A selection of cupcakes with lemon icing, just some of the the treats baked to raise money for St Basils
Last week, we hosted a cake and coffee morning to raise money for the St Basils Bake Off. It was a great success and thanks to everyone's generosity, we managed to raise over £100. Not bad for two hours of eating cake and drinking coffee.
As well as a good excuse to catch up, it was the ideal opportunity to meet fellow Digbeth residents. It was a diverse crowd, with particular thanks to Paul and Ella from One Result, the Beanstalk ladies and the energetic team from Crisis for coming. Overall, it was nice to finally meet some of the neighbours.
In terms of Digbeth businesses though, this was barely scratching the surface. A quick survey of businesses in the Custard Factory directory suggests that there are around 177 organisations based there alone. These span many sectors, from charities to creative agencies, IT companies to market research viewing suites. Given the number of marketing and design agencies that offer their clients social media services, the networking between local businesses is not as strong as it could be. The community of local businesses in Digbeth has potential to be a buzzing community of like-minded creatives.
It's a point that creative communities in other cities do relatively well. In Manchester, MediaCity runs Interact, a free monthly event that has local businesses and experts sharing advice and guidance on a range of themes.
A more formal example is the Knowledge Exchange Hubs funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The website describes these as "consortia", which nurtures the link between research and creative organisations "to generate new and exciting knowledge exchange opportunities, foster entrepreneurial talent and stimulate innovation and contribute to the development of the UK's Creative Economy."
Unfortunately the West Midlands has missed out on this initiative. Regardless, the fact that a public body is investing £16m into encouraging collaboration shows how bringing together local creative expertise could have a huge impact on the region's creative and wider economy. It would develop and attract talent as well as encourage growth for those businesses based in the area.
There are already chances to network in Digbeth. Here is a selection:
Between Cheapside, Digbeth and Highgate, there is the highest concentration of social enterprises in the country. The iSE is working to connect these through their excellent bi-monthly breakfast meeting.
Although not a formally regular event, Fazeley Social have quiz nights and a breakfast club for local businesses, both of which I'm told are worthwhile.
These events are a great start, but I believe the business community in Digbeth has more to gain from becoming more connected. There is a plethora of talent, a strong economic case and great venues and events to come together. Of course some networks already exist but it's about building on these to ensure that the community of local businesses in Digbeth can really flourish.
Unfortunately we don't have any cakes left over from the St Basils Bake Off morning but if you'd like to meet up and chat over a beverage of your choice, you can link with Sam here.