The power of implementing an unconventional business model

Six months ago Josh Taylor shared with us his mission to give something back to his local rural community, by saving the village store. Today he updates us on the progress he’s made and explains the important lessons he’s learnt from adopting an unusual approach to business...

This time last year my business partner, Trudy Thompson, and I were offered a £2 million investment by one of our corporate clients, which meant we could expand our coaching retreat beyond our wildest ambitions - with hardly any personal financial risk. It was a massive opportunity for two ordinary people but we value our unusual friendship and quality of life more than the money we can earn together.

Our work is very simple. We have an uncanny ability to help people see creative ways of doing business that unblocks people and unnecessary bureaucracy. There is a natural symbiosis between our individual mind-sets and skills. We are best friends with a 20 year age gap and we’ve spent over 15 hours a day together for over four years. We get on so well that most people initially mistake me for her husband, son, brother, toy boy - you name it, we’ve heard it all!

We do extraordinary work just by following our instincts, helping people from all walks of life to turnaround businesses and their wellbeing. We live on a farm in Cornwall, in a small village called Tywardreath with a tight-knit community where we are surrounded by talented and interesting people.

Money isn’t in abundance here but great people are, over the last three years by encouraging local people to follow their instincts and facilitating opportunities for them we have created something truly unique. We’ve manged tot challenge conventional business thinking and prove ordinary people can do remarkable things just by thinking differently - and make a profit! This is the reason why top business leaders come here to learn from our ideas and intuition.

At the same time as the £2 million investment was offered, our village shop was at risk of closure and as socially minded entrepreneurs we couldn’t stand by and see it happen because it would have seriously damaged our rural community.

Read: Lessons from building a brand new business in 2016

We knew we were capable of saving it and running it alongside our coaching retreat, turning it into a working demonstration of our methods in action in an ordinary village shop, whilst still being a very special business for the long term benefit of this village. We saw it not just as a convenience store but a social enterprise hub encouraging local people to solve issues in the community with enterprising activities.

Our investor however only saw the balance sheet value in converting the shop into holiday apartments for our corporate coaching clients and wanted us to work solely with their company. They thought our village shop sounded a worthy project but not one we ought to focus our ability on.  

After much discussion, Trudy and I turned down their offer and decided to take all the risk on our own shoulders on behalf of our community. If they lent us the funds to buy the building, so it was free of bank debt, then we will return the money with interest in two years or give them the option to buy shares into our company.

We felt compelled to do it this way even though during the fundraising phase we seriously questioned at times if it was the right decision to raise money for a ground breaking social investment from just our friends and neighbours in one of the poorest regions in the UK. But we kept going and dug deep into our courage to overcome the fear of letting them all down. We never doubted we could make it happen. Persistence was the name of the game.

Read: How an idea grew a community in 2016

Six months ago I wrote an article to share the story so far and raising the money to try and buy the shop. Every day was different and bought new challenges and we rarely knew how things would plan out.

It gives me a lot of happiness to be able to bring everyone up to date and let you know that three months ago we achieved what we set out to do, buying the shop with an unsecured loan borrowed from hundreds of local people who share our vision. The level of trust and support we have from our community is incredible and with their help we are achieving more for the local economy and the future of the community than we personally would have gained from corporate investment.

Business-wise the shop was an overnight success and it continues to be so despite none of us involved having ever run a shop before!  The turnover doubled instantly and it is now earning triple the income and higher profits. It has been a resounding triumph.

Yet the property was on the market for sale with no buyers and local people feared for a long time that it would close. If we hadn’t seen the opportunity, followed our instincts and ignored the doubters our village shop might have closed after 50 years of being vital to the local community. How many other rural businesses could be saved if micro entrepreneurs were funded and supported by their community?

We aren’t stopping at the shop. Next we are buying a guesthouse in the village to convert into a café and meeting place. The B & B rooms will be available for holidaymakers and business people booking our coaching and workshops in 2017 to see our social investment in action. 

As for our £2 million investment, we didn’t burn our bridges with the client. They still benefit from our coaching and have booked their people to stay here in the New Year to discover what we learned from turning them down, because they can see the evidence before their eyes that our unprecedented business model is working.

You can follow Trudy and Josh's story here -

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