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Fridge or Bust: How Barra Organics Glavanised Their Community

Really encouraging news from our member Barra Organics, who successfully harnessed the support of their local community in Sheffield to save their business.

Barra Organics is an award-winning shop and veg scheme that has provided their local community in Sheffield with organic, local food for the past ten years. Like many other Better Food Traders, the small team at Barra Organics became essential workers during the pandemic sometimes working 14+ hours a day to keep up with demand.

Yet post-pandemic they faced a series of unprecedented challenges: a sudden 20% drop in trade (with some customers returning to supermarkets or larger box schemes), staff ill-health, recruitment and retention issues, managing delicate fresh produce waste through a heat wave, and the compounded realities of the cost of living crisis. The final straw was their antiquated fridges guzzling electricity to an eye-watering degree during the energy price hikes.

They urgently needed funds to replace the fridges and reduce energy bills, but with no money left in reserves they were facing a bleak future. So owner-manager Moya Sketchley did something she has never done before: launched a crowdfunding campaign. With coverage in the local press they quickly reached their target. As Moya says,

“We managed to get the new fridge upgrade and it is looking fantastic. The generous response from many of our customers was really positive, as it has been from some of our colleagues and food trader collaborators.

…the local press have been very supportive, so people are noticing us and coming back to us which is great.

I know it must seem like madness to keep going when things are so stacked against you, but the other side is we have put so much into establishing our little community, you don’t want to just let it disappear when in someways it has never been more relevant. We definitely seem to have steered through the other end of something very rocky. Undoubtedly we will be stronger and more resilient for it.”

Barra Organics is one of many small scale, local, ethical food retailers across the country facing the most challenging trading times in memory. However, this is not just a story of one woman’s determination to save her shop. Barra Organics’ fundraising success is a testimony to the strength of the goodwill they have built up over the years and the significance of local businesses in the fabric of our communities. Barra Organics succeeded because they were able to remind people of their wider value. It’s a lesson to us all of the importance of supporting local ethical food shops. Our communities are poorer without them.

If you are a community-based ethical food retailer in need of support, join the Better Food Traders network. Membership gives you access to lots of great resources such as crowdfunding advice, training on getting local press coverage, and a big dose of solidarity from like-minded businesses. Apply here.

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