A note from Marty Reid, Head of Engine Shed: The time to test genuine collaboration

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Like many of our peers in the city, we took the tough decision last week to temporarily close public access to our building. Engine Shed is an institution which revolves around ‘creative collisions’ of people working together, in our Members’ Lounge or at the tea point in the SETsquared offices, so it wasn’t an easy day for the team.

It was also daunting to realise that, more broadly, we need to completely rethink how we engage as a business ecosystem to maintain the great network of support that we’ve built together (Bristol has more meetups per head than any other major UK city, with many of them spanning multiple sectors).

It’s going to require a change in culture, a willingness to do things differently, to make mistakes along the way, and cash is going to be tight…but those conditions will be familiar to all the amazing startups and community organisations that have made the ecosystem strong in the first place.

We speak a lot about how it is genuine collaboration that drives our region and now is the time to really test and express that. If you’ve found a great avenue of support or new way of working, please pro-actively reach out and share the experience.

And at a time when everyone will have concerns about the financial sustainability of their business, it’s more important than ever to pay suppliers on time and be more understanding on terms if your own customers are likely to be struggling.

Engine Shed aims to continue at this time to be a connector, facilitator and supporter to the regional business community. If you need someone to talk to or if you think you can support others but aren’t sure how to go about it, then now is the time to get in touch.

I’ve included below a list of Government and regional support measures for businesses, but we recognise that these can be difficult to work through for an SME who is already stretched to capacity. One of our early priorities in the coming days will be to coordinate with other support organisations to make sure everyone can receive advice, clarification or just have someone to talk to.  More details to follow shortly.

Government and regional advice about Covid-19

The Government has announced a range of measures to support businesses to try and help them through the current crisis. Some of the initial wave of guidance prioritised retail and hospitality, but more information is coming out day by day for all sectors. Of particular note:

  • Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme – The Government is providing guarantees through the British Business Bank to allow lenders to issue financial support of up to £5m for SMEs with 6 months interest free from 23 March.
  • Grant funding of £10,000 for all business who are eligible for small business rate relief. This support will be managed by our local authorities and is expected in early April.
  • SMEs will be able to reclaim a refund on up to 2 weeks’ Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for employee absence due to COVID-19.
  • A 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England (their devolved administrations have similar measures in place)

Business West and Enterprise Nation are providing good resource pages on the available support, with daily updates and explanations.

In the meantime…

I’ve been cheered by been some brilliant responses from Bristol businesses who are already directly affected by the crisis:

  • Local tech foodies Wriggle have launched Indie Kitty to support independent businesses with their cash flow challenges.
  • If you need a date night to relieve tension from working at home, lots of local restaurants and bars are transitioning to collection/delivery, and many are also offering free meals to healthcare workers (shout out to Bravas and Wilsons near me!). Bertha’s Pizza of Wapping Wharf fame have turned over spare oven capacity to make free bread for those who might be struggling.
  • Wiper & True, Left Handed Giant and Bristol Beer Factory have teams out delivering their beers at no extra charge…perfect for some virtual after work drinks where social contact isn’t allowed…

And finally…

I’d just like to offer a huge thank you to the Engine Shed and SETsquared teams for their patience, flexibility and most importantly for being a great support to each other through this week. The multiple daily video hangouts, virtual tea breaks, Through the Keyhole tours of our home work set ups, pet co-worker shots, and relentless chat on Slack have definitely helped me through this week.

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