I am attempting to raise funds for a newsagent that I have have opened in Edinburgh Scotland, firstly let me describe my background and then what the newsagents is, why I want to raise the money to ensure it can stay open and why it is a worthy cause.
In June 2017 my partner delighted me by asking me to be his wonderful wife, I was studying at college and he was working full time for a company in Edinburgh, we have three children and were struggling to get the deposit needed for a mortgage and onto the property ladder.
This meant we found ourselves living in private accommodation and paying rent of upwards of £775 per month more than half our wage, this was making it near impossible to get the deposit together and not leaving us a chance to save money for the wedding she deserves and both want to share with our families, we did however decide to give ourselves some time and planned on waiting 2 years for the wedding to try to save up.
Then in October 2018 my partner was diagnosed with emphysema and the company he worked for was bought over at the same time, we had been using a portion of his wage every month to put away into the company share scheme to save up for our wedding and/or a mortgage deposit, the takeover meant that we were being forced by the company to sell our shares or risk losing all and everything we had saved.
So we did what we could and sold the shares as soon as possible so as not to see them plummet in value like they had started to do, suddenly we found ourselves in a position where he was off work ill and my fiancée had just finished getting her qualification and without work, on top of this all our saving were suddenly available to us and sitting in cash rather than stored away.
Although it was not a lot of money to most people, it was a few thousand pounds(about £3.3k) and meant the future for our family and the chance for us to achieve our dreams, so given the situation we knew that the money would be at risk because we would be tempted to spend it and given that ISA’s and saving accounts were next to zero interest on them and not worth investing in we had to come up with a solution.
This is when we decided to try and find something that would allow us to try and use our savings and hard work to finally get the money we needed together, little did we know what we were in for...
We started spending all our spare time sitting together looking into and balancing up ideas about what we could do to pro-actively try to safe guard our money and build it up, so we could get what we were trying to achieve, after many tireless nights trying to sift through the cons and scams available and the other options we could find all while trying to scrape by to not dip into the money, we were about to give up on the whole idea when we suddenly came across a shop for rent in a small part of Edinburgh (where we stay) and in a community that looked like it had potential, although this had not been our original direction on what to do, we weighed up the idea that it could give us employment as well as allow us to invest our money and make a return and perhaps even get the money together for the wedding, so that was it we decided to move on it straight away.
We contacted the landlords and arranged a viewing for the very next day, that was it we had found our perfect answer, we agreed almost immediately that we had found the answer to all our problems, the shop came with some fittings and we were ready to go, I mean how hard can it be, we just buy some things put them in and hundreds of people will swarm from all around the lands to buy our products ! well perhaps not.
We agreed on a lease and paid out a month rent and a deposit and were given the keys to our new life.
So now we had half our money left, an empty shop, plenty of great ideas and so we set about creating a perfect shop, within the first few days we had managed to get a cash and carry account, a till, a small amount of stock and a deal with a bakery to deliver rolls, we arranged a deal with a milk company to get milk delivered and felt great but this is when we hit our first hurdle, we needed newspapers, little did we know that there is only one place that would distribute newspapers to shops within our area and they demand a £1000 deposit as well as a minimum sales total of £235.32 a week from what we would only receive 18% profit and on top of this we would have to pay them £40 a week for delivery, well anyone that can do the maths will see that the minimum payment we need to pay would give us a profit of £44.7 per week but then we need to pay £40 a week for delivery leaving us £4.70 profit per week, not the best thing to spend the last £1000 pound we have left, we couldn’t afford it but how can we be a newsagent/convenience store without newspapers.
So, we set about trying to solve this new problem. We got back onto the computer and phone and went to work, finally we managed to find a company who offered us a short term solution , they agreed to provide us with newspapers for a while at a 10% profit but we would have to collect them ourselves, fine, we thought, this is the answer, little did we know that we would need to get up an hour earlier than we were before to drive and collect the papers but we had saved the £1000 pound for more stock in the shop and had a temporary solution to the newspaper issue and the shop was in the first stages of being what it would become.
When we first went to buy the stock, it was a lot like going shopping for our own home, we bought products that we thought we would buy, not really considering too much that people need choice and might not buy what we would. We soon had to learn this and then started only buying what people would come in and ask for.
Although we had spent all our money on stock now and had (in our mind got everything that could be needed) the shelves still looked empty there were so many holes in the fridge and the shelves, we had to do a lot of creative positioning to make it look full and we did it well.
The first things you learn about when opening a store, and you learn it very quickly, is that consistency and reliability are a must, we had agreed on opening times of 7am – 8pm Monday to Saturday and 8am – 1pm Sunday, giving us the chance to spend time together on a Sunday to do things as a couple. we thought that between the pair of us this would be manageable but now with the paper situation this meant we were up at 5am to collect the papers and then straight to shop to ensure the rolls were out, the papers were set, and the shop was clean and open for 7am.
I had always taken for granted how much work went into being able to walk into a shop and expect what I wanted to be available let alone that the shop would be open when I needed it to be.
So for the next few months we find our every moment of time dedicated to the shop, from when we awake to when we sleep it is constantly devoted to ensuring we can maintain and grow the business, many things start to go wrong, fridge stock go off, we had bought many types of the wrong product that only sold one or two leaving the rest to go out of date, the margins are so small that if a product goes out of date it really hits hard but we persist and keep putting every penny that we make into paying the bills and paying the rent, whatever is left goes into replacing the stock, by now we have realised what to buy and what not to, how much to buy and when to promote, we start expanding our product lines to suit the customers, we print and distribute leaflets introducing ourselves to the neighbours, we buy a hot dog machine, a coffee machine, pie warmer, everything we can think of to keep expanding and drawing in more customers, all the while we are not taking any wages and find ourselves having to find other work to help pay the bills so now we are taking turns on days in the shop while the other is working another job to try and get more money to keep everything afloat.
We then are approved by The National Lottery for a terminal and scratch card game station and think this will help with additional passive income.
We sell lottery tickets and scratch cards provided by Camelot and receive commission for doing so, or so we thought.
Turns out we must pay per pack of scratch cards, with the cheapest pack being £180 and the top packs being £250, and that Camelot expect you to keep up a good range of cards or they may take away your vending machine. We had no choice but to ask our bakery, paper and milk suppliers for a weeks terms on payment and were one week behind for every bill for roughly 4 weeks but have since caught up due to the loyalty of our customers and the fact our customer base is growing.
Finally, the shop is starting to look like it’s a real shop and it has just this month afforded its own rent for the first time, we are still not getting wages for it and are having to do every hour under the sun to keep going, we have roped our daughter into helping 4 days a week.
You may ask why we didn’t just pull out and try to get back what we could and get other jobs, well apart from all the time, money and investment we have put into it and the chance to be able to control our own destiny, the shop is making more money every week and is gaining in popularity with the locals and that is the main reason we are determined to succeed. Since we opened the shop we noticed that a lot of people were coming in overjoyed that the shop was reopened after such a long time being closed, we soon realised that a lot of the regulars that were using the shop were older people a lot of whom had disabilities, trouble walking, mental health issues and social isolation and it had become apparent, we are told often, about the difference the shop was making to them. We have them in having coffee, chatting away to us, sometimes for hours on end and it has become a sort of community centre for people to come in and talk to each other and for some, perhaps, to get there only interaction with other people for the whole day. We have started delivering to people’s homes who can’t make it to the shop because of disabilities or other reasons, we have found ourselves posting parcels for people, giving them lifts to places when buses are cancelled etc, the shop means that much to them and has become central to allowing people to get what they need.
The younger people that are coming into the shop are no different either, I have seen my partner Danielle become a sort of agony aunt for the kids in the area, helping them with issues at school and in there social life, I’ve even found myself helping children make flowers they have picked into mother’s day gifts with sort of ad hoc craft classes and listening to groups of young teenagers complain about how hard life is when they couldn’t get into a cinema movie due to age restrictions, it has become apparent how important the shop has become for the local community and that is what keeps us going.
We need the shop to survive and thrive because it is bringing people together, helping people out, making their lives easier and holding aspects of a community together.
I heard a heart-warming testimony the other day while we were asking people who came into the shop what they thought about the shop and it stated
“I have met neighbours and spoke with them that I have lived beside but have never spoken to and without this shop I would not of been able to do that, it has brought me together with all my neighbours”
we have even had people come in and cry saying how much the shop means to them.
So this is why we need to raise the money to keep the shop going and ensure it can keep growing so it can support itself fully, as I said it is constantly growing and increasing in profit but it needs a push to get it over the finish line, what we hope to do is get the deposit needed for the paper delivery to save us the extra hour a day on having to drive to collect them, get the last of the stock lines we need so we are not having to go to the cash and carry every day to replace what is sold so the shelves don’t look empty.
WE would use the money we raise to fill the scratch cards giving more choice and also use money to decorate the inside and outside of the shop including changing the signage to allow people to see it is new owners and show what products we are selling in the hope to increase tragic into the shop.
Pay the bills up front so that every week is not just a challenge of making sure all the previous weeks bills are paid off and then start again until the end of the month where we need to do this and get the rent together, we know we are so close to succeeding here and hopefully it can serve a dual purpose, be there for the community it serves and also be what it was originally for , to allow us to get the money for our wedding and get on the property market, everything we get will be going towards this.