The Hive awards £45,000 worth of expert advice to co-ops

The Hive – a co-operative business development programme from Co-operatives UK and The Co-operative Bank – has awarded its first support to help build and grow the sector. After one round of applications,...

The Hive – a co-operative business development programme from Co-operatives UK and The Co-operative Bank – has awarded its first support to help build and grow the sector.

After one round of applications, £45,000 worth of expert advice has been distributed to 41 groups who applied to The Hive to receive support to set up or grow a co-operatively run business or organisation.

Organisations are invited to apply through the Hive, then successful groups are matched with an expert business advisor or a mentor from an established co-operative business who has ‘been there and done it’. Groups and co-operatives can apply throughout the year, with applications reviewed at monthly panel assessment meetings.

Related: The Hive co-op and social enterprise development hub launches

Of 60 initial applicants, 68% were successful. Over 50% of the applicants awarded support are based in London, the south and south west, with nearly 20% in the community energy and sustainability sector. Eighteen groups are receiving direct one-to-one advice, with 17 receiving group advice and 17 organisations being awarded peer mentoring support.

The first cohort of 41 successful groups spans a range of sectors, including a community football club in Merseyside, a new tourist venture in Lincoln and a local bakery in Leeds.

Leeds Bread Co-op successfully applied to The Hive for one-to-one support to help prepare them with training and strategic planning
Leeds Bread Co-op successfully applied to The Hive for one-to-one support to help prepare them with training and strategic planning

Leeds Bread Co-op started in 2013 with a vision of making real bread accessible, in a socially and environmentally responsible way, to the local community and beyond. They mostly relied on word of mouth – and great bread  – to get the word out, but due to their success, soon reached a production limit in their current premises.

Ahead of expansion and a move to new location, they applied to The Hive for the one-to-one support package around strategic planning.

“Accessing support through The Hive will help us move the business into a new phase where we have a solid grasp of our strategic planning especially how our finances relate to it,” said Simon Garrod (better known as Zig) from Leeds Bread Co-op.

“We have been reactive and that has worked well for our first few years of trading but now we want to grow in a proactive way that benefits co-op members and employees, and also our local community and customers.”

He added that through support from the Hive, the co-op will be able to create long term budgeting plans and develop a much clearer insight into the health, productivity and potential direction of the venture.

Simon Borkin, programme development lead at Co-operatives UK, says numerous co-operatives have already benefited through the advice and support available through The Hive, in large part due to how the type and level of support for organisations is tailored. “That’s where the application process comes in,” he explains.

“Those groups enjoying a clear understanding of their current status are much better placed to understand not only where they want to go, but also how to get there. The strongest applications request the most appropriate type of support, with a clear rationale covering why the support is required and the anticipated or desired outcomes.”

A “scattergun approach” of bidding for everything on offer is much less likely to succeed when up against concise and well articulated applications which have clearly defined reasoning and goals, added Mr Borkin.

“You’ve got to remember that the application process isn’t there to trip anyone up. We want applicants to succeed. That’s why we provide a selections of online tools enabling groups to gain a better understanding of their business needs. There’s also guidelines covering each section of an application. These should be read carefully and we’d always encourage groups to take time over their application in order to put forward a compelling case.”

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