Get hold of all the good advice you can lay your hands on. Of course you’ll need energy and enthusiasm by the bucket load to get a community business started, but there are a thousand and one things of a practical nature you will have to make decisions on
Angie Wright is Chief Officer of B-inspired, a community business based in Braunstone in Leicester. She is a founder member of the Power to Change Community Business Panel. B-inspired is also a catalyst organisation for the Empowering Places programme.
What gets you up in the morning?
Bobby, my handsome Irish Terrier, and Braunstone where the community business I lead is based. The place is one council estate on the edge of Leicester with big houses and big gardens but very little in the way of infrastructure. There are no pubs or supermarkets for what is in fact a town of over 16,500 inhabitants. It was built between the wars to clear the slums of the city and the poverty moved with it. But there is immense community pride in the place, as whole streets and family generations moved with it, lock stock and barrel.
How did you get involved in community business?
I came to live here when I was ten with my mother and brother. After moving about a bit during my local authority career, I came back 15 years ago to run what was then an organisation that was part of the New Deal for Communities. At the end of that programme, B-inspired morphed into a community business as part of its legacy and it has been a trading company ever since. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else and it was so important to me when my Dad came back to live here a few years before he passed away, after leaving as a young man over 50 years ago.
What was your proudest moment?
No hesitation in saying that was last year when we got Braunstone Health and Social Care Centre transferred into community ownership through B-inspired after a long, long battle. It was built for the people – over 10,000 locals pass through its doors each year – but it’s never been owned by them. It is now a £5 million asset held in perpetuity by the people of Braunstone.
What advice would you give to a group who wants to set up a community business?
Get hold of all the good advice you can lay your hands on. Of course you’ll need energy and enthusiasm by the bucket load to get a community business started, but there are a thousand and one things of a practical nature you will have to make decisions on.
Second tip, you have to do lots of consultation and co-design with the community, and not just at the start. Otherwise they won’t feel like they own it. Your community are your customers for life.
Describe your community business in three words.
Entrepreneurial, impactful and community focused (OK, that’s four words).
You were there at the inception of Power to Change’s Community Business Panel in 2015. How has it changed over the years?
It was an exceptional act for a funder – and at such an early stage in its life. I remember the first meeting in Hackney when Vidhya showed us the Power to Change organisation chart – there were more of us than staff!
Panel members have come and gone over the years but we are still one family. We have a reunion once a year which is one helluva bash. Over the years a deep sense of loyalty and trust has built up between the panel and the Power to Change team which means we can dive into the big stuff together without fear. And more and more community business leaders apply to join each year; I should know, I have sat on the interview panel for the last three years.