Dear Cycling Friends,
Just as we were gearing up for for our most successful summer season to date, with exciting bookings at some of the largest cycling events, vintage themed community events and a healthy amount of schools that would have seen children and adults ride as well learn all about the Iconic Penny Farthing bicycle, COVID had sadly struck and we were forced to put the brakes on for the foreseeable; feeling deeply frustrated that none of our unique Victorian cycling experience services can operate within the lockdown and distancing measures.
Here is an example of what Mr Phoebus Provides:
The good news is that all the members of this family business and our wonderful staff are safe and well, especially my Niece who has Cystic Fibrosis and is shielding with her mum and dad for a dreaded 15 weeks, many would have seen and met at Tour of Britain in London back in 2018.
The bad news is that despite my best efforts to access grants, loans and insurance, as it stands we have fallen through every loophole imaginable and have been unable to access any Government support so far. With over £7500 worth of bookings cancelled completely with the shutdown of Heritage sites (one of our largest clients the National Trust), and many smaller events that had been booked last year as you can imagine the financial stability is at risk.
Now things have reached a critical stage.
MR PHOEBUS NEEDS YOUR HELP to stay strong.
In desperate times, we are reaching out to you, to help us raise £5k to cover our overheads, storage and other costs that are needed to be serviced during this time.
We've done the sums and if we raise that, Mr Phoebus will survive the shutdown and be in a much stronger place when things get back on track. I must add at this point; that all the pre-paid Gift Experiences and Event bookings that have remained open are all safe and guaranteed (even if the business is forced to closedown).
Mr Phoebus has created some fun packages and a range of rewards for each donation value. We appreciate times are hard for everyone, so we hope that these pledges will give us all something to look forward to in the future as well as the chance to gift one of our services to a school or charity function of your choice.
Please look at the bottom of this page. .
As many of you know we love to name drop... so look out for a few famous faces who are great friends of the Mr Phoebus, and are helping us continue to cycle Victorian fashion into the future!
We miss you. A lot. Many of our clients and those who have had the pleasure in learning how to ride a Penny Farthing have become great friends over the years, and Mr Phoebus and all the team want to thank you for all the help, support and words of encouragement.
I love the business that was created from a very simple idea of enabling everyone to be able to not just see and touch the Iconic machine we all know and love as a Penny Farthing, but to go further and experience riding one for real. It has been over 6 years of pure love, sweat, tears, pride and LOTS of fun! Made special by my family and the very small team behind everything Mr Phoebus has done.
- EDUCATES Children and Adults learn about the History of Cycling
- HISTORY IN SCHOOLS In a totally unique way
- CHARITY WORK Riding history at multiple events
- FAMILY BUSINESS A small team of dedicated engagement staff
- CREDITED Work at some of our most well know History Sites
Getting to know you and your families, seeing children’s faces as they ride around, the moments when an adult does a double take seeing a huge Penny Farthing ride past and witnessing just how important and wonderful Riding History to Life actually is! has made me committed to getting through this crisis.
Our ride together can't be over yet. Please know, every little helps and is appreciated more than words can say. THANK YOU for all the love and care we have been shown in the last month - i’ve tried my hardest to do this without asking for help like this.
Keep Exercising, and if you are cycling be mindful of the distancing (unless you're five feet up)
All our love, Simon, my family and the Team Phoebus xxx
About Mr Phoebus . . .
Mr Phoebus was created by Simon Morris in 2016 after a visit with his daughter to a well known National Trust property in Broadway called Snowshill Manor On that visit he and his daughter came across a real Penny Farthing hanging from one of the rooms. Of course being just 4 years old she wanted to touch this iconic machine, in fact she wanted to ride it! Being a museum piece she wasn’t allowed to do either - and truth be known I wanted to do the same! She was so upset she was in tears for half the journey home.
I’d never seen a Penny Farthing bicycle before, and being a graphic designer/photographer I found the sight of this machine - amazing!
Being a fairly entrepreneurial kind of guy. . . the idea came: to create a business that would see visitors to heritage sites ride custom built Penny Farthings, with real machines of the Victorian era that members of the public could touch, sit upon and learn about.
We had a tiny budget, almost nothing but hope. After sticking to my guns the Mr Phoebus Penny Farthing company was born. The first experience day happened at Chatham Historic Dockyards in 2016, with a few child sized Penny Farthings plus several Adult versions - it was truly incredible. Over the years I am super proud to say that we have seen over 60,000 members of the public ride with Mr Phoebus at small charity functions right the way to major events like Carfest and Tour de Yorkshire. Simon (often referred to as Mr Phoebus) has ridden high at both the OVO Skoda Tour of Britain for Women and Men, and appeared on advertising for Mc Donalds and taught the likes of Fiona Bruce to ride confidently on Antiques Roadshow.
Always with education at the forefront and not just entertainment, Mr Phoebus very quickly became associated with schools and the creation of a unique interactive lesson in the Iconic Victorian machine was only a matter of time. In 2020 we had many schools across the UK booked in for this service, many of these had been recommended by other educational establishments that had already experienced it.
Since 2016 this family business has achieved so much developing the range of services beyond any of the expectations at the start. It’s provided wedding guests with a fun activity during the special day, helped the promotion of some of our most cherished charities like Sustrans, Community Brain, Go Cycling, Mind and so many more. Mr Phoebus has operated at some of our most well known historic locations, Chatsworth, Blenheim Palace, Beamish along with National Trust and English Heritage. Mr Phoebus has been seen cycling one of his Vintage Penny Farthings at the Greater Grass Market in Edinburgh, Pall Mall London, a Caravan Park in Scarborough, at the Connaught Street 100th Birthday and the Chelsea Pensioners Garden Party along with so many more.
The future of this business is aided by high recommendation, with every interaction given the time, style and energy expected. We have a stack of comments books containing thousands of messages of gratitude, drawings from children, and the odd 1p and 2p coin sellotaped to make a Penny Farthing bicycle!
One of the most disappointing things about the lockdown is that even One-to-One Experiences can’t happen because Mr Phoebus has to have contact closer than 2 metres. I completely understand these measures and we all have to adhere to this guidance, but it’s just really sad that I have a number of people who will have to wait till things get back to normal. The promise is that this will happen, and create memories like the ones that are held by Denys who fulfilled a lifetime ambition to ride a Penny Farthing - at the great age of 91!
Why don't you get a grant from the government?
We don’t have any business premises and therefore don’t have any business rates. Therefore, we have had no access to the small business rates relief scheme, which is the gateway to receiving the government grants. We do however have a storage unit that is not covered in this scheme.
What about your business insurance or a loan?
Our insurance did not cover a pandemic. As a sole trader we already have loans out to help us through the year (we are a seasonal business) and therefore cannot access any extra loans from the bank. Furthermore (as detailed above) Mr Phoebus is just a year away from ending a CVA, and although the business has traded well in the last two years - all profits have gone back into this arrangement.
What will you do if you reach the target and grant money is released to you?
Whilst the £5k will help us get through Covid-19, if we are unable to operate fully, and events are not rescheduled - during the peak months of the summer we shall be stuck for cash flow, which means the risk of having to shut later in the year or early 2021. To avoid this, any extra money will be used to cover the cash flow lost from being closed over our busiest months (April - Aug).
Will the funding go into the CVA?
No, the funding will only go into the ongoing costs of the business with cashflow help. The CVA has been given a “holiday”in payment terms. This CVA was a result of a personal event not related to the trading of the business or the pandemic.
Does Simon still have other employment?
No, Simon lost his secondary employment at the start of the outbreak, as the company he was working for lost over 85% of orders and the business decided to cut the staff. He was not able to benefit from the Furloughing Scheme. Mr Phoebus is owned by Simon as Director, although has not taken salary for last three years - technically he is self employed.
Is the business VAT Registered?
Yes, although the business self nominated itself to become VAT registered in the early years in order to gain the confidence with the clients it was aiming at.