Strength in numbers: Sarah Marks, co-founder of Buttonbag Ltd and EETG member talks about the East End Trades Guild
What do a Stoke Newington fishmonger, a Walthamstow brewer and a Bethnal Green doll-maker have in common?
They are amongst the latest local businesses to join the East End Trades Guild, a growing organisation of more than 300 independent businesses spread throughout East London. The guild includes a diverse group – cutting-edge tech companies, craft brewers, garages, opticians, restaurants, social enterprises and bookshops as well as some of East London’s longest established independent businesses. Take specialist printers, Baddeley Brothers, which traces its Victorian roots back to the City of London, Ince Umbrella, established in 1805, or Gardner’s Market Sundries, whose beloved Spitalfields shop has been supplying London market traders for four generations.
The diversity of EETG members also reflects the historic waves of immigrants whose cultural contributions continue to shape the east end.
What unites members is a shared belief in the power of small businesses to shape the vibrant and diverse cultures of London neighbourhoods rather than corporate giants and multiple chains, and EETG believes their survival is worth fighting for.
Our members are also united by a shared experience of the challenges that make business survival difficult. Ask most members what their biggest threat is, and they will say rents and rates – with increases of up to 300%, many have been forced to relocate out of the borough, or close doors altogether.
Rent rises are not unaffordable because businesses are failing or are badly run. In most cases, it is because landlords and the property agents that work for them take advantage of an entirely unregulated market and ruthlessly seek to maximise profit at the expense of existing tenant’s business survival or growth.
This practice was brought into sharp focus earlier this year when many of our members, who are tenants of Network Rail, faced massive and crippling rent rises ahead of the auction of Network Rails’ portfolio of commercially-let railway arches.
In light of that, EETG recently launched its Affordable Workspace Manifesto to campaign for affordable, sustainable business rents that will allow small businesses to thrive. Presented with the first-hand experiences of hundreds of local businesses, the mayors of Hackney and Tower Hamlets have agreed to work with us to create a small business community land trust, create a register of landlords and comparable evidence, develop an affordable rent formula for small and micro businesses and identify at least one empty asset in their borough to convert to affordable workspace.
To help move this manifesto forward we are now actively collecting information about empty units and commercial spaces in east London, so if LoveEast readers know of any buildings lying empty in their neighbourhoods please get in touch!
The breadth, vibrancy and diversity of our members has been captured in a brand new map by Jerwood Prize-winning artist Adam Dant along with vignettes of some of East London’s most noted independent businesses. 60,000 copies are available from all of our members – look out for our logo when you are out and about.
BECOME A MEMBER
Annual membership is £100 for businesses with up to 20 employees, £150 for businesses between 21 – 50. More info here: eastendtradesguild.org.uk