I awoke on a gloomy Friday morning to Brexit. Whilst it wasn't the result I expected, the writing is on the wall - the UK is leaving the EU. This isn't an article to argue for or against the reasons for remaining or leaving. Instead, I'd like to look at how Brexit unexpectedly gave my business a deeper level of importance and meaning to both the local community and myself.
I have to admit that at first I was in a state of flux. I couldn't settle on what had happened, what was happening and what was about to happen. I'm currently based in Cornwall, UK - a county ranked in the top 5 poorest places in Europe and heavily reliant on European funding. I couldn't be sure that our government would be able to match that funding so for me it was a safer bet to Remain.
Regardless, I planted my feet firmly on the ground and thought about the whole situation in an entrepreneurial light with my business partner. We discussed every conceivable outcome and how it might affect us both personally and in a business sense.
Leaving the EU will shift a lot of responsibility onto us as a country. We will have to act on this decision straight away and co-operate to build a proud kingdom and I believe with confidence that that could very well happen. In fact, I've seen it happen. But on a small scale - a Cornish village of circa 3,000 people.
My business partner and I have spent the last couple of years in the village of Tywardreath. Our commercial work involves running retreats for corporates and profits are ploughed back into our community, helping them to start their own businesses, run a micro-brewery, food growing scheme, bee keeping courses, archaeology projects. You name it; we've helped start it! However a huge part of this has actually been the relationship building with the people in this village. Getting to know people, working alongside them, offering our help with village events, being approachable and just fuelling people with a bit of confidence to believe in what they are doing.
This year we launched an ambitious project to save our village shop and village B&B from being turned into residential accommodation. The village here relies on these businesses and we couldn't stand by and watch them disappear. So we asked the community what they thought about the idea to raise the money under a new property investment company formed by my business partner and I. The reaction was humbling. We raised over £200,000 from the village alone (Did I mention Cornwall was in the top 5 poorest places in Europe?) and the support from our start-ups and pledges of help from the village has been phenomenal. This ground breaking model of business investing in social impact whilst making a profit is causing waves of interest across the world.
So, if you could encapsulate what is happening in Tywardreath and replicate it over and over again, building business, relationships and collaborations across other parts of the UK, then we just might build ourselves a sustainable, independent, economically viable culture from a grassroots level up. It's a vision that I would like to see happen.
As I finish typing this article, I look up to see that it's raining outside. There's a great big, dark cloud looming overhead, enveloping the whole village. But on closer inspection, there's a silver lining. A huge one. I can see it. The village can see it. Can you?
See it for yourself! Below is a video my business partner, Trudy Thompson and I made alongside a few people from our community explaining more about our venture in Tywardreath. You can find more info here.