Community Turns Out to Support Local Entrepreneurs

by Tom Quayle

This year, we ran the 8th annual Community of Dragons in Totnes and helped pull off the first ever Local Entrepreneur Forum, including the Community of Dragons, in Torbay. These are exciting and important events helping build a more socially just and environmentally friendly economy.

In Totnes, on May 16th, the ballroom of the Royal Seven Stars was absolutely packed with people from the community looking to invest their time, money and skills with four local entrepreneurs who were pitching for support.

We had Chris Smith from New Futures Academy, aiming to give local young people the skills for a sustainable future through a range of short courses and full time further education. Rachel Phillips and Mark O’Connell from the Apricot Centre were hoping to get support in enabling them to better provide wellbeing services in their woodland for children and families experiencing difficulties. Melissa Milne was hoping to go full time with her business Melbee Artworks providing upcycling workshops and artistic services for the local area. Last but not least Dan Mifsud from the Dartington Mill was aiming to be part of a local food revolution, taking wheat in from local farmers and producing flour for local bakers. The latter is a promising legacy of the Grown in Totnes project.

Each of these projects aims to contribute positive impacts to the local community in a range of ways, from providing wellbeing services to educational opportunities, to decarbonising agriculture and providing ethical artwork.

Almost 175 pledges of support were made on the night, no doubt encouraged by the persuasive compèring of Jay Tompt and Katie Tokus. These ranged from substantial financial loans and construction materials to offers of storytelling and beers. Nearly £1,400 was gifted to the pitchers whilst loans and pre-sales arranged on the night and in subsequent conversations are nearing £22,500. On top of this financial support there was a range of other support and investments. These have been very conservatively valued at over £4,000 though in reality that is only part of the picture. What it shows is the desire of the community to invest into a new local economy. Not too bad for a night’s work.

Some of those positive vibes were seen again at the Lucky 7 Club in Paignton on June 7th for the first ever Torbay LEF run by our friends at Local Spark Torbay. The plucky entrepreneurs were Lyndon Forster with PanKind, musical therapy with handpans; Michael Harrisson-Hastings and Tim Lloyd of Mindmaps Wellbeing, providing mental health first aid training; and the team at Gaia Coffee hoping to help young people whilst providing great coffee.

Following an open space event that looked at possible solutions for problems in the Torbay area there were inspiring talks by Maureen McAllister from the Palace Theatre Paignton and Tony Greenham of South West Mutual. This really set the tone for the evening…as did the specially made Dragon cocktails whipped up by the Lucky 7 bar staff.

Like any good LEF there was a real variety amongst the 70 pledges given on the evening. There was money, accounting services, live music performances and flapjacks. Almost £700 in pre-purchases and gifts was shared amongst the pitchers, as was approximately £2000 value in other services. All the entrepreneurs, like those in Totnes, were blown away by the willingness of members of their community to back their ideas.

The continued success of the Local Entrepreneur Forum in Totnes and similar events elsewhere is a real indicator of people wanting to re-imagine the economy in their local area. For more information on plans for the next Totnes LEF and related events in the area please send an email to If you are interested in those next happening in the Torbay area please send an email to


Workshop: How to create your own video!

Saturday, February 9am – 5pm
REconomy Centre, Totnes

Text is good. Images are nice. But if you really want to inform, connect, inspire, then video and animation are about the most effective media you can use.

This course will help you get started with filming, animation and editing for your own projects. We’ll cover:

  • how to work with video
  • using your favourite equipment, Dslr cameras, handycams, smart phone*
  • how to tell a good story and write a script
  • filming, editing and producing a small video ready to upload to your social media platforms
  • and a little introduction on how to use stop motion animation, for creating interesting and fun presentations of your project

* Please bring your own camera and/or smart phone, but if you don’t have either, that’s ok, too!

About Emilio Mula, Nu-Frame

“I’m an artist who uses different disciplines to express myself, like, filming, drawing, photography, and music, mostly. I’m very interested in ways of creating new narratives that can express more clearly the interdependence between nature and humans.”

From feature length documentaries to crowd funding videos, shooting deep in the Amazon to the streets of Paris, animated hours-long e-learning programmes to fun whiteboard doodles, Emilio has deep and broad experience in all aspects of video production.

Cost:  gift economy, pay what you can

Lunch: please bring your own lunch

Booking:  Please send an email to




A whole box of tool kits

If you’re involved in the ‘new economy’ movement, grass roots organising, or would like to be, you’re probably aware of many of the tools of the trade and various economic models that aim to shift the balance of power away from destructive corporates and toward healthier, regenerative local and regional economies.

How-to-set-up-a-Local-Entrepreneurs-Forum---Stir-to-ActionNow, our good friends at Stir Magazine, have just published 15 mini toolkits to help you undertake new projects, build capacity for you and your colleagues, and be part of spreading the innovations that work.  Interested in running your own Local Entrepreneur Forum or Local Economic Blueprint? How about starting a multi-stakeholder coop? Or how about some guidance on how to run open space events?  It’s all here.




Building Personal Resilience

March 31, noon-2pm at the REconomy Centre.

Undertaking or growing your own enterprise is exciting and inspiring, but can also bring you up against self doubts, overwhelm or anxiety.  Sometimes you might struggle to get stuff done and make the most of opportunities.

HAMM Photography 
Erica Lewis, 17/11/16In this two hour workshop we’ll be exploring the understanding that takes you back into the flow of inspiration to navigate life’s ups and downs with more resilience and grace.  We’ll look at how we create our human experience and appreciate the natural resilience and well-being we naturally have.

Erica Lewis is an experienced coach, trainer and facilitator with a background in the social enterprise, housing and not for profit sector.  Erica is committed to freeing people up to make the most of their loves and gifts in contributing to a better world.

See more at

Cost: Pay what you feel
Bring your lunch.
To book please e-mail Erica on

Community of Dragons Spreads the Wealth at LEF5

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.

Four happy local entrepreneurs - Iola, Marie, Jack, and Sima.
Four happy local entrepreneurs – Iola, Marie, Jack, and Sima.

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


The Buzzing REconomy Centre

REconomy Centre membersThe REconomy Centre may be the least known innovation in Totnes. It quietly provides a drop-in work space for anyone developing their own livelihood, new enterprise, or community project. It’s also an incubator of sorts, providing a range of support and capacity building programmes for interested entrepreneurs, some of whom have gone on to pitch investors at the Local Entrepreneur Forum. The member list is long, too, and includes Tresoc, School Farm, Encounters Arts, the Totnes Pound, and many more enterprises and projects making good things happen in Totnes and South Devon.

What makes it innovative is the model. It is self-managing, has lots of peer to peer support and collaboration, including peer-led skillshare sessions, and it runs on a ‘pay what you can’ membership fee. Currently, expenses are very low – it enjoys very generous terms from property owner South Hams District Council, who recognize the contribution the REconomy Centre makes to the community. As a result, it’s accessible and affordable. And regardless of ability to pay in Pounds Sterling, there is a complementary system of exchange – of reciprocity, if you like – providing an opportunity to explore alternative interpretations of default economic assumptions. And so, the REconomy Centre is delivering huge social and economic impact for almost zero budget measured in Pounds, in other words, an outstanding return on investment.

A few metrics over the last year:

  • Membership – over 80
  • Visits – over 3,000
  • Meetings – over 265
  • Workshops and surgeries –  18 with 150 attendees
  • Time invested – over 300 volunteers hours have been generously invested
  • An estimated £9,300 spent by members with High Street shops and local businesses

What’s more difficult to measure are the results of conversations and collaborations that lead to new ideas and new projects. What’s cooking now? Recent topics of ongoing conversations include the ‘library of things’, a community owned shop, and an ambitious alternative online payment platform. This talk may lead to action and these ideas realised. Perhaps they’ll be pitched at the Local Entrepreneur Forum, one day, like GroCycle and Argand Solutions. In the meantime, those little threads are joined by others, weaving productive relationships among and between different people and organisations, entrepreneurs and investors, catalysts and connectors. It is all part of an emerging entrepreneurial culture and ecosystem creating the conditions for more innovation, more livelihoods, and more solutions.

For more information and to get involved, please get in touch.


Skillshare: accounting & bookkeeping for the self-employed

April 5 @ 6:30 pm8:00 pm

Chartered accountant Clare Mulligan is running a Skillshare session for the self-employed on accounting & bookkeeping, covering:

  • Registering as self employed and important dates
  • Record keeping, bank accounts & simple spreadsheets
  • What you can & can’t claim deductions for
  • Losses
  • If time – the differences between self employed and company

If you have a laptop, please bring it. Clare will send around spreadsheets and an electronic handout. Please book via Places will be limited to 12.

This session is offered as a gift, but if you would like to make a small donation towards venue hire (and therefore supporting the REconomy Centre) it would be appreciated.

The Republic of Wellbeing? Life Beyond GDP!

A participatory talk with Lorenzo Fioramonti and Martin Whitlock

7.45pm, Thursday 4th February 2016
Totnes Methodist Church
Entry by donation

What is real wealth?
What are the conditions for growing wellbeing?
How does Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – the most powerful number in the world – make growing wellbeing more difficult?

It is time to move on from GDP, but despite the many alternative measures of progress on offer there is little public engagement or government action on the key impediment to the development of a wellbeing-focused economy – GDP itself! It is even enshrined in the treaties of the EU!

rfkProfessor Lorenzo Fioramonti and Martin Whitlock take us on a journey to ‘the Republic of Wellbeing’, exploring how the focus on GDP obstructs good economic outcomes, and what we can do about it.

Lorenzo Fioramonti is Professor of Political Economy at the University of Pretoria and the Director of the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation. The author of Gross Domestic Problem: The Politics Behind the World’s Most Powerful Number, he is a global thought leader in the development of the Wellbeing Economy and the Beyond-GDP movement. He is co-founder of

Martin Whitlock is a writer and campaigner, and co-founder of He is the author of Human Politics : Human Value, a detailed critique of the GDP economy and the political, social and economic harms that it causes.

This event is a co-promotion by the Network of Wellbeing and the Totnes REconomy Project. For more information see or call 01803 849107  or text 07702 633687




1YT Social Enterprise Tea Party

January 14th 4:30pm at the REconomy Centre

1ytThe One Year in Transition cohort will be in town for their social enterprise and local economics module and we’re throwing a little party for the occasion. What’s 1YTY? An innovative educational programme for young people.  During the afternoon, we’ll be exploring current issues in social enterprise and economic relocalisation. Then we’ll shift into party mode. If you are involved in a social enterprise, please come and share your experience – your chance to ‘give back’. If you’re a young person interested in alternatives to university, then here’s your chance to gain a new perspective.  For more information, see the 1YT website: