Small social enterprise (tearooms and local shop) in a small community in rural Ireland
The Cottage was set up in 2012, it’s aim being to combat the lack of services and rural isolation. Loughmore is a small rural community in Ireland with a population of 800 with 300 houses. The problem was lack of enterprise in Loughmore which triggered The Cottage Tearooms being set up for the benefit of the community on a not for profit basis with all profits going back into the community.
The next step was to bring the community together so a public meeting was called. Shares were offered and 90% of the parishioners took up the offer, which was a huge acknowledgement of their support. People signed up to become Volunteers, Food Producers and Craft exhibitors. Financial support was obtained from LEADER under the Rural Village Rejuvenation Scheme. A grant was sanctioned, a bank loan was taken out and funds raised from the shareholding offer funded the rest.
The Cottage opened in August 2012 and has flourished since. It is going from strength to strength offering valuable services and creating a community hub. It has surpassed all expectations providing much needed employment, a retail outlet and has become the heart-beat of the community.
It employs 4 people. 12 volunteers also offer their services and people with special needs also are given the opportunity to work. It provides work for students and local teenagers. 9 local food producers and 10 crafts people are suppliers. All produce is local, as far as is possible.
Set-up cost was €54k -75% was grant aided. Funds were raised through community shares. A loan was obtained from the Bank.50 volunteers worked to get the premises open .12 volunteers work daily.One person with special needs is employed.10 teenagers work.4 part-time permanent staff manage The Cottage.
Evidence of success
Since 2012 The Cottage has flourished, gaining attraction everywhere, even internationally. It has won numerous awards and featured on many TV programmes. Mary has spoken at many conferences in Ireland and the UK. This type of project has the potential to change the face of not only rural Ireland but any rural community anywhere. It has brought joy, hope and life back to the rural community of Loughmore, Co. Tipperary, and this can be replicated in any rural community in any country.
No experience of applying for grant-aid, being the first of its kind in Ireland. Difficulty ‘selling’ the concept to the funders. However, we have since helped other similar social enterprises to set up in other rural areas in Ireland.
Potential for learning or transfer
There is huge potential for other communities to learn from what we have done in Loughmore. Many groups visit The Cottage with a view to setting up similar enterprises in their own community. 10 similar enterprises have been set up. These groups visited The Cottage for information and advice. Mary was employed by LEADER to mentor groups in Tipperary and there are now 4 successful Community Shops & Tearooms in Tipperary.
Mary has spoken at conferences in Ireland and the UK. University students have case studies on The Cottage and we have spoken to the co-operative studies students.The Cottage has proven itself to be a sustainable business. It offers an excellent service to the community and employees have gained valuable experience which has offered them the opportunity to further their careers.The Cottage opens 7 days a week. We encourage and nourish new people who come on board and this means that the business will continue successfully into the future.