Plymouth winners revelaed at M&S Community Business Challenge

Five inspirational community businesses shortlisted for the Plymouth M&S Community Business Challenge have been awarded with funds and business support at a showcase event at the Devonport Guildhall.

Marks & Spencer and Power to Change are working together to support community businesses to transform local economies by taking the Community Business Challenge around the country.

Following the launch of the Plymouth leg of the challenge in March this year, residents in Plymouth have been voicing their support for the shortlisted community businesses in the M&S store, on social media and online at www.communitybusinesschallenge.co.uk.

The finalists came together on 30th May to showcase their work to a prestigious judging panel made up of M&S and Power to Change representatives. Following inspiring pitches from all five community businesses, each of them was awarded as follows:

• Nudge Community Builders was awarded the maximum grant of £10,000 and business skills support. Nudge, which brings empty buildings back into use in Plymouth, will use support from M&S to help with business planning, visual merchandising and income generation at its converted market space The Clipper on Union Street. The £10,000 funding from Power to Change will be spent on improving the customer experience through a stronger visible presence, improved signage, outdoor seating and by ensuring the space is more welcoming for families.

Wendy Hart, Co-Founder at Nudge, said: “It’s amazing to have been awarded this grant and business support. The whole challenge has been a great way of showcasing the positive difference that community businesses are making in Plymouth.”

• Billy Ruffians was awarded £9,250 and business skills support. The business is a community-owned brewery based at City College Plymouth, and the support from M&S will go towards building its customer base and optimising the brewery’s supply chain. The grant from Power to Change will provide capital investment towards bottling equipment and EcoKegs so that Billy Ruffians can produce more great beer alongside creating social, environmental and economic impact.

Jack Witek, Co-Managing Director of Billy Ruffians, said: “We feel humbled and privileged to have received this support. It really energises us to build the business and take our plans forward.”

• Makers HQ was awarded the maximum grant of £10,000 and business skills support. The business is a textiles sampling studio in Stonehouse which provides training to members of the local community. The support from M&S will help to upscale production capacity and explore opportunities to make the business more environmentally sustainable. The grant from Power to Change will be used as investment in new industrial equipment, so that Makers HQ can support the growth of local textile and clothing businesses.

Sophie Glover, Studio Manager at Makers HQ, said: “It’s a real privilege to have been involved in the Community Business Challenge. This support is recognition of the great work we’ve already done at Makers HQ and the potential we have to grow the business further.”

• St Saviours, a new cultural hub and community space based at the church hall on the Barbican, will enter into a consultation with Power to Change to assess how the trust can provide funding and support for a planned asset transfer and renovation of the building.

Matthew Pontin, Director of St Saviours, said: “This support means a huge amount to us as we develop our plans for the building. We’re very proud to have been a part of the Community Business Challenge.”

• The Furniture Reuse Project received the maximum grant of £10,000 and business skills support. The business runs a store on Union Street, Stonehouse which collects unwanted furniture and supplies it to a wide range of customers, including people who have recently been homeless. The funding and support from M&S will help with visual merchandising, local marketing and digital media, and outreach to more people and charities in the local area.

Alison Turner, Chairperson of The Furniture Reuse Project, said: “This whole experience has been a great opportunity for us to get our name out there so that more people know they can come to us for help. The grant and skills support will help us to grow the service and support more people.”

The Community Business Challenge launched in the Liverpool City Region in 2018, as part of M&S’s Community Transformation Programme. The retailer is trialling a range of actions in cities like Liverpool and Plymouth to help tackle the issues that matter most to communities – such as unemployment, skill shortages, loneliness, mental health and wellbeing.
Following the Plymouth leg, the M&S Community Business Challenge will run heats in Bristol and Bradford later in 2019.

Holly Drew, Commercial Manager, M&S said: “This has been a great opportunity for community businesses across Plymouth and I’m thrilled that we have learnt about so many incredible ventures across the city through this process. It has been very heartening to see the engagement from customers and communities, as well as the community businesses themselves, and we’re proud to be raising awareness of some of the amazing work of the shortlisted businesses in our Plymouth store.”

Kate Stewart, Power to Change Director of Programmes, added: “This showcase event in Plymouth has provided a fantastic insight into the collaborative, creative projects that have communities at their heart across the city. The clear ways in which the community businesses supported each other through the whole programme reaffirmed that they were all winners and incredible assets to Plymouth. A huge thanks to everyone who took part and particularly to the Real Ideas Organisation who rolled out the challenge in the city.”