This is what happens when a serial entrepreneur meets an ethical city with a start-up culture
21 October 2016
Image: Steve Rimmer on the right and the rest of the Party For The People team
30 year old Sheffield-born Steve is one of those people you meet and can’t help but wonder how on earth he has managed to fit so much in, in what is quite conceivably, only the very start of his career.
Steve is an entrepreneur through and through. Even before he finished university he was running his own events company – Endless Promotions (now running The Night Kitchen warehouse space), he owned his own music kit, had bookings and was already mid-way through formulating a gem of an idea which (although he didn’t know at the time) would change the studio rental market in Sheffield forever.
Creative Arts Development Space – known as CADS was this entrepreneur’s first real success story. The way Steve describes it, he just happened upon the opportunity by noticing a gap in the market when he was trying to rent out his own studio space. The difference between Steve and most of us, is that even if we noticed it, it’s pretty unlikely the idea would get further than a slightly animated chat down the pub with a mate who thinks it has got legs but swiftly forgets the premise by the second pint. Not Steve. He wanted to rent some studio space for his music events business. He found a place, then realised that actually there was a cheaper place the other side of town that was twice as big but half the price. But now he had too much room, so he sub-lets and through economies of scale his rent is reduced again. Then he wonders what would happen if he took four times the space and sub-let it to more people… well the rest is history. A single room off London Road in Sheffield became 10 buildings across the city and home to 125 studios used for arts and creative business start-ups.
I should mention at this point that Steve’s model of business isn’t driven by profit but by social enterprise. This in itself is a smart business move because to set up an enterprise in a recession or even in the aftermath of one requires a different approach. By having an ethos that promotes social change a business can position itself in the hearts and minds of their customers and employees whilst having a stand-out offer that sets them apart from the competition.
Seven years in and CADS is now a registered charity and Steve is a trustee whilst the day-to-day operations are carried out by a team of six. Onto the next project then. In the last three year’s Steve and his business partners have launched a second social enterprise, this time combing their love of music with a passion for fundraising. Party for the People is an e-commerce ticket booking site which (much like Eventbrite or any of the other big ticket selling systems) allows people to quickly and easily book themselves onto a music event.
The twist? Party for the People is not-for profit. Which means that the 11 per cent booking fee that you pay as standard for this type of service isn’t seen as profit by the business but rather an opportunity to do social good. After costs, the profits from ticket sales are rounded up and gifted to charitable and community causes. That’s right folks. Book your tickets through these guys and not only do you get an efficient and professional service but you can feel really good about yourself too! In the last three years Party for the People have raised £35K for charity. Not a bad legacy. The social enterprise has also grown significantly in that time and now employs 4 full time members of staff, operating in 10 cities across the UK and is about to break into the European market...Last year they processed over £1.3 million in ticket sales and had a turnover of £130K.
Sheffield is often referred to as a young city – reference perhaps to the two universities here and the talent they attract, but people like Steve make you realise that there is so much more to that story. Sheffield has an entrepreneurial spirit, a start-up culture supported by the business networks and accelerator programmes designed to grow our economy but it is also an ethical city- evidenced by the number of social enterprises that operate here.
Steve is an example of someone that has embraced this culture and achieved great things in Sheffield by working with it. Previously speaking at the Sheffield entrepreneurial festival MADE, and accessing free business support from the business facing arm of Sheffield City Council, and from Sheffield Hallam University’s accelerator programmes, both CADS and Party for the People have had the backing to start up and grow from supporters across the city.
So what’s next? A wry smile from Steve – ‘there may be something else in the pipeline’. And why not? With a passion for business, a lot of determination, good people around him and operating in a city that supports and celebrates entrepreneurs; Steve may have just found the winning formula!