Previous Award winners

Showcasing our 2018 Award winners to provide inspiration for those entering this year’s Awards

Ashwater Village Shop, Devon

‘Investing in Local People’ Award winners 2018

Ashwater Village Shop’s staff consists of a paid Manager, part-time Post Office staff and a host of volunteers who give their time and energy throughout the week and weekends. The volunteers help ensures that the shop is open 364 days a year and is only closed on Christmas day. The team feel they ‘go the extra mile’ as having a good, reliable network of volunteers means they are usually aware if someone is ill or unable to get to the shop in order to deliver goods directly to them.

Social media has increasingly become a big part of the community shop. Facebook is a useful tool which enables the team to advertise produce, but has now evolved into much more. They regularly update any changes that happen during the working day, share events and needs from other community groups, from the football club to the PTFA. In essence, the community is working as a team to support and champion each other’s causes.

The community is very important to Ashwater Village Shop, and is a thread running through every part of the village. They do as much fundraising as possible, for both the shop and causes close to the hearts of the community. Last year, the team held an event called ‘I’m a Local Celebrity’ raising money for two young girls that had lost their lives to cancer. For both the shop and community, support is a two way street.

“The three of us kind of fell into the role of fundraisers for and on behalf of the shop. After the first local celeb event we were addicted! It took pressure off the main committee to organise events and we enjoy it so much it would be hard to hand the baton to anyone else now. The three of us just click, we all have our own strengths and when one of us comes up with the next idea, the other two do their best to support that idea. For some reason, we have been nicknamed the ‘mischief makers’ and are quite chuffed with that!”

Rachael Martyn, Ashwater Shop Committee

Our judges felt that their story is all about the concept of protecting what matters most. The village is truly reflecting this ethos and the shop remains at the heart of the community. The social connections created and nurtured by this community shop were notable, and overall it was a stand- out story. The shop is clearly the centre of the community in times of crisis and captures what a community shop is truly all about.

Bigton Community Enterprise, Shetland

‘People’s Choice’ Award winner 2018

Rick Nickerson rallied the community of Bigton to investigate the possibility of running the local shop when it came up for sale 7 years ago. The shop had previously been operated as a private business, leasing the building from Shetland Island Council. Rick has been the Chair of the Management Committee and also acts as a volunteer, serving in the shop. It is because of Rick’s unfailing commitment to the Enterprise that they have a functioning shop that provides provisions for locals, tourists and a Post Office. The shop is also able to employ 3 part-time employees and 3 young people in out of school hours.

Rick supports every aspect of the business. He ensures every application is made to ensure the shop is a modern functioning shop that is accessible to all. Rick has been supportive in the shop being Dementia Friendly and supporting the present work being undertaken to make it Autism friendly. The shop has been complimented in being a wheelchair accessible shop. He further campaigned in keeping the Public Toilets open, which are situated directly opposite the shop. The shop presents few challenges for the visually impaired. Rick has provided Leadership that has enabled others to be involved. His enthusiasm and drive and volunteer role as a shop assistant have been the undoubted reasons that Bigton has a shop. Rick has also been the community councillor for quite some time.

Rick Nickerson was the individual in the community who had the insight and drive to see the potential of the local community owning the local shop. A few quotes from visitors include; “What a wonderful shop in an unexpected place” and “A great shop loaded in a great place with great stuff.” These quotes indicate that people from outside Shetland do not necessarily expect us to have a shop.

Rick has the insight and drive to see that there was the possibility of having a viable business in a village of 110 households. We are situated 18 miles from the main town, in a recognised area of scenic beauty which attracts many people from afar. The demographic of the village is mixed with a number of older people who are unable to access the town stores and rely on the community shop for their provisions. Rick has spearheaded the improvements that have been undertaken in the upgrading of the Post Office and the tarring of the forecourt. This, again, brought together the community as the appropriately skilled members of the community gave their time to help spread tar and re-wire the shop.

Dunbar Community Bakery, East Lothian

Horace Plunkett ‘Better Business’ Award winners 2018

Dunbar Community Bakery was one of the first community businesses to be established by local residents via a community share offer. By putting forward the bakery for this Award, the team were looking to celebrate both its longevity and resilience, as well as its underlying values of sustainability and collectivism.

As a community business, Dunbar Bakery has shown a resilient approach to day-to-day business, using the community business principles to provide a sustainable local food service. As each year passes, the team are becoming more confident about their long-term future as a financially sustainable High Street business that provides benefits for the community.

In the first three years of trading, the bakery incurred cumulative losses. Running costs were too high and the trading boost from appearing in Britain’s Best Bakery in late 2012 was not sustained. The Management Committee set the objective to generate a surplus cash revenue to cover loan repayments and asset replacement.

In addition to the appointment of the new Bakery Manager, the main reasons for the turnaround in the Bakery’s financial position (2015-17) are:

  • The return to 6-day opening
  • Introducing a broader, more affordable product range including a new range of savouries and cakes and hot food and filled rolls
  • An expanding wholesale business for our breads reaching a wider range of retail outlets in East Lothian

Listening to feedback from customers has been critical to driving changes in the range of products offered by the Community Bakery. This change had to be balanced with maintaining the use of quality ingredients in sweet and savoury baked products and introducing the use of locally produced and milled bread flour.

The setting up, running and revival of the Bakery’s fortunes has largely been down to its volunteers and shareholders. A core group of volunteers provide the Bakery with a reliable workforce of regular drivers for daily morning deliveries. This is made possible by building a team of regular volunteer drivers who donate their time, cars and petrol to the community business.

Volunteers are also essential to the Bakery’s presence at the major community and tourism events held in the summer months when local businesses are able to have market stalls. In addition to providing the initial funding to set up the Community Bakery, shareholders have continued to provide funding in the form of donations and loans to support unanticipated maintenance costs.

As a community business, the bakery has an ambition to remain as a resilient, sustainable and profitable High Street business where any profits are ploughed back into the community. By providing the local population with fresh, nutritious daily bread, ensuring zero food waste and by working with other local food businesses and initiatives to source local ingredients. The vision is of a community bakery in Dunbar acting as a force for good; helping build a positive future for the community, supporting a vibrant and thriving High Street, and enabling the local production of wholesome and nutritious food.

The judges recognised that this community business has done a magnificent job in turning around the business. They took an honest look at their business model and made the necessary changes to improve turnover and profit. Their changes were rooted in a robust business assessment. They haven’t changed their vision, but adapted how they do business. Their resilience is helping them overcome adversity. It is a story that is showing turn-around story for the business and they are demonstrating clear financial progression.

Hampstead Norreys Community Shop, Berkshire

‘Diversifying to Make a Difference’ Award winners 2018

Recycling of plastic in the shop’s area  is limited to bottles only, so almost all plastic used goes to landfill. In January 2018, all volunteers and shareholders were emailed with an invitation to an open meeting to discuss how the shop could reduce its environmental impact. Eight months on, that enthusiasm and determination is still very much evident.

To date, the shop has:

  • Sourced and introduced a range of eco-friendly products including shampoo bars and beeswax wraps
  • Reviewed practices, introduced recycling where possible and reduced usage of single-use plastic
  • Researched alternatives to disposable cups, cutlery, serviettes etc.
  • produced educational material to inform villagers of different types of plastic, and the cost implications of changing current practice
  • Created an external sign showing cyclists that the shop can fill water bottles for free
  • Introduced ‘eco-bricking’ – plastic bottles are filled with waste plastic that can’t otherwise be recycled. The bricks will be used as building blocks, covered with cob and used to build a snake-shaped bench at the local primary school

At the shop’s summer market, the team produced a display of different types of plastic with customers engaged and reflective about the content. A large quantity of goods were sold – beeswax wraps sold out in the first hour, with orders for 15 more packs received. Their approach is to encourage the community to make suggestions about how to become more sustainable. Although not all suggestions are viable, levels of interest remain relatively high.

Many customers have expressed surprise that, despite being a small shop, they are actively promoting sustainability and a few visitors from far-flung areas have sought advice as to how they could instigate projects of their own. Those who are already eco-bricking are amazed at the quantity of plastic they use: it is easy to dispose of it unthinkingly.

The newly formed sustainability group first met in January 2018 and have been active since then, meeting every two months or so and working hard between meetings to promote the eco-friendly agenda. The team aimed to educate and to promote newly acquired products. Since then we have been working hard to maintain a high profile and to promote our goods and our eco-bricking initiative. Although we have been active for only 9 months, we believe our story is worth hearing. Our hope is that other community shops and businesses will be inspired to do something similar.

Firstly, it is about minimising the impact the shop has on the environment. What they do is to minimise the amount of waste that goes from the shop to landfill by reviewing operations and by introducing ways of using that waste in innovative ways. Secondly, it is about enhancing points of difference for the shop. The café has been a huge success in terms of ensuring the viability of the business, with understanding that retail requires continual positive change. The third aspect is about community. The eco-bricking initiative is by the community for the community and all ages are involved. Villagers can immediately understand how children will benefit, and they know the shop is the driver for the project.

The judges admired the educational side to the application’s highlighted activities. The eco-bricking project is achieving significant impact and bringing the community together. Being eco-friendly is top of the shops agenda and is a way of involving young people in addressing a national narrative. They recognised that this is an educational activity that is intergenerational with a clear strategy on the impact you want to achieve through the shop.

Slapton Community Shop, Devon

‘Community Story of the Year’ Award winners 2018

This tight knit community came together in November 2016 when the owners of the only village shop announced their retirement. Operating from the same location for over 100 years, there was resounding support for a new shop to be opened. Once again, the village came together and provided many volunteers to take this task forward. Finding a permanent location by the target date was not going to be possible but a temporary site was located at the end of the Village Hall car park on land half owned by them and half by the Field Studies Council who gave the shop a lease for two years with the expectation that a permanent site would be found by then. Neither landlord asked for rent and the Village Hall allowed the shop to connect to their water supply, electricity and use of their toilets and WiFi.

Slapton Village has a population of approx. 500, and despite having an ageing population it is a thriving village with two well-supported pubs and 17 community groups. The range of skills within the community is vast, from retirees who are builders, engineers, architects, plumbers, designers, gardeners, doctors, artists, lawyers, and teachers – the list is endless, and all have the same purpose – to build and maintain a well-supported village shop.

The shop’s link with the nearby Field Studies Centre is symbiotic. Most of the work done by students there is outdoors, and in all weathers, so healthy appetites abound. The income derived from the students is necessary and welcome, and the shop provides the Field Centre with a “tuck shop”. The students who visit change each week and come from all over the world bringing a taste of different cultures and a love for life to Slapton.

The volunteers are the real characters in this story. They cover a huge age group, the oldest being in their 80’s. The social experiences, meetings with others and getting to know other villagers better is profound and enriching.

In February 2018, the community faced the Beast from the East. Not only did it bring snow, but it washed away the road along the sea which connects Slapton to Dartmouth. With the loss of the road came the loss of other services, placing a new strain on residents who have to travel through small lanes which they are sharing with delivery trucks, tractors and heavy traffic. The snow stopped all deliveries and, for good measure, the water pipes froze and broke. Members of the shop team drove to Kingsbridge, and brought back supplies of essentials including bottled water and the shop stayed open. The shelves were bare by the time deliveries could resume, but the village had been sustained by the efforts of the volunteers.

Our judges felt that their story is all about the concept of protecting what matters most. The village is truly reflecting this ethos and the shop remains at the heart of the community. The social connections created and nurtured by this community shop were notable, and overall it was a stand- out story. The shop is clearly the centre of the community in times of crisis and captures what a community shop is truly all about.

Talking Shop, Oxfordshire

‘The Little Things’ Award winners 2018

Talking Shop started in 2011 as a weekly market, to build experience and raise funds for a local shop. In a village that had lost its school, pub and post office, this was needed as much for the social hub as for the shopping. The market created a new vital focal point around which the local community came together:

  • Volunteer pool grew five fold to over 100
  • Generated £20,000 as seed funding to enable the redevelopment of the village hall and for Talking Shop

At the end of November 2016, the potential of a community shop was turned into a reality and Talking Shop opened its doors. Talking Shop provides:

  • Bottomless cups of tea and coffee, so people know they can stay as long as they want without spending more than £1
  • Serve a range of healthy, home-cooked food at low prices
  • Ensure shop staples are available at supermarket prices
  • Diverse teams of 3-5 volunteers work with the manager at any one time ensuring a friendly, chatty atmosphere
  • Managers meet regularly with local people and other community groups to identify people who are isolated and not accessing the space
  • Offer regular mental health awareness training

As well as the community shop, café and Saturday market, they are an umbrella under which local people can start up groups or activities for the benefit of the community. From Talking Shop, volunteers run:

  • A bike mechanic team providing bike check-ups and basic repairs at great prices to keep local bikes on the road
  • A Knit & Stitch drop in session every Monday in the café
  • Weekly table tennis sessions, with the team offering support every week
  • A gardening team who work together in the small garden every Monday
  • A lunch club for the elderly, cooking a delicious two course hot meal for 30+ lunchers every month
  • A monthly ‘pay what you can’ food surplus café, where a team of volunteers rustle up a feast from food surplus collected by the Oxford Food Bank
  • A Good Neighbour scheme

Struggling to find ways to meet people in the local community, a group young mums conducted a door-to-door survey exploring demand for a local shop. Visiting 131 houses, speaking to 344 people revealed that 94% wanted a shop and 49% of households were interested in volunteering. A steering group was built from those visits, a public meeting was held in January 2011 and the Saturday market and breakfast cafe was established with a volunteer team of 20 in April 2011.

The Saturday market was an instant success; the community clearly needed a hub where people could meet each other, find out what was going on locally and just have friendly company. It became the heart of the community and the team knew they needed to create something to offer people through the week and something sustainable for the community for the long term.

Since then, the shop team have been working hard to ensure any barriers are removed to people coming in. They are continuing to explore what people would like on offer and make it a valuable drop in for residents who remain isolated in the community.

The team have seen first hand how easily someone’s circumstances can spiral downwards and how vital a supportive network and the kindness of other people is when that happens. The village had become a dormitory community, somewhere that people slept but that they left each day to work, socialise and shop elsewhere. There was no route in for people to meet each other, nowhere local to pick up essentials or share a conversation. In Talking Shop, there is something owned and shaped by local people and with a diversity of people behind the counter.

With an above-average adult population with mental ill health, the community felt the effects of ignorance about mental health perhaps more strongly than others. Over the past few years, the team has worked hard to break down barriers through mental health awareness training, shaped support for volunteers to ensure that everyone can work at their own pace and offer everyone respect in Talking Shop.

Our judges felt that this application showed an impressive awareness and understanding of the issues facing members of their community in terms of loneliness and isolation. There is a financial awareness in the activities they offer and the committee and management actively ensure that finance is not a barrier to accessing a range of activities that encourage community inclusiveness. The success of this application was marked by the fact that all the judges now have Talking Shop on their ‘must visit’ list!

Put your community business forward and tell us about the good work you’ve done by completing our application form by 18 October

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