The Co-operative Bank has renewed its support of the Hive – a programme delivered by Co-operatives UK to support new and existing co-operatives through direct business advice, workshops, training and mentoring.
The Hive was launched in 2016, and has received financial support from the Co-operative Bank totalling £1.3m. This month, the Bank has committed a further £400,000 to the scheme, at a time when a Co-operatives UK survey has found that UK shoppers trust co-ops more than private businesses.
“The pandemic has really made people think about their business and working lives,” said Rose Marley, the new chief executive of Co-operatives UK. “As more and more people are looking at how they might improve their future working lives for themselves, their families and the communities they are based in, we are delighted that the Co-operative Bank is supporting new and existing co-operatives to do just this.
“Our research demonstrates that co-operatives are almost twice as likely to survive the early years of business compared to traditional business models, and workers are looking for fairer and more equitable ways to do business and challenge the status quo.”
The Hive has helped over 1,000 co-operatives and groups with support including direct business advice, workshops, training and mentoring, worth more than £600,000. Part of the funding has also helped develop a digital registration service for co-op start-ups – a first for the sector. As part of this process, new co-ops will also be able to access free business banking from the Co-operative Bank.
The Hive has also hosted 50 free introductory sessions attended by more than 500 groups, looking to start a co-operative or wanting to learn more, has seen over 80 new co-operatives have been incorporated, provided 40 community shares support packages and impacted more than 20,000 volunteers, members and employees as well as their wider communities.
Although no longer owned by a co-operative, the Co-operative Bank was permitted to retain its ‘co-op’ name while adhering to a customer-led Ethical Policy that outlines its commitment to nurture and support the co-operative sector.
“As a bank built on co-operative values and ethics we remain committed to supporting the co-operative sector, giving like-minded people, innovators and groups the support they need to succeed when UK businesses face unprecedented challenges during this extremely difficult time,” said Nick Slape, CEO of the Co-operative Bank.
“We hope that through our ongoing support of the Hive and partnership with Co-operatives UK, we can make a real difference to people running or looking to start a co-operative.”
One of the organisations supported by the Hive is Leeds Bread Co-op, an independent artisan bakery and workers’ co-operative, received assistance in adapting in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We had a massive drop in sales from our wholesale customers who had to close because of government restrictions in the spring,” said Lizzie, a worker owner at Leeds Bread Co-op.
“We decided to cease trading temporarily for the safety of our staff and local community and to give ourselves some breathing space while we worked with an advisor from the Hive on urgent financial modelling and collective decision-making about our priorities. This was in addition to financial support from the Co-operative Bank as part of the Bounce Back Loans Scheme (BBLS).
“We’re now back open, with social distancing measures in place as well as a new click and collect service and home deliveries, meaning we can still continue to trade in these challenging times. Support from the Hive was a lifeline at a critical time.”
Ms Marley added: “Leeds Bread Co-op is a brilliant example of how the Hive has supported businesses through the pandemic. And with continued support from the Co-operative Bank, the Hive will continue to create more robust and resilient business that will make a real difference to the communities they are rooted in.”