Case study

Ryburgh Community Enterprise

A community-owned shop brings together residents and revitalises a Norfolk village.

When Andrew Purdy moved to the village of Great Ryburgh in Norfolk six years ago, he was looking forward to being part of a friendly local community that catered for all its residents’ needs. There was a pub, a post office, a shop, a church and a school. But he soon realised that village life might not live up to his expectations. “The school closed and the pub and church were struggling,” remembers Purdy. “Then in 2007 we discovered that the local shop, which had been around for 100 years, was going to close. It felt like the village was dying.”

He arranged, via the Parish Council, for Norfolk Rural Community Council to facilitate a meeting about the shop’s future. About 70 people attended. A committee was formed, which then spent a year looking at, among other things, possible legal structures. “A key consideration was that we needed to raise over £100,000, at least some of which would have to come from the village,” explains Purdy. “The CIC structure matched our needs exactly, allowing us to raise capital through selling shares while ensuring that the business was to be run for the benefit of the community.”

In March 2009, Great Ryburgh became home to one of the UK’s 200 community-owned shops, thanks to money raised through selling shares to 124 local residents, as well as loans and grants from the Plunkett Foundation, the Co-operative Fund and the Norfolk Community Foundation. In total, £130,000 was generated.

The new store sells local produce including organic free range eggs, malt beer, organic vegetables, fruit and fresh bread, as well as non-food items like the uniform for the local school. It also has a post office and a café with internet. Impressively, its weekly turnover is more than £3,000, whereas the previous shop took only a few hundred pounds each week.

Meanwhile, the local pub is now thriving, there’s a new butcher and the church is growing. “Ryburgh has risen and is a great community again,” says Purdy, who is a full-time army officer, as well as being managing director of the shop.

According to Purdy, the community interest company model works perfectly for them. “The CIC allows us to pay a dividend, so shareholders can see some of the benefits in their pocket if we do well,” he says. Purdy explains that the dividend is capped at a fairly low rate, which can be no more than 30 per cent of the shop’s net profit and no more than 5 per cent above the Bank of England base rate. It is more than a bank deposit account, but not sufficient to tempt speculative buyers or venture capitalist wanting to buy up huge chunks. “No one has really invested with the hope of becoming rich,” he adds. “They just want to be part of a healthy community.”

Name Ryburgh Community Enterprise
Location Great Ryburgh, Norfolk
Company structure CIC limited by shares
Founded 2004, became a CIC in 2006
Community interest statement To provide the whole area with local produce, a tea room, internet access, a home delivery service and a space for the sale of local arts and crafts.
Published 12 November 2013