Stepping up

Businesses around the country have been doing their bit to support local communities and frontline workers during the Covid crisis. We caught up with four previous Game Changers who have been generous with their time and resources in the midst of the pandemic

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Will Butler-Adams

Brompton Bikes

There was a 300% rise in cycling in Britain during lockdown according to figures from the Department of Transport. This change has inspired Brompton Bikes’ Will Butler-Adams to be more vocal than ever about what cycling can do for society, as well as expand the business he joined and quickly transformed in 2002 (production went from 6,000 bikes a year to 40,000 in his first decade).

“The air quality is better [now], the streets are calmer, we can cycle with our children, we don’t feel afraid,” he told Cycling News in July, pushing for more investment in cycling infrastructure across Britain.” Sales of Brompton Bikes went up 500% in the Spring, but demand for the company’s Bike Hire scheme, launched in 2011, has also been high. In response, they launched a monthly subscription service in September, allowing cash-strapped customers to have access to a premium product, including insurance, servicing and repairs, without the upfront price tag.

They’ve also helped the NHS. In April, they launched the Wheels For Heroes scheme, a crowdfunded project to allow NHS workers to rent their bikes for free so that they could avoid using public transport. All profits from the £300,000 raised went back into the building of bikes for key worker use, with additional monies given to NHS charities.

That all this has been achieved at a tough time for the company is particularly impressive: production had to drop 35-40% during lockdown, but there have been no redundancies, as the company remains without debt. But Butler-Adams has always looked long-term, believing that investing in physical fitness and clean cities will also lessen the burden on the NHS. It’s a message he’ll keep riding, and one that will travel.

Alan Mahon | pandemic solutions

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Alan Mahon

Brewgooder

It’s not surprising that Brewgooder rose to the challenge during the pandemic: the Edinburgh craft beer brewers are a social enterprise after all. Founded by Mahon in early 2016, they have donated all profits to clean water projects from day one, helping over 65,000 people internationally through 134 projects so far. Their One On Us campaign, launched in late March, was about helping NHS workers on British soil, however.

Founder Mahon knows from personal experience how important British healthcare workers are. He formed Brewgooder after contracting a parasite while volunteering in Nepal in 2012: strong antibiotics and safe water back home helped him. “That experience really stuck with me,” he said in the Spring 2020 issue of Capital Thinking. “I realised we take things like safe drinking water and access to healthcare for granted.”

The One On Us campaign enabled Brewgooder’s customers to buy a cost-price four-pack of its beer for an NHS worker, and include a personal message of support. Over 4,000 beers were donated in the first 48 hours. That rose to 29,000 by the end of the campaign.

“As a nation we’re all indebted to the work that the NHS do every single day, not just in times of pandemic,” Mahon says. “Our One On Us campaign was a small way for us as a brand to say thank you to workers who we wouldn’t have had the chance to say it to in person.”

Chris Sheldrick | pandemic solutions
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Chris Sheldrick

What3Words

Revolutionary geocode system what3words had already had quite the journey as a business before Covid-19. Founded in 2013 to help the live music industry pin down locations for rural festivals and gigs, the idea of assigning a three-word combination to every 3m x 3m spot on the planet has ultimately helped NGOs and aid agencies respond to disasters and emergencies in remote areas of the world. In the last six months, it’s also helped the NHS and British business.

At the request of the Ambulance Services Trusts nationwide, what3words has created maps to help patients and staff move safely around 46 different NHS sites, including hospitals and Nightingale zones, and help PPE arrive exactly where it is required. The Cabinet Office’s new ResilienceDirect mapping platform has also been built using what3words technology, aiming to connect emergency services and government departments during local and national crises. 80% of the UK’s emergency services are also now accepting what3words codes and encouraging the public to download the app through information campaigns. ”The strength of feeling and support for our key workers compelled us to do whatever we could to work with and back-up the resources of our vital services,” says CEO Chris Sheldrick.

What3Words has also been working with forward-thinking SMEs. The app has helped businesses improve logistics, especially those in hospitality offering home delivery for the first time.

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“Covid-19 has given us a chance to take a collective breath and reassess old habits that don’t focus on the collective good”
Emily Brooke | pandemic solutions
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Emily Brooke

Beryl Bikes

Brooke became known as a game-changing entrepreneur thanks to the Blaze Laserlight, a device she invented as a product design student in 2012. Projecting a symbol of a bike on to the road ahead to alert other road users, it was an instant success, generating sales of more than £1m a year in 50 countries, and being adopted by London bike rental scheme Santander Cycles.

During lockdown, Brooke’s company, now called Beryl, has been expanding their bike share schemes across the UK and in the US. In late March, bikes were made available to NHS and other key workers in Bournemouth, Poole, Hereford, Norwich and Watford for free. Staff got access to them simply, by signing up to the Beryl smartphone app with an NHS or other approved email.

“Covid-19 has given us the chance to take a collective breath and reassess old habits that don’t focus on the collective good,” Brooke told Europe-wide entrepreneur website, Sifted.