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One woman and 200 businesses fighting to keep it local

(Picture credit: Marcus Duran)

One determined East London woman has rallied traders, saved small businesses from closing and taken on the establishment.

When Krissie Nicolson read about paper bag seller Paul Gardner, whose landlord had u-turned on a crippling rent rise due to huge negative publicity, she realised there was scope to help other small businesses.

Paul introduced her to other traders, they began meeting regularly and, with Krissie at the helm, in 2012 they set up the East End Trades Guild in a bid to bring about change.

(Image: How it all began. Krissie Nicolson with Paul Gardner of Gardner's Bags)

Since then she’s amassed over 200 members, taken the Guild’s message about rent rises and business rates to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, big landlords such as TFL and Network Rail and she gets around the table with developers to fight for the rights of small businesses.

"This is an example of the benefits of community organising. I wouldn’t have been listened to by Sadiq Khan or the Mayor of Hackney if I was just representing myself."

And they’ve had some huge successes: preventing big rent rises, saving numerous businesses from closing, convincing Sadiq Khan to ensure TFL is transparent about all its commercial rent comparables and helping to spearhead concessions on the planned business rate hike.

The modest mother of one puts the successes down to community.

She said: “I could not have done a single thing on my own. This is an example of the benefits of community organising. I wouldn’t have been listened to by Sadiq Khan or the Mayor of Hackney if I was just representing myself.

“Our petition asking for more support for businesses affected by rate revaluations got 11,000 signatures and added power to the view from London to Government and because of this and the national outcry changes to business rates were announced in the budget.”

The Government released a discretionary fund of £300 million to be divided between councils (£7 million was allocated for Hackney), businesses now not eligible for small business relief will only pay a maximum of £50 per month extra and the Government is devolving decision making over business rates to a local level.

Now Krissie, who has a Masters in community organising, is training other members in leadership so they can chair meetings and make representations.

The Guild has had grant funding from the Royal Society of Arts and the New Economics Foundation. Members pay an annual £100 fee.

Jenna Fansa, of the Local Buyers Club which is a member of the East End Trades Guild, said:

“The words ‘trades guild’ seems such a dry subject but far from it – under Krissie’s leadership a community of traders is successfully challenging unfair treatment and preserving the character and vibrancy of East London. I would urge local businesses to join the Guild and add their voice to this great movement.”

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