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Meet the man on a mission to keep small local businesses THRIVING

"Johnie Wylly" (2020-05-26)

Robbie Allen is founder of The Thriving Box Co, which was launched on 28 April

Freelance marketing consultant Robbie Allen has helped keep a number of small businesses moving through lockdown by launching a gift box service allowing them to keep selling their products.

While many independent stores still face the pressures that have come with the coronavirus and ensuing nationwide lockdown, The Thriving Box Co has provided business owners new distribution so they keep earning since being forced to close their doors.

The company was officially launched just three weeks ago but has already sold more than 4,000 boxes featuring products from local businesses in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bristol and Manchester.

Robbie said: 'We have partnered with over 75 amazing local businesses throughout the UK in the initial four cities.

'But we are working with others and aim to be selling additional gift boxes in Newcastle, Cardiff, Aberdeen, Portsmouth, Leicester and Leeds by the time we are 10 weeks old.' 

The Thriving Box Co was first launched in Edinburgh, where Robbie lives and works and where he found his own career come to an abrupt halt following the lockdown.   





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'Before lockdown I was working with a number of small businesses consulting them on digital marketing,' he added.

'In addition to being forced not to sell from their stores, Covid-19 forced many of these businesses to stop spending money on marketing and advertising and as a result 80 per cent of my income was put on stop indefinitely.' 

Robbie wants The Thriving Box Company to be known as the 'home of the local'

The last straw 
The 31-year-old said he had been thinking of launching something like The Thriving Box Co for some time having worked closely with local businesses for the past eight years, and seeing first hand the challenges they faced in a 'broken and often biased supply chain'. 

He said before the coronavirus pandemic began rocking livelihoods across the globe, many small businesses struggled to get their products to market and find new customers.   

 Covid-19 made me stand up and take action.

He added: 'I have wanted to build a brand dedicated to making local products available on a national scale for some time and Covid-19 made me stand up and take action.   

'Forced shop closures have resulted in local businesses left wondering what the rest of the year is going to look like so we are selling gift boxes to help them continue to move their products. 

'When we launched in Edinburgh, the goal was to sell 100 boxes. In our first week we managed to sell over 150!  

'In Edinburgh alone we have now sold more than 2,000 boxes and a further 1,200 in Glasgow. We have launched in Bristol and Manchester and are already on course to match - if not better - that success.'

As of 18 May, the firm has sold 4,087 boxes - generating approximately £100,00 in revenue for the small businesses involved.

A mug from the Gillian Kyle IRN-BRU collection and berita saham syariah part of the 'Keep Glasgow Thriving' gift box

To make things a little easier for its partners - who no doubt will have to deal with other issues such as claiming coronavirus-related grants and loans and even attempting to pivot their business - the company handles all the logistics and e-commerce side of things.

It has also implemented strict health and safety measures in line with Government advice on reducing the spread of the virus. 

Robbie added: 'In the first week after launching we were able to pack the gift boxes in our flat. But since then we have been shipping out over 300 gift boxes every week so we moved into an events space come warehouse situated on the outskirts of Edinburgh. 

'We have staggered shifts in place for our team of three packers and provide them with PPE equipment. Their safety is a huge priority for us. Our local delivery drivers have also been briefed on contactless delivery so they - as well as our customers -stay safe too.'

Life in the 'new normal'
Like the rest of the nation, Robbie is keen to get back to 'life as we once knew it' but knows coming out of lockdown will need a phased approach. 

That's why he plans to keep building on The Thriving Box Co, making it the 'home of the local'. Even when shop doors are back open for good, he wants to make it a marketplace where all local independent businesses across the UK can get involved. 

He said: 'These small businesses are creating incredible things such as craft coffee, candles, tea towels, tote bags, local preserves and snacks. 

'They want to be able to sell them to continue to grow and sustain their company and livelihood every day, not just in the midst of a pandemic.' 

The boxes have a particular focus on the hospitality industry, featuring local foods and beverages, as Robbie believes that bars and restaurants will be the last businesses back to 'normal'. 

PadgMade's homemade candles are one of the gifts included in the 'Keep Bristol Thriving' box 

Meet the businesses that are still thriving
The Thriving Box Co currently operates in four cities with 75 partners and those numbers are continuing to grow.

Meanwhile the businesses that have already benefited from its success, are grateful to be a part of something positive during such a challenging time.

Paige Alexander and Nate Hall, co-founders of Bristol-based PadgMade which sells homemade candles and British wild flower seeds, said it has been an 'incredible opportunity' to work with Thrive.

They said: 'We launched our candles not long before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold and were planning to attend lots of markets which were, of course, cancelled.

'Being a part of the box has allowed us to reach so many more people than we could have, on our own. Knowing Padg candles are in homes across the city really makes us smile and we hope they put a smile on our customers' faces too.' 

Tom Chisholm, director of handcrafted drinks company Buck & Birch, said it is 'refreshing to be part of The Thriving Box Co and something positive in such a challenging situation'

Buck & Birch, a handcrafted drinks company based in Edinburgh, currently sells its Birch Caramel Espresso Martini in The Thriving Box Co's 'Keep Edinburgh Thriving' gift box. 

The company's director, Tom Chisholm, said working with The Thriving Box Co has been a fantastic way of reaching new and existing customers during lockdown.