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Recovery Lending | Perspectives From A Social Entrepeneur | Yes Brixham

Housing Development and Funding Manager at Yes Brixham, Andrew Wade, shares his experiences about the impact of Covid-19 and the support that Big Issue Invest was able to provide during this period.

As part of our learning and developing response to post Covid investing, Big Issue Invest (BII) has been speaking to social entrepreneurs across different sectors to understand the emerging needs and what type of support works best.

Yes Brixham is an investee based in one of the most deprived coastal towns in the UK – Brixham. They provide a 6 day a week drop-in information, advice and support service to all ages.

Alan Tudhope, Investment Manager at Big Issue Invest, spoke to Housing Development and Funding Manager at Yes Brixham, Andrew Wade, about the impact of Covid-19 and the support that Big Issue Invest was able to provide during this period.

What impact did Covid-19 have on your organisation?

As a consequence of lockdown, we had to temporarily shut our charity shop, this has now been closed for 6 out of the last 12 months. The estimated cost of this is around £40k, we also suffered rent resistance and arrears from our residential and business tenants.   We also closed our drop-in centre and had to put in place alternative support models including home and outdoor visits and the use of online meetings.

Why did you apply to SIB CBILS funding?

The charity has been negatively impacted by lockdown both in terms of service delivery and income generation.  We needed to react quickly to a property investment opportunity so took out a CBILS loan /grant. The loan and grant provided development capital which has enabled YES to develop three properties on Cavern Road to provide high-quality affordable housing for vulnerable adults. These are currently being built (see image below).  This will have a positive long-term impact upon the sustainability of the charity – increasing revenues and creating property assets which will support wider charity activity. We wanted to be able to meet increased needs caused by Covid.

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How important was gaining access to consultancy support during Covid-19?

This was crucial, as a small organisation we did not have the financial or legal in-house resource that was required to complete a complex property deal. There is no doubt we would have been unable to complete the project without this support. What was great about the support was being able to get someone in who had a background in social enterprise development and support. They knew the sector, had relevant experience and really provided value for money via a grant we received for £4K. We secured a combination of grant and loan funding of over £280K directly through consultancy support.

Did you expect to receive support via Big Issue Invest?

We did when Covid hit us, yes. We have always had a very good relationship with BII, they have visited us on numerous occasions and understand the challenges we face and the issues we are trying to resolve in Brixham. Because we had an open relationship with BII we knew they would listen and be supportive. We picked up the phone straight away and spoke to them.

What advice would you give other social enterprises considering social investment at this time?

Our experience of social investment has been extremely positive. Covid has once again shown us we have an open relationship with BII. Social investors like BII provide added value, flexibility, and relationship-based lending to social enterprises which banks and other providers cannot match. My advice would be to speak directly to social investors. There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about their role and what they offer. It isn’t a Dragon Dens like process. We have found them approachable, knowledgeable, and willing to offer direct and indirect support.

What do the next 12 months look like for you now coming out of Covid?

We are cautious and optimistic. We have been able to respond quickly during Covid to meet the challenges it has brought.  I think we are stronger now. We have built resilience into our business model. We have good relationships in place with funders, supporters, and our customers. The outlook is uncertain and challenging but in many ways that has always been the case.