Launch Of Thrive – Our Affordable Maker Space and Co-Working Business Hub

February 13th saw the launch of THRIVE, a new affordable co-working space, where local residents from SE16 can work comfortably and develop their business idea. THRIVE (formally known as the Flaming Grill restaurant) was brought back into community use by British Land and has become a much-needed resource for local people. Whether you are running your own business or working from home, you can have access to affordable desks, meeting and training rooms or makers space. Thrive is a really spacious and well-lit workspace, ideal for creative people. Designers and makers can spread out and see their patterns come to life. It’s also set up for start up therapists looking for low-cost private space to provide treatments from.














At the heart of THRIVE is our determination to create a sense of community where local people can support each other on their different business journeys. There will be opportunities for networking and sharing skills and services. Leading up to the launch there has been fantastic support from residents and the local business community to get THRIVE off the ground. Local friends and families joined us for a “Paint Party”, donated equipment, furniture and of course volunteered their invaluable time to make Thrive an inviting space.


Thrive’s Paint Party






So, what’s on Offer?

We specialise in working with entrepreneurs from low income families from the SE16 area and Thrive provides low cost workspace for them and other residents. You can become a THRIVE member for as little as £25 per year. Your Membership will enable you to:

Use the meeting and desk space on a low-cost pay-as-you-go basis.

  • Access to workspace bookings
  • Free high-speed internet Wi-Fi access.
  • Free use of THRIVE equipment
  • Low cost printing, copying in colour or black and white, A4 paper, and free scanning.
  • Peace of mind. THRIVE deals with all the issues that can slow a growing business down like: building insurance, electricity and water charges, security, and health and safety.
  • Working alongside other entrepreneurs and small businesses, which can offer companionship and community, inspiration, and opportunities for networking sharing skills.

If you would like to find out more about THRIVE please contact out Thriving team:

Shaun Wilson:       M: 07803097532     E:
Emma Carr:           M: 07857394777     E:
Sandra Ferguson: M: 07857386151     E:



MBE is testament to everyone I’ve worked with who shares a vision of a fairer society

Winners medal March & Shoot competition 1978

When I was trudging through the mud as a fresh-faced private in the weekend Territorial Army I never thought I would one day be honoured as a Member of the Order of the British Empire. But that hot sweaty day ignited in me something which would chart the course of the rest of my life: a determination to see people treated fairly and a belief that every individual should have the same chance to reach their potential, regardless of their background or training.

That year, 1978, my 8-man infantry section entered a ‘march and shoot’ competition against full-time regular army units, including the Royal Marines and Paratroop Regiment. We marched 13 miles in under 3 hours, tackled 3 challenging obstacles en route, whilst each carrying a 60lb pack, a rifle with 20 rounds of live ammunition. On top of that we carried a radio and machine gun. Terry, one of our lads, was a painter and decorator who worked at weekends so couldn’t train. The day of the competition was baking hot and within a few miles Terry was flagging. Everyone in the team took turns to carry his pack and rifle – even his jacket – and we literally dragged him to the end of the course.

By this time Terry was hobbling in agony but he struggled through to the final challenge. This was the vital, scoring part of the competition; a 600 yards sprint across open ground firing at pop-up targets. As soon as we finished, Terry sank to the ground and we watched in horror as he pulled off his boots, revealing his raw, bloodied feet.

At least we had finished. Our happiness was short-lived however. Soon came the announcement that, after all our effort, we had come last; we’d scored the least hits. Bewildered, I did a quick calculation and realised our score was impossibly low – two of us alone had scored the 15 they claimed was our total team score. I challenged the scoring. Result? The invigilators, assuming a rag-tag team of civilians couldn’t possibly have beaten elite servicemen, had automatically allocated us the lowest score. In fact we had won the competition! I still have the medal. The sense of triumph it gives me has little to do with being a good shot myself but rather the exhilaration of being with a group of men whose dogged teamwork, individual tenacity, and refusal to be cowed by ‘the system’ had pulled off a remarkable win against incredible odds.

Institutional discrimination.

All of my work as a social entrepreneur has been informed by a passion to overcome what I call institutional discrimination: To create opportunities for and give a voice to people who are left behind or underestimated by society.

But having a lonely passion is not enough – to do anything at scale you need allies. In May 2002, I met a remarkable man called Peter Watherston who was heading up a homelessness charity, First Fruit. At that very first meeting we agreed to take advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity. Together we would take on a contract with HSBC to remove and recycle ALL 59,000 items of furniture being discarded by HSBC in their enormous move to Canary Wharf (the largest office relocation in European history).

My very young social enterprise, Green-Works, had an annual turnover at the time of £23,000, and I had enough cash to employ a young man, Chris Triggs, for 3 months. Peter, a trained accountant and CoE vicar was employing a small number of homeless people doing deliveries. Neither of us had any experience in running a warehouse or managing a project on this scale. Nevertheless, we shook hands there and then and committed to work with each other. On the strength of that hand shake he took on a huge warehouse in the East End of London, and I negotiated a comprehensive contract with HSBC. Over the next 12 years we worked together creating literally hundreds of jobs and recycling 47,000 tonnes of furniture.


A shared vision centred on a genuine desire to support others is such a solid foundation for partnership. The world of social enterprise brings together extraordinarily committed people who think creatively to work through whatever obstacles are thrown in the way.

Based on my experience of running Green-Works for 12 years, I wrote a book called ‘How to make a million jobs.’ During my research I confirmed the worst fears about our society that my experience had shown me. I revealed some frightening statistics about how many people in the UK are functionally illiterate, how many communities are left behind, and how the headline unemployment numbers mask the real, underlying enormity of structural worklessness.

I set up Tree Shepherd to prove my theory. Even the most statistically deprived community is bristling with untapped talent. With the right blend of business guidance and a supportive network many people can generate income for themselves and create employment for others. More than 75% of the start-ups we have supported are run by women or people from ethnic minorities – people who are too often patronised or discriminated against by landlords, banks and local authorities.

Tree Shepherd combines my belief in people and my passion for creating partnerships to tackle discrimination and adds a dose of advocacy. This has proved to be a potent recipe for developing communities of businesses who individually and together play to their strengths, speak up, and take their place as meaningful contributors to their local economy.

This MBE is testament to everyone I’ve worked with who share this vision for a fairer society

Our CEO , Colin Crooks, in New Years Honours List!

We are delighted to announce that Colin Crooks, our CEO has been awarded an MBE by Her Majesty the Queen in her New Year’s Honours List. The award is for his services to disadvantaged communities in London.
Colin has created several social enterprises, in accord with his two passions; protecting the environment and helping less fortunate people.
Colin’s career as a social entrepreneur goes back to 1989 when he started Papercycle, which operated from a long-gone warehouse in Brixton. There he employed dozens of unemployed local people to collect and recycle office paper. Later, he ran Cybercycle on the Angell Town estate which trained unemployed young people to refurbish computers.
In 2000, he started Green-Works where in partnership with homelessness charity, First Fruit. He secured a huge contract with HSBC to recycle their old office furniture when they moved to Canary Wharf. Over the next 12 years Green-Works employed more than 800 people from difficult backgrounds and recycled 47,000 tonnes of furniture.
Colin set up Tree Shepherd in 2012. Since then, we have helped 700 people to start and grow their own business. In addition to helping new start-ups we are now supporting and advising long-established businesses struggling with change. In the Elephant and Castle, Peckham, Greenwich, Westminster and Canada Water many businesses are facing significant redevelopment all around them.
When asked about the award, Colin replied “all the projects I’ve worked on have required an unbelievable amount of support from other people and this MBE is recognition not only for me but for all the people, partners, supporters, champions, employees and contractors who have worked with me over the years to support local communities and people to succeed”

New Challenge in Westminster

Church Street, just off the Edgware Road, hosts the longest street market in London and is home to a fascinating food, textiles, antiques and arts quarter. It is also the most deprived area in the borough which is undergoing massive regeneration change and in the next ten years, under the new Masterplan, three key buildings on Church Street will also be regenerated – replacing old low-level buildings with new high-rise buildings with flats and new retail units. Not only will buildings, roads and public realm change – but so will the community.

Westminster Council are keen to keep all local businesses and residents on board with the regeneration programme and want to support the indigenous businesses to help them withstand the change and develop sustainable businesses that can cater to the ever-changing local economy and to the needs and tastes of both the established residents and the new incoming ones.

In response to this, Westminster has commissioned Tree Shepherd to deliver a comprehensive programme of local economy support. Last month, we began work on a two-year contract delivering enterprise training and business clinic support to both residents and existing businesses in and around Church Street. We want to bring in new talent and reinvigorate existing businesses and bring more trade and to the area.

We deliver workshops both during the day to cater for people who may be unemployed and needing the flexibility that self-employment offers – and in the evening after work for the benefit of workers and business owners.

We are helping to build a new startup economy as well as protect the old. Our Business Development Executive Rhona Fairbairn is busy recruiting for the workshops and business support as well as connecting with key stakeholders in the area. She is joined by Senior Project Manager Lydia Gardner who has a particular focus on building relationships with the market traders and on recruiting local unemployed people into the startup element of the enterprise training.

Business Advice contract expands in the ELEPHANT AND CASTLE

Since June 2017, Tree Shepherd has been based in the iconic 1960s shopping centre at the Elephant and Castle. From there we have been helping a group of 28 long-standing independent businesses to survive and navigate the planned regeneration of the area, which will include the bringing down of the centre. Having established a successful outreach programme in Peckham, assisting businesses being affected by regeneration change, we had a wealth of experience to bring to this new challenge.

Through continuous outreach, meeting owners at their place of business, and on-going business clinic support, we helped businesses to tackle issues around rising costs, declining footfall, uncertainties around the planning process and management issues with the shopping centre itself. Over time we have also started to help them think about their future and start to plan for change. Where they wanted it, we became their voice at meetings with Southwark Council and the developers Delancey. Where they needed it, we offered confidential advice and support for their businesses.

Since this September things have changed quite dramatically. It had become increasingly apparent that many more businesses were in need of independent business advice after planning permission was granted in July. Our support role was rapidly expanded to include all independent businesses operating within the “red line” i.e. everyone in and around the shopping centre building. This included the all the indoors concessions, and the outside market stall holders and traders operating kiosks and containers plus two large units in the railway arches on Elephant Road. In very short order we reconfigured our programme to provide support to an additional 50 businesses within the existing agreed budget.

Brixton Xmas Market Celebrations 1st & 2nd Dec 2017

Ho ho ho!

Once again Tree Shepherd has had the pleasure of organising a two-day showcase for Lambeth Forest Network traders. Friday 1st Dec is a day of trading 10am-7pm ending in Brixton’s Christmas Lights going on. Choirs and a brass band will be outside Morleys at 7pm and before that there will be Xmas activities and traders all along Station Road. Saturday 2nd Dec is Small Business Saturday and there will be a road packed with independent traders to celebrate. Trading is 10am-6pm so make sure you visit and buy gifts and food.

See flyer for details and make sure you go and support Lambeth’s own traders. #LoveLambeth

Trader info:

  • When you arrive (by 9.30am please) please ask for John Gordon in high-vis jacket. His mobile is 07944 787336
  • Kareen Gordon, Director of Lambeth Forest Network will be there in support. Her mobile is 07397 115211
  • You are provided with a covered stall (3m x 2m) & table (3m x 1m)

Please take with you:

  • Chair
  • Table cloth
  • Decorations
  • 11 watt bayonet lightbulbs (3 to 5)
  • Price tags and labels
  • Display stands
  • Popups, business cards, banners
  • Storage case / box for underneath
  • Warm clothing and thick socks!


Social media top tip:

When you mention @TreeShepherdUK in your tweets, we will always share with our followers. The hashtag is #BrixtonXmas

Performance itinerary:

Friday 1st December

Brixton Station Road

  • 10:00 – 18:00 – Christmas Market w/ Tree Shepherd
  • 14:00 – 15:00 – City of London Sinfonia
  • 17:00 – 19:00 – Majestic Brass

Saturday 2nd December

Brixton Station Road

  • 10:00 – 18:00 – Christmas Market w/ Tree Shepherd
  • 15:00 – 16:00 – Shamanie & Pop Band


BE BOSS 2017 Young Entrepreneur Winner: Richie Babalola

Tree Shepherd met with a host of young people at the October 2017 Angelltown Future Festival.  This was a fantastic careers event where young people were encouraged to explore their prospects in the world of work. Many showed a keen interest in being their own boss – the question was with what kind of company?

We introduced #BEBOSS – a film-making opportunity for young people to pitch themselves, talk about their key skills, share their motivations and present on what their dream company would be. The prize was £50 cash for the best film.

We are proud to announce the winner – Richie Babalolo – and hope you enjoy watching his brilliant pitch below:



START OUT START UP 18-30 Case Study of Amanda Abrahams filmed by Florence Jones

Florence Jones was a student on our first START OUT START UP programme 2017, supporting 18-30 year-olds in Lambeth to start and develop businesses.

She has developed her own videography business: FABRICATION FILMS and produced this mini-film to showcase just one case study from the programme: Amanda Abrahams.

We thank the Walcot Foundation for making it possible to support young people from our Lambeth community who have very little income, but are driven and have a desire to be self-employed.

TEAM PROFILE OF THE MONTH – meet Sherman Dormer, Tree Shepherd’s Training Administrator

After many years working as a touring musician, Sherman joined tree shepherd in spring of 2017.

Sherman is an administrator within the training team. He is very passionate about the work he does and particularly enjoys developing relationships with the students as they progress through the course.

In his spare time, Sherman enjoys live music and watching films (particularly contemporary American cinema late 60s through to late 70s) and French new wave.

TEAM PROFILE OF THE MONTH – meet Yolanda Lopez, Tree Shepherd’s Enterprise Administrator

Yolanda works at Tree Shepherd as Enterprise Administrator organising the business incubation department. She has experience in international and local development, with a focus on the Latin American and South European communities.
Yolanda worked for years in the financial sector before returning to study and graduating from a MA in Public Policy at King’s College London, where she collaborated as a researcher. She also holds a LLB and a BA in Political Science and speaks Spanish.
When she’s not at work, Yolanda spends most of her free time cooking and practising yoga but there is one thing she’s famous for – her acclaimed performances as drag king in Soho.