Businesses that focus on giving back to local communities rather than just sales is increasingly becoming a more viable business model if they plan for longevity. By grounding themselves in with the community, they’re increasing loyalty while having a real impact on the day-to-day lives of locals. From a women’s only working space in New York to a shop that sells surplus food in south London, here’s a look at four of the very best community-led businesses.
The Wing, New York
This women’s only club in New York serves as both a safe space and working area for women. Its 30-something creators Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan started The Wing out of a belief that there weren’t enough safe spaces for professional women to use within the city. With a £3,000 annual membership, women from all backgrounds have space to network with like-minded individuals and work in an environment that’s free of judgement. With staff made up entirely of women, The Wing’s photogenic clubs all have dedicated working areas, beauty rooms, healthy snacks and a library filled with art and books created by women.
Change Please, London
Homelessness has doubled in the UK since 2010, with an estimated 4,000 people sleeping rough every night – a big proportion of these are based in the capital. Tapping into a love for morning coffee as well as a desire to help homeless people get their lives back on track, London-based social enterprise Change Please is aiming to make a real difference. Change Please trains the city’s homeless to become baristas, providing them with a London Living Wage Job, housing, therapy and a route into permanent employment with partner companies such as Pret A Manger. All profits from Change Please are put towards funding London’s homeless charities and organisations, and over the next few years, there are plans to expand the business across the UK and across the pond to San Francisco.
The Loop Running Supply Co, Texas
Thanks to the rise of online retail and the popularity of leading athletic brands like Nike and Under Armour, the idea of independent running shops perhaps isn’t the most fruitful. Yet the Loop Running Supply Company in Austin, Texas, is providing a savvy alternative to the big brands, with a shop built and run by the local running community. Runners of all fitness levels can buy running gear as well as attend courses with fellow customers. Described as the “future of running retail”, The Loop wants to bring together Austin’s local running community and act as much more than just a storefront selling jogging gear. Six days a week, runners of all levels come together at the store, where they receive coaching, embark on runs around the city and complete core classes. This is a shop where a city’s subculture is allowed to thrive.
The Community Shop, London
In a country where social inequality and food poverty remain big issues, The Community Shop is a welcome tonic. Run by the local council, this retail store sells surplus food at a discounted rate to local working-class shoppers. Taking on food deemed surplus to requirements by the likes of Tesco – usually due to damaged packaging – this store sells everyday surplus food items that are up to 70% cheaper than what they’d be in a supermarket. Yes, you can get a rump steak for £1. Not not only does this social enterprise tackle food waste and provide working-class locals with affordable fresh produce, it also provides people on benefits the support they need to change their lives, including advice on getting back into full-time employment. With just under 800 members, The Community Shop has already made a huge difference to West Norwood, but it could soon widen its impact – there are plans to open 20 more stores across the UK, which could help another 20,000 people, and more.
By Thomas Hobbs