valuable sales income to the company, it’s also created a lot of interest from my clients wanting to learn more about what we do in Tywardreath.
Being around top executives again has made me realise some important things that I need to share with you in this update, regarding our business, our connection to the community, and the opportunity we all have ahead of us.
One year ago Josh and I set out to raise the money to save the shop, alongside growing our coaching retreat business and social enterprise activities in Tywardreath. Rather than accept a £2m corporate investment, we turned to our community to help us raise the start-up capital and buy the shop premises.
We were right to believe in local people and put our community first in this venture. It has done more than just raise the money to buy the shop and turn the business around. It’s given the village something to be very proud of making happen and it is a real catalyst for change.
It is a massive achievement to have got this far with a strong sales income each month and no commercial borrowing or outside investment. But the reality is that the shop has grown so rapidly in the last month and is now underfunded by the community in order to support the speed of growth and meet demand.
We urgently need to make some very big decisions that will shape the long term future of this venture. We want your help and involvement in this, but we need to act now.
We aren’t even into the tourist season yet and the shop has earned more in 5 months than its previous annual turnover. One of the main reasons for this success is due to us having a cash machine. Since we installed it over £250,000 has been withdrawn and repaid into our bank, so just having this valuable service requires us to manage a lot of money.
In the last week there has been a sudden increase in withdrawals from our cash machine, as we predicted would happen when the local bank in St Blazey closed. This has tripled the float we now need to hold in our bank account in order to avoid the machine running out or disrupting the shop’s growing footfall.
To retain our independence and enable us to deliver the maximum value back to local people, we can keep focusing on increasing shop sales and raise more peer to peer funding from local people.
Alternatively, we can concede and accept that we need commercial investment to bring in outside expertise and financial backing to take this business to the next level – in order to avoid lowering our aspirations and limiting our opportunities.
This doesn’t mean we want to or will sell-out to a corporate body and sacrifice the benefits we can bring to Tywardreath. We genuinely love living here and want the best for our community. We don’t want to deviate far from our original business plan, purpose and vision. Especially now it’s no longer a plan – it’s happening for real. You can see we are doing what we set out to do and it is working extremely well!
What we are running is much more than just a village shop, or a community venture, or even a coaching business. What we are capable of doing as a community has greater potential – it is genuinely useful and it is making money. The shop alone is on track to turnover the same amount in its first year that we anticipated from all of our activities, including coaching and residential courses.
We have distributed over 3,000 leaflets locally about the shop and why we need people to pledge so we can do more to support the talented people of Tywardreath to start their own business or work alongside us. It’s helped to increase awareness and sales in the shop and plenty of local people have told us that they love what we are doing and want to pledge, yet only a handful have actually made a pledge this year.
At the same time, our corporate coaching clients and business people who have read our story online are actively approaching us about investing or collaborating with us to inject some capital into our venture.
We would much prefer it if local people were our main funders, as it makes it simpler for us to just get on and run this business to solely benefit our community. If you think there is more we can do to raise more local pledges then I am very open to hearing your ideas or solutions.
However, my gut instinct is telling me that if we wait for funding from local people, I could risk sabotaging the business.
Therefore, next week I am going to London for 4 days of exploratory meetings about taking this business to the next level, with the business people who want to help us grow. We have already secured over £1.3m to draw down when we purchase property and we are now discussing an offer of an additional £3-5m investment over the next 5 years, so that we can invest in the shop and more local micro ventures, and expand our coaching work.
I will keep you updated on our progress with raising the funds for the next exciting phase of our business plans. If you want to ask me anything about this I will be in the shop on Sunday, and as always, I’m always open to hearing your thoughts and ideas.
Hunter Grange Investments