A project to offer a helping hand to fledgling businesses in south Cumbria is celebrating the graduation of its latest group.
Funded by South Lakeland District Council, the Future Fixers initiative is delivered by Karen Bentley-Brown and Dave Brown. Their aim is to encourage and guide people who have a business idea with a difference towards a successful launch.
The accent is on sustainable, environmentally-friendly ideas which will not only be a welcome addition to the community but also provide work for those behind them.
Among those taking part was Cat Moffat. A couple of years ago, determined to try and create a zero-waste living, she had the germ of an idea.
The result was Cut the Wrap, a shop in Ulverston where customers bring their own containers to stock up on dried food along with cleaning and household goods.
“We opened in July 2018 and two years on have been overwhelmed by the level of support,” Cat said. She joined the Future Fixers course to gain guidance about where to take the business next.
Another “graduate” from the course is Jo Clayton who, with her partner, bought a small woodland in the Rusland Valley. Now, while living and working on the land, she hopes also to be able to make a living from it too.
The course has helped hone ideas she has to grow her environmentally friendly business that will allow the woodland to thrive while bringing in a steady income.
Rustic furniture and hand-carved flowers are some of the products created from the woodland itself.
Simon Mackereth, owner of bicycle wheel building and repair business, The Spokesman, based in Kendal, also attended the start-up programme. Simon was inspired to join the course after being made redundant and finding himself at a low ebb and uncertain about what the future held.
“I created a business focused on the needs of cyclists, because I have been passionate about cycling all my life. The Future Fixers course has been a great platform for helping me to build my confidence, and for opening up a wide range of networks for my business,” said Simon.
Over six sessions around 15 participants are encouraged to think about their values and priorities as much as budget and business plan.
The course has already helped others who have always harboured a dream to run their own business but lacked the confidence or advice to create it.
For Karen and Dave the pandemic has forced them to change the way the course is delivered but they say the aims and reason behind it remain as strong as ever.
“The Covid crisis has forced many of us to pause and has given us time to think about what kind of future we want,” Karen said.
“At Future Fixers we have taken the opportunity to change the way we work by moving many of our services online. It’s not all been easy and there have been times when we’ve wondered if we’re doing the right thing, but we know that this is all part of the business journey. We’re passionate about what we do and we’re glad that we persevered and are able to help others.”
Councillor Dyan Jones, SLDC’s Portfolio Holder for Climate Emergency and Localism, said: “It is heartening to see these determined people with great ideas starting to flourish. They deserve enormous credit for taking the plunge, as do Karen and Dave for helping them turn their dreams into sustainable, environmentally-friendly businesses.”
Councillor Robin Ashcroft, Portfolio Holder for Culture, Economy and Leisure, said: “I am delighted that South Lakeland District Council has been able to play a part in supporting these innovative and exciting businesses start up through the Future Fixers project in these desperately challenging time.”
With the last course full, another is set to start early in the new year.
It will still be free to South Lakeland residents who are receiving unemployment benefits but there will be a small fee of £59 for other residents.
The full fee is £495 for people living outside the district. Details can be found at www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/129340728601