A constant refrain from start-ups across the country is “I don’t have enough space to develop my business in”.
For people who have virtually zero capital this is an especially big challenge particularly if their business takes up a lot of space like dressmaking. Many of the people who we support are trying to cut patterns, make clothes or hem curtains in cramped conditions in their bedroom or after the family has gone to bed on the dining room table.
In the early stages of business, the work can come at random intervals so our clients can’t risk taking on a commitment for their own space (even if they could afford it in the first place!). What they need is easy-access, low cost space where they can spread out and get the job done.
LJ Works is being developed in response to this market failure. It is a new community-led enterprise hub in Loughborough Junction - a local centre between Brixton and Camberwell within Lambeth’s most deprived ward. The area’s employment rate is 7.5% lower than, and job growth is one third of, the London average.
The aspiration is for local people to be well represented amongst the businesses that take up residence and for the community to take ownership within 5 years. Tree Shepherd has been working alongside many other groups including the Loughborough Estate Management Board to ensure the project connects with people who are furthest from the job market, perhaps because they lack the confidence, or because they have significant caring responsibilities. If we are to enable people in these situations to participate in a project like this, it is important to start working with them early in the process.
In the build up to LJ Works opening in 2018 we have been working on the local estate to support and encourage residents who have a business idea. We have delivered a number of Start Your Own Enterprise courses in the area and a series of focused business clinics. At the clinics we have advised people on everything from managing cashflow and registering with Companies House to developing international trade.
Tree Shepherd has been influential in demonstrating effective demand for genuinely affordable workspace in the area. Since its inception in 2015 we have worked with The Platform project run by MwS and supported 80% of their initial tenants.