Profiles: East End Trades Guild, Guardians of the Arches and the London Working Rent, London

Profiles: East End Trades Guild, Guardians of the Arches and the London Working Rent, London

Traditionally, guilds or federations have enabled small businesses to share interests and challenges, often unifying to fight common threats. The need for a collective voice continues today as small businesses can find it challenging to engage with policy makers or feel an imbalance of power when dealing with larger institutions.  

Creating a united voice for small businesses

The East End Trades Guild is an alliance of 300 small independent businesses and the self employed  formed in East London who work together to provide collective support and voice for independent businesses. As well as uniting to address business concerns such as rising rents and high business rates, the alliance promotes the benefits of independent business in the area, from community cohesion to local investment and employment. EETG emerged from a network of businesses convened by a community organiser. This structure demonstrates the importance of a dedicated organising figure to convene people and keep ideas moving forward, as small businesses rarely have the resource to do this alone. The alliance work with the New Economics Foundation to develop research and engage with policy makers.

Guardians of the Arches is a tenants’ association formed from a national collective of small business owners, based in railway property. When Network Rail, the public owner of thousands of sites across the UK, put these assets up for sale, a collection of businesses in Hackney, East London joined forces to create a stronger voice. The organisation is now a national alliance. It has been supported by East End Trades Guild and the New Economics Foundation.

Working together, these groups are calling for a London Working Rent, which would enable small businesses to start and grow in the city, with security. Especially light manufacturing and industrial businesses, who they feel, are disadvantaged by redevelopments. It is receiving positive responses from public authorities in the city.

East End Trades Guild is working on a tool which will allow businesses to share and track information on local rents. They are also producing a tool kit, with support from the RSA, to help other groups to emulate their organisation.

Stakeholders: Local business members, including manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, repairers; New Economics Foundation and RSA, public authorities  /