Library of Things, a London-based SME making it possible for citizens to borrow instead of buy, had big plans for scaling during 2020. Then COVID-19 hit, forcing them to put day-to-day operations and future plans on hold.
To help ensure their survival, Library of Things were awarded an emergency grant funded by the Mayor’s Green New Deal fund to tide them over while they prepared for their sites to reopen.
What was the challenge?
Library of Things is a London-based SME making it possible for citizens to borrow useful items from their local community hubs instead of buying them. Having proved the business’s viability at one site, 2020 was going to be the year they scaled to new locations; but COVID-19 restrictions closed public buildings meaning a big decrease in the number of rentals.
This postponed their plans to open new sites, dramatically reducing the potential positive environmental impact. The reduced income also squeezed Library of Thing’s cashflow and for the team, all hands were on deck to keep things going, with some furloughed and others moving to part time.
Rebecca Trevalyan, Co-founder and partnerships director, Library of Things
Per location, our typical waste prevented from landfill is 10 tonnes per year, and emissions prevention of 15 tonnes per year. Given the [disruptions], our environmental impact is ~10% of what it was set to be in our original plans.
What did we do?
To deal with the disruptions of the pandemic, the team switched gears. They explored continuing their offering through a delivery model but quickly realised this service wasn’t going to be viable, so used the time to improve their resilience, ready for when things opened up again. They strengthened the customer-facing technology and systems alongside internal business structures.
ReLondon is pleased to have played a small role in Library of Things’ recovery by offering an emergency grant of £10,000, thanks to the Mayor of London’s Green New Deal fund, used towards staff salaries and extending their financial runway.
What were the outcomes?
Library of Things were able to weather the uncertainties of the pandemic and are now starting to see the benefits of their time and financial investment. Despite the difficulties, in 2021, Library of Things achieved exciting levels of growth and took significant steps to help Londoners reduce waste, emissions and costs.
As well as safeguarding jobs put at risk by COVID-19 and thanks to the direct support of the grant, Library of Things opened 5 new locations around London, securing 3 contracts with local councils and creating 3 new jobs . Six months since receiving the grant, they have opened an additional 5 locations. As a result of their services, Library of Things estimate that Londoners saved £30,000 by borrowing. Importantly, their presence in community centres and partnerships with local businesses are helping to spread the word and awareness on the benefits of borrowing instead of buying.
What was learned?
Library of Things had already proven that their business model worked, but COVID-19 hit at a precarious time just as the business was about to grow. A relatively small investment by the public sector helped to ensure that they had the space to prepare their business for when things went back to “normal”. Now, the business is thriving and giving more and more people access to everyday, circular ways of living.
Read more about the outcomes of the Green New Deal Emergency Grants scheme and what we’ve learned about the importance of government support for small businesses here: [Insight Note]
Library of Things has big plans for scaling. They are now looking for communities and councils that want to partner to start LoT in their neighbourhood – across London and the rest of England.
They’re also developing their neighbourhood participation programmes and are looking for partners or sponsors to support practical skills-sharing classes and networks around DIY, repair and repurposing with the aim of generating a sense of purpose, cohesion and confidence, while supporting the creation of green jobs.
If you are interested in working with Library of Things in your area, get in touch with Rebecca Trevalyan, Co-founder & partnerships director: email@example.com
ReLondon’s business transformation team continues to help small-and-medium sized businesses in London adopt the circular economy through our advisory support, grant schemes, and matchmaking services. Find out about our fully funded business support programme at our website: www.relondon.gov.uk/business