Bishop's Stortford Town Council sends £8,000 grant request back to Wiggly Willow
A Bishop's Stortford café owner's plea to town councillors to back her hot meal plans got a lukewarm response.
Sid Perry, who runs Wiggly Willow in Hockerill Street, asked them to consider two grant applications totalling £8,000 to help the café, which is a community interest company, to survive.
She opened it in 2018 and describes it as an enterprise with a twist, offering work, learning and training opportunities for 55 local people with learning disabilities or special needs.
At the height of the coronavirus crisis, when the café was forced to close, Sid introduced a takeaway and hot meal delivery service.
In her funding application, she told the town council: "Having never had a hot meal or takeaway service at Wiggly Willow prior to the crisis and with the café closed for going on four months, the menial income that has been coming into the business has just about covered our overheads, but as a community interest company we have ambitious plans to keep this side of the business open post-Covid-19 and, as such, require funds for much-required kitchen equipment and ultimately the complete transformation of what once operated previously as a training room into a fully operational catering kitchen."
Sid hopes to partner with care homes and social care providers to expand this side of the business.
Sid, who won the Nockolds-sponsored Business Personality of the Year title at the 2019 Indies community awards, said: "Of course there is no shortage of takeaway services in Bishop's Stortford, but what sets Wiggly Willow apart from the many others is that every penny that is earned goes back into the business to support the learning empowerment and opportunities via work experience and future employment for those with special needs and learning disabilities."
She told the council that in its first year of trading, the café had a turnover of around £67,000 and broke even, but more detailed accounts were not available as the CIC was only set up in December 2019. She requested £4,000 from the town council and £4,000 from the Brazier Trust, which the council administers.
Cllr David Snowdon said: "In essence, they're asking for £8,000 – 80% of the total sum they're looking for which is to build up a whole new arm. I do recognise the hard work Wiggly Willow does, but it's a little bit much and would eat up a whole lot of our resources."
Cllrs Shane Manning and Louie Corpe said that more detailed accounts and a business plan were required.
Cllr Holly Drake agreed: "Wiggly Willow is doing a good job, but we have a pot of money we need to look at very carefully. I think we need to go back and give them the opportunity to come back and get the application right."
Bishop's Stortford Rotary's Satellite Club has donated £350 to the Wiggly Willow appeal. Member Cllr Colin Woodward said: "We are pleased to support the great work of Sid Perry and team and look forward to being actively involved in their exciting ideas for future projects."
The café also shared in £3,500 given to seven local good causes by Tesco's Covid-19 Community Fund.