Discover how our Business Support for Co-ops programme has helped a group of people to keep a much-loved shop and community focal point alive…
As well as being a traditional hardware store, York Supplies in Birmingham’s Kings Heath is a welcoming place where owner Jon Jaffa always goes the extra mile for his customers.
“I went in one day and said, ‘So, I’ve got this problem.’ Jon rubbed his hands together with glee – he loves helping people fix things,” said local resident Naomi Standen.
It’s this ethos that has made York Supplies much loved by local people. So much so, when Jon decided to retire in 2022, his customers didn’t want the store to be sold off to a developer. So they rallied round and formed a community benefit society (CBS) so they could buy it, run it and continue its valued presence at the heart of their community.
To help form a CBS and raise the capital to buy the store, the group sought help from the Business Support for Co-ops programme, delivered by Co‑operatives UK in partnership with The Co‑operative Bank.
They were awarded expert advice from co-operative adviser Jo White to help them navigate setting up the organisation and launching a community share offer.
“Jo steered us to create an effective business plan when we applied to the Community Ownership Fund (COF). She was invaluable and guided us in filling in their monumental 17,500-word application form,” Naomi explained.
The COF is a grant programme to help communities acquire valued assets deemed at risk. The group’s application was successful. They were awarded £250,000 match funding towards the purchase of the store, as well as a £50,000 revenue grant.
When it came to launching the community share offer, Jo’s expertise was once again invaluable. “The business plan had to be more detailed for this, so Jo helped us revise it so we could create an effective offer,” Naomi continued.
“She also helped us with a first look at our share offer document and other documents we had to produce.
“We’d applied to the Booster Fund and needed to get the Community Shares Standard Mark – the guarantee of a quality share offer. So she had a look at our application and gave us some guidance.”
To find out how the Community Shares Unit at Co-operatives UK supported York Supplies via the Booster Fund, see more of their story here.
The Business Support for Co-ops programme also awarded Naomi and her colleagues peer mentoring support from another community benefit society that had experience in buying a local hardware store – Havards in Newport, Wales.
Members of the York Supplies committee met two Havards directors on Zoom and talked through issues such as running the share offer, coping with crises (Havards’ COF money was delayed) and levels of interest payments.
“Through Havard’s advice, we decided to have a share save scheme as part of our community share offer. This enables people with limited financial resources to invest £100 in the offer by building up to this amount over the course of 12 months. We now have 25 people on the scheme who will be member owners.
“Havards have also shared some of their documentation with us, including their governance structure – and one of the directors stopped by for a coffee when he was passing through Birmingham!”
The store will be re-opening under new ownership early in 2024. “We want to retain the ethos and all the things the shop does,” said Naomi.
“We’re the first urban traditional hardware store in England to go through a process like this. It’s because the locals recognise the things the shop does. We aim to add and improve, not remove or replace things that people value.
“We are enormously grateful to Co-operatives UK for all their support in helping us retain this important asset to our local community.”