The community business movement: Taking on Liverpool's high streets brick by brick

We have rediscovered a way of doing business that is rooted in our communities, based on working together for mutual gain and driven by people wanting to change their areas for the better.

Sally-Ann Watkiss

Homebaked, Liverpool

It is Granby Market day and it seems appropriate that I’m stood on the Homebaked stall selling pies at the end of a great couple of months for community businesses in Liverpool. As I chat to our regular customers, ponder with Theresa on the possibilities of a community bakery on one of Granby’s four corners, exchange news with our bakers Luca, Mark and Joanna, I am acutely aware that I am participating in something very special.

We have rediscovered a way of doing business that is rooted in our communities, based on working together for mutual gain and driven by people wanting to change their areas for the better. What’s more we are bringing our high streets back to life. The community business movement in Liverpool is taking root, supporting positive change all over the city and showing that the model works and can be replicated.

Last month I took part in the M&S Community Business Challenge, hosted by Power to Change at the iconic Florrie in the Dingle. Claire Dove from Blackburne House and Crown Representative of the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Sector had spoken about growing up in Granby when  its thriving High Street was populated with locally owned, locally rooted businesses working together to ensure that their community was looked after and how we had lost that over recent decades. I’d not long come back from judging the government sponsored Great British High Street competition and her speech reminded me that the best examples I’d seen were based on exactly those principles.  Then I looked around the room and realised that the community businesses participating in the challenge and those supporting the challengers were all creating and growing their businesses along the same lines Claire had talked about.

It was lovely to see new businesses such as Homegrown Collective, Kitty’s Launderette and Target football supported in their development, not only by Power to Change and School for Social Entrepreneurs, but also by other longer established community businesses such as Homebaked, Granby, SAFE, Squash, The Florrie, Rotunda and Lister Steps. The room was humming with positive stories, conversations about the art of the possible and offers of support for each other and everyone left a winner.

Tomorrow I am at Squash Nutrition in Toxteth, speaking at a round-table on the future of the high street, organised by Power to Change as part of their Community is my Business campaign. I am sure community businesses will play a central role in the debate. Working together, supporting each other and learning together, the future is bright for community businesses in Liverpool and that can only be a good thing for the high streets across our city region.