Entrepreneurs fight for St Neots' corner
THIS week sees the culmination of months of hard work, dedication and community spirit as the new ‘This Is St Neots’ frontage was unveiled on the old Beales building.
What started as a spark of an idea by a local resident has built momentum in the St Neots community, resulting in real change for the High Street. Fierce St Neots supporter, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Alex Hughes was horrified when he saw the previous Beales’ signage unveiled; advertising John Lewis as ‘only 7 tunes on the radio’ away in the city of Cambridge.
Hughes (33) is the Founder of ‘Shifties’; a free local group developed to nurture fellow entrepreneurs, share knowledge and form a platform for business owners to achieve their full potential in St Neots. In the past 3 years, the group has grown in membership size and influence; taking lessons from lockdown in improving mental health, supporting others to succeed and encouraging people to ‘buy local’. The John Lewis signage went against everything the 1,317 Shifties’ members have worked so hard to achieve in St Neots.
Alex Hughes, Founder of Shift Momentum, Cross Keys Mews, said; “St Neots has survived the most difficult couple of years. We are lucky to be a part of the most incredible town and community and I couldn’t just sit back and watch as shoppers, tourists and visitors were directed away to Cambridge. I had to do something. We rallied round our connections, advocated to the council and, with the help of the powerhouses behind ‘Serious About St Neots’ together we overthrew the John Lewis signage. This week has been momentous for our independent community, and the relatively small amount of money it cost us to pay for the signs to be changed was insignificant compared to the impact the new signage will make. Thank you to every single company and person who has stood shoulder to shoulder with Shifties and I to make this happen”.
Taking action has been top of the agenda for Gary ‘on the radio’ Lee and Mark Hansard, the Founders of the ‘Serious About St Neots’ movement. The game-changing team joined forces with Shifties, in partnership with long-standing ‘St Neots Initiative’ to drive the Beales project forward; securing a grant from the UK Government’s ‘Welcome Back’ Fund, backed by the European Regional Development Fund. The collaboration ignited talented local entrepreneurs, who each lent their expertise, including; photographer Jackie Fitzpatrick, illustrator Anne-Marie Miller of Carbon Orange and printing by The Business Printing Company.
Gary Lee, co-host of #theseriouspodcast, and co-founder of Serious About St Neots said; “We are excited and proud to be part of this project. We want to use the opportunity to start an open engagement with the residents of St Neots and ask them what they want to see in these kinds of units in the future, but more importantly open a dialogue around the future of the town.
We are teaming up with a group of incredible people with plenty of ideas and some very interested funding partners that are always up for supporting the ones that will work, but it is essential to hear from the people that actually use the High Street regularly. Our aim is to represent the voices of at least 51% of our town’s residents through innovative and engaging community projects.
The designs by Sam Couzens & Anne-Marie Miller are beautiful and will no doubt bring a lot of smiles to those passing by. A big thank you to the many people involved behind the scenes to make this project happen!
I look forward to seeing how this project works as it is a great example of ideas the St Neots Initiative should and could execute in the future.”