Benenden Community Shop aimed to be the heart of the community by taking over the running of the village shop and Post Office. For many people these services provided an essential lifeline, for others, it was valued as a convenience which would be sorely missed if it closed. Not only would the share offer fund the refit and reopening of the shop, but it would also allow the addition of a café within the shop, so providing a central meeting place for the villagers.
The opportunity to found a community shop arose when the local school purchased the building within which the privately-owned shop was already located. It was important to the villagers that such an essential part of the village would be run by the community for the benefit of the community.
Once Benenden Community Shop Community Benefit Society had secured the long-term lease of the shop premises, the next step was to raise capital in order to refit the shop, maintain the Post Office services and set-up the café in a new bright and welcoming environment.
An important aspect was that the shop would remain open during the transition time so that there would be no service interruption for the villagers.
HOW DID THEY RAISE THE INVESTMENT?
The target was to raise a minimum of £30,000 but ideally Benenden Community Shop wanted to raise at least £60,000 through community share capital.
The individual share offer was set low at £10 so that as many people as possible in the local area count become a shareholder and could feel involved. The maximum investment limit was £10,000.
The society wanted to reassure investors as much as possible in order to maximise the level of investment and so it worked towards being awarded the Community Shares Standard Mark before it launched the share offer. After an assessment by a community shares practitioner, Benenden’s share offer documents were recognised as meeting good practice. The Standard Mark has been welcomed by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Money Advice Service, recognsiing the value of introducing voluntary standards.
Benenden Community Shop Limited now has over 300 shareholders who have together invested over £70,000. This money has been used for start-up costs, legal fees, refitting the existing shop premises, installing a computerised stock control and for working capital.
As this share offer was so successful, the extra funds over the minimum amount have been used to provide a safety margin and to reduce the amount of money that had to be borrowed on a commercial basis.
The society decided that any future profits that are not required for the development of the business will be invested back into community projects or charities chosen by the members.