Over a hundred people gathered at Totnes Civic Hall on Thursday May 12th, for a day supporting local social enterprise at the Local Entrepreneur Forum, hosted by Transition Town Totnes’ REconomy Project. After two inspiring speakers, including the new CEO of Dartington Hall Trust Rhodri Samuel, and an afternoon of discussion and networking, it was down to business and the Community of Dragons, where local people invest time, money and skills into local ethical businesses.
There were four people pitching for financial and practical support this year, from Iola Weir’s theatre arts start up and her vision to create local livelihoods amid a flourishing regional arts and culture scene, to Sima Cutting’s Totnes-based and expanding sustainable catering company The Kitchen Table that supports local producers and raising awareness of important food system issues, to Marie Franco and her expanding horsemanship training practice that offers a range of services supporting the use of horses in agriculture, health and care. Last but not least came Jack Skuse’s ‘Share in a Sheep’ scheme at Lower Sharpham Farm, a not-for-profit running UK and European training projects that help people achieve their goals for nature, science, education and employment.
Each of these projects aims to contribute positive impacts to the local community in a range of ways, from providing worthwhile employment to training opportunities, to decarbonising agriculture to providing an ethical and localised alternative to catering large and small events.
The fine detail of the pledges is still being gone through, but at a rough estimate, overall a total of 75 ‘investments’ were made, including 16 investments to this year’s pitchers from current/past pitchers. Nine ‘friendly & patient’ loan offers were made, totalling £4,000, a sum that is expected to go up substantially after follow up conversations. Gifts of money to the tune of £1,850 were also made. Fourteen ‘share in sheep’ memberships were pre-sold, guaranteeing Jack £1,400 in pre-sales. Six days labour worth approx £600 were offered, as well as 26 offers of networking, promotion & collaboration worth approx £1,000, 16 hours of professional services worth approx £1,000. There were seven offers of equipment, either loaned or gifted, worth approx £2,000. And then there were all the hours of unpaid time that went into organising the event, totalling about £1,250, which doesn’t include the volunteer time given on the day itself, as well as an approximate value of £5000 in non-financial gifts. Bringing a preliminary total of £18,100+ investment into the local economy.
Previous projects have raised £70,000 as a direct result of pitching at the LEF, and indirectly a couple of hundred thousand have been raised, in a combination of loan, equity, grant, pre-sales, and gift. ‘Investments’ have also included offers of non-financial support, including professional business services, legal services, marketing and communications, advertising, video and radio production, mentoring and coaching, use of buildings and office space, use of land, labour, fruit trees, mulch, horse paddock, lunches, home-cooked meals, and much more; all gifted but worth thousands of pounds, and all representing an investment in the growth of the South West’s new economy.
Overall a great result for all concerned, including our local economy. Jack Skuse summed it up by saying “We’re delighted with the pledges and have started the follow up. Nearly two weeks on and the glow of the LEF still shines – a great network and positive conversations that will I’m sure lead us further along our respective paths. For me its about developing a network with the local community and widening the opportunities for our team at the farm as well as ever important revenue; I feel we developed these at the LEF.”
For more information on this, and on plans for the next Local Entrepreneur Forum in 2017, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org