The final two weeks of 2019 will be crucial for Worcester's small businesses, with many retailers and restaurants making the bulk of their profit over the festive period.
The Mayor of Worcester joined forces with members of the City Council's Economic Development Sub Committee to visit a number of new businesses on Small Business Saturday (7 December). The majority were less than three years old – and all have received business grants from the Council.
"Small businesses are the lifeblood of Worcester, and the City Council is proud to support them through its wide range of business grants," says Cllr Lucy Hodgson, Chair of the City Council's Economic Development Sub Committee.
"It's really encouraging to see how the newer businesses have expanded so quickly – and that more established ones have managed to innovate and find new markets."
"Worcester is a great location to set up a business – and the future will continue to be bright for the economy if we continue to support small businesses which employ many local people. Everything you need to buy over the festive period is right here, on your doorstep!" added Cllr Adrian Gregson, Vice Chair of the same committee.
First stop for the councillors was The Zen Shed. Set up in December 2017 the business is run by Guy and Cindy Thomas, qualified yoga teachers who returned to the UK from India in 2016.
They decided to set up their own yoga studio in Worcester and leased two floors at 54 New Street - a premises which had been vacant for several years. Guy and Cindy invested £185,000 to refurbish and fit out the studios. Today the venue offers a wide range of yoga and Pilates classes, and is one of a few venues in the West Midlands to offer a 'hot yoga' studio – a popular fitness trend.
Next stop was Pack-it In – a shop opened in October 2018 by ex-Worcester primary school teacher Phillipa Gilfillan. All the products she sells are free of plastic packaging, and the outlet is proving increasingly popular. Customers bring their own containers and select quantities required of products such as cereals, nuts, oils, flour, rice and cleaning items. The business also runs environmental themed workshops and hires cutlery and crockery for parties to reduce the use of disposable items.
Then it was on to a very well established local business. Based on Broad Street, Cookmate has been operating for 38 years and is Worcester's only independent cookery shop.
Owner Caroline Gregory also launched a cookery school above the store in November 2016, which offers a wide range of courses to suit cooks of all standards and interests! Gifts vouchers are available – and in 2020, Caroline plans on introducing cookery courses for children too.
The Method Roastery is a mecca for coffee lovers. Based under one of Worcester's evocative Victorian railway arches in Cherry Tree Walk, the company sources, imports and roasts coffee beans for supply to wholesalers and delis. The company moved to Worcester in 2018 and occupies two adjoining arches – one is a coffee shop and the other is home to a coffee school. It runs courses for wholesale customers and home enthusiasts - there are plans for barista training in the future.
Last but not least, Waylands Yard opened in October 2016 with a mission to provide Worcester with a place to enjoy 'proper coffee, proper food'. The business was started by Sam Smith who retired early as a professional rugby player, due to injury.
The business has grown rapidly over the past two years and has opened a new outlet in Colmore Row, Birmingham as well as a mobile catering unit.