Plunkett UK’s latest research shows the largest growth in the number of community-owned businesses since the pandemic.

More new community-owned businesses opened across the UK, with Plunkett’s support, in the last calendar year than at any other time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic four years ago.

Data from our Impact Report shows a 4% increase in the sector, with 32 new entities resulting in a total of 787 community-owned businesses trading by the end of December 2023.

Looking over a longer time period, we are thrilled to share that the sector has almost doubled in the last ten years, with more than 350 new community-owned businesses opening.

We can also announce that, since the start of our current five year-strategy in 2021, growth in community-owned businesses stands at 7.6% (8.2% specifically for rural). Our ambition is to grow the sector by 20% by 2026.

In reality, very few businesses close once they are community-owned.

Against the odds, the five-year survival rate for community businesses remains an outstanding 99% – more than double that of small and medium-sized enterprises, which is 44% according to Office for National Statistics’ data.

The driving force behind every business is a group of dedicated people who are passionate about ensuring their rural communities are resilient, thriving and inclusive, aligning with our own vision.

Last year, community shares raised a total of £2.9m from 3,600 people to kickstart new businesses. Our research shows that 122,000 people have invested £55m into community-owned businesses throughout the UK as part of the democratic one-member, one-vote model we promote.

You can find other headline statistics about the state of the sector, taken from Plunkett’s comprehensive research, throughout the new Impact Report. We also highlight how we support businesses and how, in 2023, Plunkett UK received 424 enquiries and delivered 606 days of one-to-one support to 260 community businesses.

Impact areas

Our strategy includes five key areas to measure impact, and each of these are showcased in the report with explanations and insights from groups that Plunkett engaged in 2023.

For example, you can read about how Menter y Glan Ltd, a community pub in Powys, Wales operates a ‘farm to fork’ approach using meats, dairy products, vegetables and serving drinks from over 40 local suppliers.

There is also a case study of the Cleve Archers sports venue in South Gloucestershire, which is tackling climate change through environmentally sustainable initiatives, such as solar panels and introducing a wildflower meadow, as well as promoting educational awareness of renewable energy, working with local schools.

Find out more about Focus Easington, in County Durham, which has sympathetically modernised a Methodist Chapel to become an accessible, multifunctional community space in an area of high deprivation, and Upper Eskdale Development Group in Dumfries and Galloway. which runs a fully-inclusive hub that has a cafe, shop, space for groups to meet, and is a focal point for community development.

And meet Tilly Goodwin, whose confidence has grown through being supported to work at the Auctioneers Arms at Caverswall, a great example of an inclusive business environment by actively seeking to create roles for young people, through apprenticeships and working with the local college.

The 2024 Impact Report is generously sponsored by Blenheim, and its Chief Executive Officer, Dominic Hare, writes in the foreword: “We encourage community business leaders to make the most of the valuable advice and support available through Plunkett, and to seek Plunkett’s help every step of the way. You are not alone and are in very good company. We know Plunkett will continue to support new and existing businesses to navigate challenges, while advocating for better support for the sector.”

Join the movement: Become a member today

Why not join 650 individuals, community businesses and corporate partners and become a member of Plunkett UK? Your membership, which for individuals’ costs just £20 per year, will support our ambition to grow the community ownership movement across the nation.

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