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What do a laundrette, a childcare provider, a football club, a hydroponic growing operation, a bakery, a café and a heritage venue all have in common? They all took part in the Liverpool Community Business Challenge – a pioneering new partnership project run by my organisation, Power to Change, with M&S.

Power to Change is an independent trust dedicated to supporting and growing the community business sector. In case you’re new to the term, a community business is one that is locally rooted, trades for the benefit of its local community, is locally accountable and has a broad community impact. It can be anything, from a pub to a swimming pool, and I have seen, time and time again, that these organisations and the people who work and volunteer for them have the power to transform places, communities and lives.

The Liverpool showcase of the Community Business Challenge was a truly inspirational day. The Community Business Challenge invited community businesses to pitch for funding and, crucially, mentoring and support from M&S, to help their organisations flourish. The seven shortlisted community businesses from across the city had spent weeks making their cases on social media. Now it was time to meet them.

Inside the packed-out sports hall were bakers, gardeners, footballers, childcare workers and laundrette entrepreneurs – all united by their belief that community business can, and does, make life better for everyone. One by one we heard these pioneers pitch for investment and business support. There was a lot of laughter, and, movingly, quite a few tears, too.

The pitches were peppered with proverbial Scouse cheekiness. Homebaked predicted their pies would go global in the coming years, so ambitiously asked M&S for nationwide distribution, whilst Kitty’s Laundrette asked that M&S raise awareness of their dry cleaning services.

These passionate presentations, and the clear camaraderie shared between these organisations, left us judges with little choice. Instead of giving grants to five of the community businesses as planned, M&S and Power to Change agreed to give each of the seven finalists a £10,000 grant as well as the business support they all so richly deserve.

What brought these community businesses together was not just their shared passion, determination and creative mindsets for their own projects. It was very clear that they believe that together they can collectively improve lives across their city. For Power to Change, this is the kind of attitude we believe makes a real difference and that is why we are so proud of our partnership with M&S.

Claire Dove, OBE and chair of Blackburne House at the Community Business Challenge said in her opening words that so many corporate partnerships are a marriage of convenience, ‘but this one is for real.’ I couldn’t agree more, and I can’t wait to roll this fantastic partnership out across the country in 2019.

You can find out more about the winning community businesses below.

Target Football in Toxteth will be developing plans to improve and expand the Stany Fields sports centre so that it reaches more people, offering more sporting activities, and benefitting the community.

The Rotunda in Kirkdale will develop plans for the Rotunda Garden Bistro, which will include the creation of a new healthy menu, staff training and a new external event catering service.

Lister Steps, which provides affordable childcare in Tuebrook, will be developing a skills and education programme, community gardens and a café. The team will use their win to get M&S expertise to refresh their brand and reach more people.

Kitty’s Laundrette in Anfield is a new project offering affordable, environmentally-friendly washing facilities along with social and creative activities. Their win will help them develop their business operations to ensure they have a successful opening and build strong foundations for the future.

Homegrown Collective, which delivers horticulture training in Anfield, will be exploring and developing innovative new food and drinks projects with the expertise of M&S staff. Their planned projects include a hydroponics lab to grow microgreens for local restaurants and recycling bread waste for beer production.

Homebaked, a community bakery in Anfield, will be using the support to help their relocation to a new production facility which will allow them to offer more training and free up space in their existing kitchen for new community baking courses.

The Florrie, a community heritage venue in Dingle will be developing exciting new plans for a community café, and employing a new chef to develop a delicious and affordable menu.

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