Craft Coop Windsor, Windsor

Craft Coop Windsor, Windsor

The Craft Coop is an award-winning social enterprise concept that allows local makers to sell their handmade products in a nurturing high street retail environment. Prior to COVID, there were 3 stores – our ‘flagship’ (OG) in Maidenhead, in addition to High Wycombe and Camberley.

We had wanted to open a new store in Windsor for some time, but negotiations were stalled in the initial lockdown during the pandemic. Realising that more and more people were recognising the benefits of ‘locally produced’ goods – and some were even honing their artistic skills (and even pivoting) during later lockdowns – we persisted in our discussions with local supporters – with town centre manager, councillors and, most importantly, Windsor Yards shopping centre to agree on some space for a pop-up this year.

We were delighted to be provided space in an empty retail unit – which needed a little TLC – so we rallied friends and family to help paint and prepare it, in a socially distanced and safe manner. As a registered CIC, we do not have much in the way of spare funds, but through the generosity of the shopping centre and local supporters, we managed to up- and recycle existing fixtures and fittings from other disused premises and make our new retail space look like a ‘gallery’!

In parallel, we set about recruiting artisans and makers to help fill the space and sell their products in the shop. Previously this has been managed via a series of Open Calls (almost X Factor style!) in person, but instead we met all our new ‘Coopers’ over zoom to discuss their products and skills – ensuring too quality variety – from paintings, photography and homewares (ceramics, textiles, candles etc), to jewellery, accessories and clothing.

We provided socially distanced training – and on 12 April we opened our doors for the first time. As part of our business model, the Coopers all need to work one shift a week in the store – meaning they get a chance to meet like-minded craft-passionate folk in a safe, nurturing environment. They also get to know one another’s products and can talk to customers about the maker’s background and product range – which often in turn encourages commissioned work.

Since then we have grown an even bigger community, along with supporters from the general public – reflected by our ever growing social media presences. We’ve become a collection point for a local family-related charity ‘The Baby Bank’ and also chose the ‘Windsor Homeless Project’ as our charity for 2021 – which will receive proceeds from any events we do, plus our honesty coffee pot. We have a community noticeboard where anyone can pin updates – for example Windsor Community Fridge etc, and even have a stuffed dog called ‘Cooper’!

We are delighted with the progress we have made, despite the adversity of starting a new operation in a pandemic, with a load of people that didn’t necessarily know one another, and not much in the way of funds – but with oodles of passion and a local mindset!

We believe its a win-win for all – we have a beautiful new shop, artisans and makers can sell their wares, and hopefully the wider Windsor community (in addition to the shopping centre) appreciate the vibrancy of having us there too!

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2021-06-22 09:02:46

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