Thank you to all who have patiently waited for an update or proactively supported us throughout a very challenging time.
If it wasn’t for our deep respect for the community that we have loved being part of for many years and the moral obligation to our funders and the people who rely on the village shop we own and run, it would have been very easy to give up and close the shop.
We are sorry we have not been as open and forthcoming with news as we promised to be from the outset but we have been acting on advice from the police and our solicitors to deal with very serious harassment and limit the amount of promotion or public information we issued while they investigated and monitored what’s been happening, as it has not been directed just at us.
The funders who have been publicly supportive on social media or at public meetings have also been targeted and have been receiving threatening emails trying to frighten them into withdrawing their support and loans.
Despite all this, since our last update and meeting with funders in April, less than 10% of funders have raised concerns about their money to us or been involved in damaging social media debates.
Most of you need the shop to survive or you are well aware how much of the truth about us and our business has been distorted by people, some who don’t live in the village or even care if the shop survives.
We must admit that dealing with continual harassment and working ridiculously long hours for the last two years has taken its toll on us. We have been signed off work and had to take better care of our mental and physical health, which is why last month we had to move away from the village and reduce our hours in the shop.
This hasn’t however stopped us from facing our problems head-on and working hard.
We have been trying to raise sufficient commercial finance so we can repay all our funders earlier than planned to reduce the unnecessary trouble it has attracted. We have also continued to ensure our shop remains a viable, profitable retail business – thanks largely to our brilliant and very supportive shop team and suppliers.
This weekend we are back in the shop and doing most of the shifts, especially on Sunday, so if you use the shop this weekend you will see we are happy, still determined to keep going and very confident about the future of the shop and our business.
If everything had gone to plan since our last update we ought to have drawn down on a commercial mortgage and leased the shop to the local people who were very keen to run it long term. While none of this has happened yet, it is still possible and we have not given up on this being our ideal scenario.
The thing that has led to the greatest disruption to our plans has been a court case by a funder hanging over us even though we had already willingly paid them a significant sum of money a year earlier than it was due.
We did not provide a defence and we tried multiple times over the last six months to arrange an amicable meeting to resolve matters without going to court. We offered more early repayments to try to prevent what we repeatedly asserted was unnecessary and potentially very damaging court action for everyone involved.
They chose to ignore us and refused our financial offer preferring to go ahead with their action, which their solicitor said we would lose and would result in a court judgement that could prevent us from obtaining commercial funding to repay all our remaining funders.
In the months leading up to this court case their solicitor has also contributed to damaging media articles and social media posts and copies of his emails have been displayed in windows of non-funders houses in the village, spreading doubt about our finances and encouraging more funders to join his clients in legal action against us.
Our largest local funders have seen all the correspondence about this matter and a funder came with us to court to support us and witness proceedings.
Fortunately for all of us who have funded and supported us and this business, the judge dismissed this court action and the case was lost by the funder.
We can now bring all funders up to date with our plans for repayment of loans.
We will continue to treat all our funders equally and fairly and remain open to amicable conversations or professional mediation rather than legal action.
We will not be forced into prioritising individual funders again over the best interests of all our funders, even if people resort to bullying tactics or legal action.
We are repaying funders in the order that loans have become due, this is regardless of the size of the loan or people’s personal circumstances or their behaviour towards us. This is to ensure that everyone’s money is protected, the shop remains open for the benefit of the village and our business continues trading.
We are currently repaying loans from trading income and expect to have caught up with loan repayments that are overdue, without needing to borrow commercial finance, but we are still proceeding with an ongoing application.
The last resort for us would be to auction the shop. The damaging nature of the public sabotage prevented us from selling it through an estate agent and it has reduced the value of the shop asset since putting it on the market earlier this year.
If we draw down commercial funding or decide to sell the shop at auction, we would notify funders first and the proceeds would only be used to repay funders loans.
We are not making physical payments of annual interest payments (for loans not due until next year etc) as for the time being it will be added loans until it is prudent to pay it out. We will also not be able to repay any loans early for the foreseeable future. We will notify all funders if and when this situation changes.
Please be aware that despite our public requests for people to use their common sense and desist from publicly damaging us and the shop business on social media it has continued and so it cannot be a surprise or denied that this has impacted on us, funders and our finances.
We are planning with the support of our main funders to take the appropriate action to recover our losses and the damage caused by the harassment and defamation. Therefore, we cannot guarantee at this stage that any correspondence received or issued by the company can remain confidential if it is to be required by independent auditors or used in legal action as evidence to verify we have acted lawfully, truthfully and fairly in our business dealings.
Thank you to everyone who continues to support and fund us, we will continue to do our best and let you know when we have more positive news.
Trudy and Josh