New ‘social enterprise’ takes off in Chesterfield

The Monkey Park cafe
The Monkey Park cafe

The unassuming back streets of Brampton are currently the site of an experiment in social enterprise that is unique in Chesterfield.

Monkey Park on Chester Street is a cafe, a bakery, a bike workshop and, as of the new year, a dedicated workspace for digital startups and social enterprises which can be accessed by anyone in the community for as little as £5 a day.

Monkey Park Works social enterprise scheme, pictured is the cafe

Monkey Park Works social enterprise scheme, pictured is the cafe

However, the not-for-profit ‘social’ enterprise will reinvest everything it makes into community projects and will work with residents and businesses to enhance the area and boost its economy.

Simon Redding, co-founder and director of Monkey Park, said: “Digital and social entrepreneurs in Chesterfield have been crying out for the kind of flexible and affordable co-working space we are now offering at Monkey Park Works.

“We hope to foster the kind of start-ups and social enterprises that will go on to create new employment opportunities and help contribute to Brampton’s community-led economic renaissance.”

Simon, who previously worked in IT, runs the business with his wife Christine, co-founder, Alastair Meikle, Peter Fairhall and Lyn McNair.

The upstairs office space

The upstairs office space

Alastair runs bike repair workshop, Wheely Fun Wheels, from a space at the back of the cafe, Peter manages the bakery and Lyn runs one of the first companies to move into the workspace upstairs.

Developed on the site of a former bathroom and tile showroom, the cafe and bakery started trading in October but with the addition of the collaborative workspace on the building’s first floor in January the enterprise has now been taken to a new level.

The building has been fully refurbished but despite this, many of the original fittings from the bathroom business are still in place, giving the place a quirky and informal feel.

You can even make phone calls from a workspace in a shower cubicle if you so wish.

Small businesses can rent office space

Small businesses can rent office space

“We initially tried to buy the building but ended up leasing it from the owners as we needed two years to prove the business is sustainable,” says Alastair.

“At the end of that two years we hope to be able to get a mortgage and become the sole owners of the property.”

Office tenants already include specialist technology PR agency Roaring Mouse and digital innovation and design consultancy, Systems Makers, and the team hope that many more will join them in the near future.

They currently offer shared space for 16 people but will soon expand to accommodate up to 50 micro-businesses, freelancers and entrepreneurs once the second phase of building work is completed later in the spring.

Apprentice baker, Natalie Kirby

Apprentice baker, Natalie Kirby

For just £5 a day, tenants get access to a desk, printing facilities, a postal address and, perhaps most importantly, high speed broadband internet.

And as well as the success of the co-working space, the other elements of the business are also doing equally well.

The bakery currently employs eight people including head baker, Peter Fairhall, who joined the team from Chatsworth Road’s Gingerbread Boy bakery last year.

“On Saturdays especially the place is rammed with around 50 to 60 people coming through the doors - we can easily fill it twice over,” says Alastair.

And this success has even seen them recently take on an apprentice baker, Natalie Kirby.

“We see it as a way of preserving traditional skills in the local area,” says Simon.

Freshly baked bread

Freshly baked bread

As well as all this, the hub also acts as a place community groups can host meetings and a place where county artists and manufacturers can exhibit their wares.

The fact that everyone who works there lives within easy walking - or perhaps more appropriately - cycling distance from the centre, makes the whole enterprise as eco-friendly as possible as well.

Finally, the team’s future plans aren’t just confined to their new building.

They hope, in time, to create a walkway in the park opposite where children from nearby schools can enjoy the sights and sounds of the Holme Brook river.

If you are interested in getting involved in the project or would like to hire space in the building, get in touch with the Monkey Park team on 01246 235815 or email works@monkeypark.org.uk.

Alastair Meikle busy at work on a bicycle

Alastair Meikle busy at work on a bicycle

Local artists sell their work

Local artists sell their work

Monkey Park Works social enterprise scheme

Monkey Park Works social enterprise scheme