Latest news about the shop and our social investment plans

tom-the-shop-dec-16

Tom Larkin and his shop

The shop is open normal hours 7am-8pm over the holiday, apart from Christmas day when we will open from 8am to 1pm.

We are running a competition to celebrate the community spirit of Tywardreath Village Shop, the entries so far reflect how important the shop is to local people and how happy they are it has been saved. We are going to find it hard to pick the winners on Christmas Eve!  If you want to enter the details are on this post, or by the till and displayed in the shop window.

If you’re one of the many local people who pledged or who see us regularly we don’t need to tell you how much time and effort we have put into making this venture a success.  From taking the bold decision this time last year to save the shop, to raising the money from just peer to peer loans, to buying the shop and supporting Tom to run it.  There’s no doubt we have all worked very hard to make this happen!  We are so happy and proud of what we have achieved despite the odds being very much against us in the beginning.

The challenging obstacles were only created by unnecessary bureaucracy or negative opinions.  We got through difficult situations with just our self-belief and the feeling that it would work out.  We ended up overcoming most issues with nothing more than common sense and being able to rely on the considerable trust we have earned from our community of friends, neighbours and small business owners to help us sort out any problems.

before-sept-16

The shop before we started running it

There’s very clear, palpable evidence that by prioritising our social impact as much as aiming to make a profit and involving the community in our fund raising we have ended up with a very special business that has already made a positive impact on the local economy and the wellbeing of local people.

If we had taken the conventional commercial funding route there is no doubt it would have cost us more and compromised our social impact activities.  We would not have proved how effective it can be to run a business with your community backing you. 

Very few people have ever done this and we suspect that it’s only worked because we are very different to most business people and surrounded by incredible people in a unique community.  At the very least it is inspiring for others to see it is possible and by sharing our experience we hope to encourage more people to think differently about social enterprise.

We set out to raise £2m to own Tywardreath Village Shop (and then buy Elmswood House) to expand our social enterprise activities and provide the community with useful products and services as well as long term financial and social impact benefits – from us being able to make the decision to fund local micro business owners with potential and providing the premises and support for them to flourish. 

We estimated that if we raised at least £500,000 from the community we could retain our independence and avoid turning to commercial investors, secured debt or finance from large organisations. 

This is what we achieved – to date we have raised £482,700 from peer to peer loans, and we have already repaid £55,000 in short term loans and interest to pledgers (who helped us with a bridging loan to make up the shortfall in pledged funds we had received by the 23rd of September deadline to complete the shop purchase). 

We don’t have any debt secured on the property, our suppliers are paid up to date and we don’t have any other finance arrangements in place apart from the peer to peer loans from pledgers.   

Our cash machine has been used over 4,000 times in 11 weeks.

Our cash machine has been used over 4,000 times in 11 weeks. Local people don’t need to walk down a long hill, catch the bus or drive to the nearest one now!

The improvements we have made to the look of the shop have cost us minimal amounts and it didn’t cost us anything to install the cash machine, card payments and till system.  The card machine costs us less than £30 in bank charges for more than £10,000 in till sales. The cash machine operator pays us a fee of a few pence every time it is used, even though it is free to our customers to use and we don’t pay bank charges to bank till cash.  This has earned us more than the card terminal fees have cost.

We have reinvested the shop income and pledges we’ve received since the shop opened into current assets, such as stock and the float we use to top up the cash machine that recirculates into our bank account within a week.  Before our 1 year of trading anniversary in January we will have repaid a further £55,000 from our trading income.

We can comfortably afford to repay the pledgers 6% interest from the profits we are making through just the shop and we are doing well enough to set a realistic value for the company when we are ready to start to issuing shares.  Only our pledgers will be offered the shares, but we are going to wait until after the New Year when we have been trading a year before considering starting to issue them. 

And we aren’t stopping at the shop. Now the building’s future has been secured and the business is very successful we are spurred on to do even more in Tywardreath in the next 12 months. 

Elmswood House

Elmswood House

Next we are buying Elmswood House to convert into a daytime café and meeting place for the community.  With the B&B rooms available, as they are now for holidaymakers and local visitors, and the business people who have booked our coaching and workshops in 2017 to see our social investment in action in Tywardreath. 

We are in a very strong position financially and Tom has proved he was absolutely the right person to run the shop.  We are looking for more good people to work alongside him so we can reduce our hours in the shop, then we can focus more of our time on Elmswood and delivering the coaching work we have put on hold while we help Tom.

Tom is doing all the ordering and overseeing the daily operation of the business.  We do all the accounts work, look after the building, the promotion and business development.  And lots of our local friends who run their own business have been working alongside us as suppliers or are physically helping us run the shop.

The shop was an overnight success, once the cash machine went in the turnover doubled and continues to grow every week, despite none of us involved having run a shop before it has been a resounding triumph!

Yet the shop was on the market for sale with no buyers and most local people feared it would close.  If we hadn’t followed our instincts and ignored the doubters our village shop might have closed after 50 years of being vitally needed.  How many other rural businesses could be saved if they were funded and supported by their community like us?

In the last month Lloyds bank have announced they are closing the St Blazey branch in March, even though local people know it is a vitally needed, busy rural branch and it is only being closed to improve the bank’s profits.  It might look better on their balance sheet to replace it with computer systems and reallocate the staff to larger branches but these people’s local knowledge and what they do to help local people will be lost forever, unless we do something about it! 

There’s no point trying to change the bank’s mind, the lease is up on their building anyway.  The only way is to find a solution which could be mobile banking services or even a community run bank!

The closure will have a direct impact on our business, firstly we bank with them and we have the closest cash machine to thousands of people who currently use the one at St Blazey Lloyds.  So our cash machine will definitely be used more often and whilst we could just change banks or drive to St Austell, or use online banking more and change our cash machine to managed and filled by the operator so increased withdrawals wouldn’t disrupt our cashflow. 

We would pay bank charges for banking our till cash and it will cost us more time to do our banking.  But what about all the older people and those on low incomes who rely on public transport?  The bank closure will have a far greater negative impact on them and make them more vulnerable. 

We are in a good position to do something about this.  We are talking to senior people at Lloyds bank and business people with FCA registration and experience in creating community banks. We have also applied for a Paypoint terminal for the shop and once we have dealt with their bureaucracy we hope in January we will be able to offer pension and benefit withdrawals, and payment facilities for all major utilities and council tax payments etc.

If we keep going with our community fund raising and stay independent of conventional commercial sources of finance we could quickly put a solution in place before St Blazey branch closes and accelerate our plans to expand the shop and offer banking type services on the premises. 

So we have decided to keep our fund raising open and continue to offer 6% interest on peer to peer loan pledges of between £50-£50,000.  It’s the simplest way for us to raise money and now we are more established we are able to offer new pledgers the option to withdraw funds after 6 months with a 30 day notice period. 

The feedback from most pledgers we have seen recently has been that although they know we can’t guarantee there is no risk, we have proved we are capable of doing what we set out to do, we own this building outright and it is more rewarding to see their money being turned into something useful for the village than it is sitting in a bank earning hardly any interest.  They can see it happening and we haven’t wasted money, they trust us to tell them if there are issues we can’t solve on our own, long before it becomes a major issue.

Most people seem happy to keep their money in for the long term and many people have pledged several times in the last year.  If they need to withdraw the money in the future they will give us plenty of notice. They want to either end up with shares in our business or see the properties in shared ownership with the community.

We are confident we can do more knowing we have your considerable support, if anyone wants to pledge funds now it will help us be ready in the new year to improve the shop and offer more services to make this community more resilient, before our local bank closes. 

However, if all you can do is keep supporting us by sharing our news about the shop and our fund raising, or just encouraging us and buying from Tom at the shop, that is all we need to keep going forward at this pace.

Thank you for all you have done by shopping here and showing your support, we hope to see most of you in the coming weeks, but if not have a wonderful time and you will hear from us after Christmas with more news about our activities in 2017.

Trudy and Josh
Hunter Grange Investments Ltd

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