Saturday, 24 September 2016

So what does the Coffee Shop Union actually do...?

It's been a little while since we wrote about the Coffee Shop Union. At the time it was something that had only recently come into being and I suppose we didn't really know exactly what it would look like.

In the same way perhaps as a new baby bursts into the world full of potential and gasping for the life giving oxygen that will enable it to survive, we began the CSU with ideas of what it might be, and also a few thoughts as to what it may need to exist in a fiercely competitive and capitalist society.

In the earliest days this was simply about peer support. As the owner of The Kitchen Croxley I loved meeting with Jackie (LJ's Bushey) and Kerri (Perk Carpenders Park). We'd drink tea, coffee, hot chocolate or some other beverage together and talk. What did we talk about? The things only coffee shop owners talk about I guess. The price of beans and sugar (Brexit and the European sugar markets anyone...?), customer comments and service, staffing challenges and issues and of course how on earth you make a living selling something that of course everyone thinks they can make for themselves at home for a fraction of the cost...

More recently however - and as we have grown our friendship and working relationship - the Coffee Shop Union has grown and developed into something much closer to the initial vision.

For example. Here at The Kitchen we've enjoyed nights with Yellow Comedy for some time. Seven stand up comedians including a headliner have entertained an audience of up to forty local people. All enjoying a great night out at a fraction of the cost of heading into town where you not only pay more but you also have to fund drinks and travel costs way beyond those in little Croxley Green!
Thanks to the Coffee Shop Union you can enjoy similar nights in Bushey and Carpenders Park - benefiting both the coffee shops and the comedians - win win win!

On a more prosaic note - when you own a Coffee Shop it can be something of a nightmare to discover that your foodservice supplier has gone out of business. I discovered that from Twitter the day after our very own went under. Here at The Kitchen however we were in the very fortunate position of having the rep from another, local, supplier here in The Kitchen at the very moment we received the news. We segued seamlessly from Turners Fine Foods to Waterdene with scarcely an intake of breath - had it not been for the CSU I suspect a few panicky emails, phone calls and trips to Morrisons may have been the order of the day!

In a similar vein - for some time now we'd been looking at where to find the perfect morning pastries. We had come close with Turners - after trying their frozen varieties it seemed that the daily deliveries of freshly baked goods may be the answer. Little did we know that the answer - in the form of Seven Seeded - was quite literally just around the corner.

For it was whilst enjoying a Cruffin at Perk that we commented on the quality of the pastries and having identified the supplier decided to pay them a visit. Seven Seeded are situated on Olds Approach - just the other side of the beautiful Croxley Moor from The Kitchen. We were immediately struck by their attitude, work ethos, and the absolute deliciousness of their breakfast offerings.

As a result of these serendipitous happenings we're how happily offering breakfast pastries from Seven Seeded as part of our regular morning menu. Customers are happy - we are too! And if we can increase sales as we hope to then we expect Seven Seeded to also be delighted.

Whiteheath Farm are another example - as a small dairy farm pasteurising their own milk Coffee Shops are their perfect customer. Selling to supermarkets who need a retail market is not of course ideal. End of week sales to the yoghurt makers are similarly disappointing. But delivering to Coffee Shops who share their passion for buying local has to be the best solution - which we are proud to be a part of!

These are just a few ways in which the Coffee Shop Union is benefiting Coffee Shop owners,  There are many more to come as we look forward to welcoming more members in the days and weeks to come - watch this space!

Friday, 23 September 2016

Struggling with marketing, publicity or social media?

Are you a local business, a charity or even a community group that's got a story to tell but really struggling to reach the people that need to know what you've got?

or possibly there are other issues....

Perhaps you are in a pickle with your website and having a bad time of it right now? ... or...  if you are befuddled with all the online 'social media' speak and really just don't get it?  Or perhaps you have been told to get on social media and quite frankly feel it is a complete waste of time...

Then you might want to go along at Noon on the 30th September to +The Kitchen Croxley and have a chat with some people giving up their time freely (absolutely freely... no obligation or commitment or sales pitches) and get a bit of support.

The Kitchen has very kindly offered to play host and a few folk from the local area who know a thing or two about local marketing, community engagement and online technology will be there to see if they can remove a few road blocks and get you pressing forward with your project.

Starting at Noon why not make it a working lunch and come along and partake in some of the local hostelry fayre... there are excellent coffees, mouth watering cakes and toasted sandwiches and paninis ... something for everyone... (help is free... you must pay for your own refreshments)

Kids Create

Every young person is a unique individual with masses of potential. To watch a child grow from a helpless baby, through toddlerhood and the inquisitiveness of childhood to awkward adolescence and then into confident adulthood is a joy, a privilege and something to be celebrated.

Too often however young people do not have the opportunity to fully express themselves. At any one of these stages there is the potential for their development to be slowed or stunted by the intervention of those older than themselves who "know best" and have already made up their minds how life is to be lived.

Education is of course a vital part of any human being's growth and development. To be steered and guided is part of what it means to be community. Since the beginning of time the young have been raised in families both nuclear and extended. Learning with their peers from their elders and neighbours what it means to be a human being living in relationship.

Formal education also has a part to play of course but surely this is where the potential for someone else's creeds to be forced upon a malleable mind, not yet capable of discerning what is truth and what might be the views of those with something of an agenda.

Kids Create is a new initiative that will offer young people the chance to develop their own ideas away from formal education, but within a supportive framework. They will be encouraged to tackle issues close to their hearts whether these be local (how do we cope with dogs fouling the local rec?) to national (what's with all this fracking?) to international (are bombs seriously the answer..?)

You can read much more from David Mills - the visionary behind this exciting initiative - in the Facebook Group here 

If you know of a young person whose passion would match that of those behind this initiative then do please put them in touch with David, Chris or myself. We're excited and can't wait to get started - watch this space for more details!

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Making a Move

Monday September 19th saw +Link4Business make a move that has immediately reaped benefits not only for the organisation but also for the many who attended.

For some months Link4Business has been taking place in the lovely Fox and Hounds in #Rickmansworth. A really lovely community pub with great food and drink, super friendly staff, and an upstairs room that offers great meeting space.

Leaving this venue was not an easy decision. However, just a few weeks previously we'd met with Kieran and Jason from Rivertech and the immediate and obvious synergy between the organisations left us in no doubt that this was something to explore.

Rivertech finds it home in Basing House - previously occupied by none other than William Penn. Situated adjacent to Watersmeet Theatre and the public library it is part of Wimbletech CIC. The vision here is to transform under-utilised library and public space into affordable and supportive community co-working space. Occupying a great central location Rivertech offers fixed, flexi and breakout space, unlimited free tea and coffee, high speed Wifi and a powerful local network, all at 'very' affordable prices. Exellent for sole traders and those starting out on their entrepreneurial journey.

Above and beyond this however we sensed a desire to build community in the same way that Link4Growth aspires to do. As we chatted we could see many joint projects ahead, and ways in which we could all grow community and bring the vital oxygen of thriving small businesses into the town.

The inaugural Link4Business in Basing House was held in the board room with standing room only until we brought in some extra chairs! Many of those who make use of the facilities there had responded to the invitation to come along and find out more. They were joined by existing members of Link4Business many of whom had previously come to the Fox and Hounds or attended Link4Business in Watford at the lovely Fresh Shop in Market Street.

The evening's format was as it is at most Link4Business events. Co-hosted by the District Leaders it began with an introduction to Link4Business and an opportunity for everyone present to share a few words about themselves and their business. Kieran then spoke about Rivertech before a time of open networking.

During this time a few people took a tour of the premises whilst others hung out in the kitchen drinking tea and coffee, maybe sampling some of the legendary lemon drizzle from The Kitchen...

And then we moved onto the one to one time - choosing your partner to chat to by drawing two business cards at a time out of the basket where we'd deposited them on arrival. Everyone found this time helpful - there is always something new to learn from another business owner regardless of how many times you may already have chatted with them.

The final speaker was Chris - speaking more about Link4Growth and the move to an association later this year. He introduced the District Community Hub website and the exciting ways in which this enables us all to contribute not only to the news but also to the way in which it is shared.

The evening concluded with thanks, not a little applause for the excellent speakers, and another thirty minutes or so of informal chat as people seemed almost reluctant to leave. Another very successful Link4Business and one of many more to come in Basing House.

The Little Larder

Food banks are now a way of life for some, but things are changing.

Inspiration has come across the pond, from one of the world's wealthiest countries - USA - called 'The Little Free Pantry' Jane and Neal at L4G took this simple, but effective idea and to cut a long story short, we have started up our very own version - The Little Larder!

Visit +Reason Book Shop and you will find a shelf where you can give (and receive if you are in need) a variety of groceries. The main focus is for the homeless people of Watford who need basic subsistence, but the service is for whoever needs it.

The larder is working well but we still need help - publicity, a cabinet to affix outside when the shop is shut, and of course donations.

I'm so excited to be a part of this...this is just the beginning. What if we had one in every town, in every county - the whole UK!!

Help me change the baked bean tin at a time!! :)

Monday, 19 September 2016

Oxhey Village Environment Group

Thank you to +Angie Carstairs who sent in the link to the Oxhey Village Environment Group's History sheets.

OVEG (Oxhey Village Environment Group) is your local non-political, non-profit residents’ group run by volunteers since 1974, whose main objectives are to:
  • maintain, protect and enhance the character and environment of Oxhey Village and its surroundings
  • foster the community spirit in the village
  • protect and support the services to the area
  • record the history of the area
You can find out much more about OVEG, who is involved, how you can participate via the link below. OVEG's history links have been placed in the section on History & Places of Interest but will also go into the area for local community groups too.

Monday, 5 September 2016

South West Herts Local History TV channel launches!

Today we launched the South West Herts Local History channel with local history enthusiast +David Sawyer and myself +Chris Ogle. This will be a bi-weekly show on a Monday, going out live at 3pm via YouTube but also saved to the District Local History TV Channel...

The brainchild initiated by David was to bring the local history where we live to life. The inspiration came from David's early school years where History was dull and dreary until a teacher started sharing information about the local history... almost every one passed their history exam that year!

The show will be bringing together all aspects of history... buildings, changes, pictures, videos, stories, industrial history of the whole area from Kings Langley to Northwood and Rickmansworth.

If you are involved in one of the many Historical Societies locally or just interested in local history and want to find out more do get in touch... We envisage a whole series of individual shows covering many aspects of local history... there is so much to reveal and share...

The show from today... enjoy!