A year after they appeared on a major BBC TV series, three Welsh community enterprises funded with over £400,000 each in National Lottery Community Fund cash reveal how they have weathered the economic downturn and the washout summer to ensure the survival of their community led business ventures.
In May 2010, the Tŷ Talcen charity in Carmarthenshire was one of three Welsh projects awarded £400,000 in National Lottery funding through Village SOS, a scheme by the National Lottery Community Fund and the BBC which aimed to inspire a rural revival across the UK.
In the first of three blogs, Hugh Davies, the Project Leader and a Company Director of the Myddfai Companies in Carmarthenshire reveals how the project workers behind the Tŷ Talcen charity and Myddfai Tŷ Talcen Limited have been working hard within the village of Myddfai to make a success of the business. . . .
The Myddfai Trading Company Limited, a company that shares the same social enterprise objective of regeneration as the charity, has further developed the Myddfai Brand and a whole new range of Myddfai Trading Company products sell under the brand. Our range of products include herbal teas, luxury soaps, and plant-based cosmetics as well as branded kitchenware, gifts and crafts.
To market the village as a destination for well-being breaks and other holidays to the Brecon Beacons National Park we also demolished the old crumbling village hall to build a new Visitor and Interpretation Centre which now includes a social enterprise, shop, cafe and an auditorium which provides a crucial social hub for local residents and a focus point for tourists to the area.
With products flying off the shelves, the Myddfai Trading Company has now moved into bigger commercial premises just outside Llangadog in order for us to develop, pack and dispatch all of our products effectively. Our regular customers include CADW, the National Trust and the Wales Millennium Centre and we have also introduced a new line of toiletries which are sold in guest houses and hotels locally- with plans to expand further afield in the future. In our first year, we have has also won a host of local and national tourism and business awards which we’re delighted about.
Our brand has been extremely well received throughout Wales and we changed the commercial dimension so that the Myddfai Trading Company is now in charge of all commercial aspects of selling the branded products, with Mike Hill the Managing Director doing an excellent job.
The shop at the centre now comes under the Ty Talcen Charity and is run as an operational social enterprise called Myddfai Ty Talcen alongside the Myddfai Trading Company. Myddfai is getting to be known by its products and its wonderful new centre. Over fifty small individual businesses are now selling from the shop. We actually sell the trading company products to the shop at the centre and they benefit from the retail mark up. The shop, the centre and the cafe are all making a modest profit, which is great. Much of this is because of our superb team of volunteers.
Since opening in June last year, around 8,000 visitors from all over the world have visited our centre; three new jobs have been created and we now boast around sixty volunteers on the books. The centre is also doing well with regards to hosting community events, wedding receptions, conferences and ticketed shows and we’re looking to do more weddings and conferences because they are potentially big earners for us.
The challenges are day to day economically but we’re doing well despite the lousy summer we’ve had. Everyone’s constantly working hard to sell and make both elements of the project sustainable. It’s challenging but we’re still standing and we’ve got two surviving companies, a very well respected brand, and a superb destination.
For more information on Village SOS log on to www.villagesos.org.uk