Listening to local businesses

Following on from our first session for local businesses at MAKE IT in Barking on 15 January, we held a second one at Powerhouse International Ministries in Dagenham last week. The aim of both sessions was to enable local businesses in the borough to network and build relationships. It was also for us to learn more about local business needs, how they feel about borrowing money, and how they think this could be done fairly. 

We will be using the findings and insights gained from both workshops and from 1-to-1 interviews we have been conducting, to inform and shape a new type of financing we are exploring for local businesses: repayable finance.

Why are we exploring repayable finance?

We believe repayable finance could support local businesses to develop and grow in a number of ways, if this is done in a way which is fair. Our aim is to work with businesses in the same way we have been able to work with local charities, to increase their confidence and capacity to the point that they can bring more resources into the borough and increase their impact.

At both events, we heard from fascinating and ambitious local business owners with different stories compared to the CICs and charities we have tended to work with in the past. What is similar is the passion for what they do and ambition to see their business grow and make an impact locally and beyond. 

What happened?

In order to make these sessions accessible to as many businesses as possible, we held two sessions in different areas of the borough and we also offered everyone money for their time and participation. 

Once both sessions began, participants were split into smaller groups to enable more informal discussions around four key topics. Each group rotated for each new topic, ensuring people could hear from and speak with different people. 

Interesting conversations were initially opened up around topics one and two: how do local businesses make a difference to your life and what kind of support does your business need? We also heard different viewpoints for topics three and four: Would your business borrow money if it had to repay it and how would you make the process of borrowing money fair? 

It was also great to see the participants building relationships with each other; sharing stories and ideas and exchanging phone numbers, enabling them to create a network of like-minded people they could connect with and share experiences with.

Looking ahead

We have come away from both events inspired by the businesses’ ambitions for growth and encouraged by their ideas. Our plan is to go away and reflect on what we have learnt and heard, collate feedback from participants and hold further 1-to-1 interviews. 

We will use our findings to explore how best we can support local businesses in the borough and what we can do to make the process of borrowing money fair.

Watch this space!

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