In Chorlton, greater Manchester, the cherished Busy Bee Toyshop has been running for 25 years and when the previous owner decided to retire there was a real question about its future.
It didn’t take long for the answer and a group of residents quickly came forward, suggesting the community could buy and run the business. Has been organised a meeting and the 20 people who took part decided to create a cooperative to take over ownership of the Busy Bee Toyshop. The group decided that the cooperative ought to be controlled and owned by the community and so registered as a community cooperative through Co-operativesUK.
Within five weeks 130 parents and investors chipped in what they could, and raised enough money to enabling the community buy-out to go ahead. Regardless to the size of their contribution, each member has an equal say and after two years members investors will receive a return on their investment.
A committee has been elected to manage with the overall direction of the business and the cooperative has now recruited a shop manager.
Helen Seymour, Head of Projects and Development at Co-operativesUK, says: ’Busy Bee is a shining example of a growing trend we’re seeing across the UK -communities coming together to save shops or services and bring them into community ownership. What makes Busy Bee very special, however, is that it’s one of a small but hopefully growing number of community share issues in an urban area. It shows that a sense of community can thrive even in large cities like Manchester. 
For Rachel, one of the promoters of the idea, it’s the co-operative model that made it happen. Not only has it brought in much needed capital, but ’it’s enabled us to draw on the skills of a range of different people. We’ve got people on the committee with business experience, a couple who specialise in marketing and another with a great financial brain. 
’Busy Bee already has loyal customers, so we want to keep the existing range of stock but expand in certain areas. We plan to have a much larger, permanent range of craft items. And the previous owners did not sell TV characters, so we plan on changing that, within reason anyway.’
Busy Bee reopened on 11 July 2009. For more information about Busy Bee Toy Shop, visit their website: http://www.busybeetoyshop.co.uk/.
Busy Bee on the BBC website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8143665.stm