Hinton St George Shop

Faced with a six-mile round trip down single track roads to the nearest supermarket, the villagers in chocolate box Somerset village Hinton St George had just one year to raise a massive £550,000 to save their village shop and post office from closure. And after the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) was suspended and a grant of £300,000 fell through, a solid business plan became all the more important.

Vice-chair of the shop committee, Emma Way, explains: “We did what all of us do when we are short of money – we went to see the bank, the upshot of which is that based on our business plan we were offered mortgage loans from two different lenders of up to £200,000, but which we hope to keep down to £150,000 to keep the financing costs down.

“Our share offer in March 2011 has brought in a massive £160,000 from the community to date. This is made up of around £80,000 in memberships and shares, £64,000 in donations including gift aid and the rest in unsecured loans. Our grant income is around £55,000, but we’re still working on that.

“And we slashed the budget by £100,000, helped substantially by a major drop in the formal valuation of the vendor’s property, as well as economies and compromises in our ambition.”

The shop is a fantastic example of how using a business plan as a working document means you’re better prepared for the unexpected. “It’s a three-year plan that we refer back to. It’s not set in stone, you have to work with the situation you have rather than the one you imagined,” says Emma.

The shop opened on 30 July 2011 and so far trading – and the shop’s future – are looking up.