Exclusive by John Baron & Christian Lee
Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has hailed ‘inspirational’ small businesses in Farsley and praised their ‘vital’ role in the economy and local communities.
The Leeds West MP was visiting Farsley’s Sunny Bank Mills complex ahead of tomorrow’s national Small Business Saturday event, which highlights small business success and encourages people to ‘shop local’ and support small businesses where they live.
During the past ten years Sunny Bank Mills has been transformed into a modern office and mixed-use complex for the 21st century, creating 400 sustainable new jobs with almost 100 companies.
Ms Reeves met three small businesses during her visit, including Emma White Jewellery Studio, HR Breathing Space and Adept Consulting Engineers.
Ms Reeves praised the role of the mills in nurturing small startups and paid tribute to businesses with an arts background and the importance they play in providing opportunities for people.
She said: “It’s been really inspirational meeting small business owners. The range of small businesses here is fantastic and I’ve only managed to speak to a few.
“They can make the adaptations in the buildings to help support the businesses here. It’s great that they can grow and stay here.
“Small business owners working with like-minded people will find synergies and inspiration here, which is beautiful. This is an old mill which has brought people together and been the catalyst for more small businesses opening on the rest of Farsley Town Street. It is inspirational what has been achieved so far.”
The mill is home to a variety of small businesses, becoming a leading creative space for art, culture and business in the area.
Ms Reeves’ first stop was at HR Breathing Space, who provide outsourced HR support for small to medium sized businesses that don’t have their own HR team.
She met the founder of the company Suzie Bogle, and the pair discussed the benefits of working in Sunny Bank Mills and the scope of her business. Susie said: “It’s beautiful. Everything is made so easy for us here. We currently have 14 staff and provide help to 70 businesses.”
She also told her how the team at Sunny Bank had helped to build an internal wall within her premises to make the space more suitable for her needs.
Ms Reeves then met Emma White in her Jewellery studio, where she was holding a well attended jewellery making class.
Here the Leeds West MP chatted with some of the jewellery students as well as getting a tour of the studio where Emma White displays and sells her own artisan jewellery. Ms White explained to the MP how she liked each of her creations to have their own story.
Ms Reeves finished off her visit at Adept Consulting Engineers, who are a consultancy firm that finds solutions to construction issues. Ms Reeves also met Paul Gill who is one of the firm’s directors.
They first of all spoke about the role of the business and then moved on to discuss the challenges that the company is facing. Like a lot of businesses in the current climate, the cost of living crisis was a concern for Gill and his team.
He said: “Material costs are going up. Contractors are struggling to hold prices on jobs [that they have quoted]. A lot of projects are being put on hold.”
“Planning departments aren’t able to deal with the number of applications that are coming in,” he added, explaining that projects are being delayed waiting for permissions from local authorities.
As she was leaving Ms Reeves spoke to two employees, Brandon Baldwin and Jack Holden, who had joined the company after leaving school and completed civil engineering apprenticeships at Adept.
Small Business Saturday comes against the backdrop of difficult times for smaller companies, with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) recently revealing there were 6.5% fewer small businesses since the start of 2021.
Co-owner William Gaunt told WLD: “It is great to see Rachel supporting some of the many small businesses we have here at Sunny Bank Mills. They are really struggling at the moment.
“She was keen to listen to what business owners had to say. Small businesses need all the help they can get in these days of high inflation and uncertainty.”