A community development trust in north Northumberland has come up with an innovative scheme to help local micro-businesses proper.
The Glendale Gateway Trust, which is based in Wooler, has used a garden courtyard to the rear of its Cheviot Centre HQ on which to site three standalone office “pods,” or mini-offices, which have been quickly snapped up by budding businesses in the area.
The trust management team used £250,000 secured through Defra’s Rural Growth Fund to buy the pods - and to convert three rooms into additional small office space and set up a smart work centre with three “hot desks” that can be hired by local businesses, individuals or community groups.
Asset development manager, Neil Wilson, said: “We could have simply applied to build a brick extension at the back of the centre, but we wanted to do something more innovative and imaginative than that, hence the idea of bringing in the pods.
“Even before we started thinking about marketing them we had tenants for all three.”
They are an IT consultant, a social enterprise business specialising in outdoor education and first aid training, and an online marketing company.
All the pods are operated on the basis of a rolling monthly contract, and can cost from as little as £1,000 a year to rent.
Mr Wilson said: “What they offer is the chance for someone to have a stab at setting up a business, without a crippling, long-term financial commitment. Tenants don’t have to commit to more than one month at a time, giving them a low-cost opportunity to see if their business idea will work.”
The trust has also secured funding through the Big Lottery Village SOS programme to improve a community hall in the Cheviot Centre, named after its first chairman Tom Sale. Last year it won an Action for Market Towns national award for its developments over the past two years.