Arts and education co-op up and running

An innovative redistribution scheme, PEARLS co-operative, has greatly increased its stock and updated its IT system only four months after its transfer from a council-run scheme to a...

PEARLS, which stands for the Play, Education, Arts and Reusable Lending Service, is based in Rochdale and collects scrap and unwanted materials from local businesses.  

The co-op redistributes them to community groups, selling at a relatively low price, and also sells to individuals who pay an annual membership fee.  

The PEARLS scheme had been run by Rochdale Borough Council since 1989, but the co-operative was only set up in April of this year when, due to cutbacks, the council was forced to close the scheme.  

Tina Wright, along with four other employees, chose to set up a co-operative and continue the good work.  

It has already received advice from the Co-operative Group’s Enterprise Hub, which supported the transfer from a council-run scheme to a co-operative. PEARLS then applied for a loan to help continue the establishment and growth of its stock. 

Ms Wright, now a director of PEARLS, said: “We started with nothing when we established our co-operative, so we were looking for funding and further support. The loan has supported the buyout of stock of a similar resource centre based in Birmingham.  

“We also purchased a new accounting system, as well as marketing and promotional materials. We had previously approached banks for small amounts and even these were turned down.  It can be difficult to get finance as a new, small business. It can make you lose faith.” She added: “The Co-operative Loan Fund has been really good to deal with.  The fact that somebody believes in you and your business enough to support you with this finance is so motivating.”

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