This has been another exciting year for Valley at Work. We started by welcoming Richard Nolan to the committee, taking up the post of Treasurer. We have developed a new, much simpler and more easily edited Valley at Work website using Office 365. The website features a membership directory, a regular news page and a meetings page. We have integrated this with our Facebook and Twitter presence. We have been able to reintroduce a regular email to our wider network of just under 200 local businesses, posting news and information of value, which is part of our core remit.
As Chair, I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in this year’s Committee for their input and advice, which has helped considerably in moving Valley at Work forward. Our aims for the year were as follows:
1. Sustain Our Membership
Paid membership of Valley at Work has been in decline for a couple of years, and we have taken the following steps to arrest this decline during the past year:
- We have simplified the membership period. Full membership of Valley at Work now runs from July 1st one year to June 30th the next year.
- We have changed the membership benefits to include a ticket for the Rossendale Business Awards ceremony and for the buffet at the AGM in June, as well as a directory entry on the Valley at Work website. Members also participate in the governance of the association, voting at the AGM to elect officials and deciding forward policy.
- We have made all regular meeting free for any business from Rossendale to attend. This has meant an increase in attendance and more new faces at meetings. This leads directly to enquiries about membership.
- We have reintroduced regular email and social media communication with the wider network – this has increased attendance at meetings and brought membership enquiries.
Our aim is to grow membership back to at least 40 during the course of the next year.
2. Reach Out to More Rossendale Businesses
Valley at Work remains a not for profit association with low running costs. We aim to develop our reach by:
- Holding 11 monthly meetings (including the Rossendale Business Awards ceremony and the AGM) at local venues with guest speakers on a variety of business topics every year. We would like to record our thanks to everyone who has hosted, attended or presented at a meeting during the last year.
- Making the meetings free of charge and improving communication about them has brought a significant improvement in attendance, from 10-15 at the beginning of the year to 20 – 25 at the end of the year, with a resulting upswing in membership enquiries.
- The regular communication of business news to the wider network (which is growing month on month too) makes Valley at Work more credible as local network. We plan some outreach work as part of the Rossendale Business Awards activity this year to connect with Rossendale’s larger and manufacturing businesses.
3. Continue To Grow Rossendale Business Awards
Take two mayors to an Awards Ceremony? Photo: Liz Henson Photography
Nothing underlines the core ethos of Valley at Work – run by small businesses for small businesses – than Rossendale Business Awards. The competition and ceremony has become the most significant annual business event of the year in Rossendale.
The awards aim to demonstrate and celebrate the quality and diversity of businesses in Rossendale. The growth in participation year on year underlines its increasing credibility. Over 100 local businesses were nominated for an award in 2014, which was the most ever, and we completely sold out the ceremony on November 12th at the Riverside, which was very pleasing as moving from Rawtenstall to Whitworth was perceived as a risk at the time.
2015 will see the 6th annual Rossendale Business Awards. The challenge is to improve participation still further, particularly among Rossendale’s larger and manufacturing businesses. The ceremony will take place at the Riverside, Whitworth on Wednesday November 11th. Nominations will take place during August and September. We have commissioned an updated website which will go live in May.
We are extremely grateful for the financial support the Awards receive from the growing list of award sponsors – without you nothing could happen! Our congratulations to every nominated business, and especially to those who became finalists or winners. Tufties Hair and Beauty won the Valley at Work Award (again)!
4. Volunteer Mentoring Service
We have a number of trained volunteer mentors who are available to support anyone in Rossendale that has an idea for a new business and needs help to move forward. We have helped a small number of people during the past year and we hope to help more during the next 12 months.
Rob Carder (Chair)