Erick Kervaon talks to Living In Magazines about Be Richmond, which represents businesses in the town.
While Richmond recently topped a poll as the happiest place to live in London, it was also voted as one of the Top 10 most vibrant retail destinations, beating other centres such as Westfield Stratford, Canary Wharf and the West End.
But it takes hard work behind the scenes to make the town attractive and to keep pulling in visitors as well as locals, and the area’s success has, in part, been due the the launch of the Be Richmond, the ‘brand persona’ of Richmond BID (Business Improvement District) in 2016, which represents the businesses within the BID area. The BID – a non-profit organisation – launched following a vote of local businesses, with larger businesses contributing a levy which goes towards improving and promoting the area.
So how is the town centre, with its large chains and small independent businesses, benefitting? As a keen supporter of independent businesses myself, I talked to Erick Kervaon, who volunteered as Chairman of the Be Richmond board, alongside his full time job of General Manager at The Bingham hotel and running two independent businesses in the hospitality industry, to find out what the future holds.
Erick, what is Be Richmond – and why do we need it?
‘Be Richmond is now the brand representing Richmond town centre. We wanted to promote more than just the local businesses as Richmond offers so much more – we have beautiful scenery, a long history and local personalities, which all contribute to the area and which is why we want to promote it as a place to live, work and explore. If we can improve the look and feel of the area, then both businesses and residents are benefitting.’
Larger local businesses pay a levy – what are they getting for their money?
‘We wanted to make the whole area look more appealing, so with that in mind, we’ve worked with Richmond Council to have extra cleaning in the streets and with the Met Police to help make the area more secure. We’ve improved the signage, so that it’s easier for visitors to find everything including our lovely lanes. Part of our strategy is employing a marketing company to create a great website (www.berichmond.london) and spread the word about what a great place Richmond is to visit.’
What about the smaller businesses, who haven’t paid the levy – is their voice still being heard?
‘Yes! We are really keen to help every business registered in Richmond. Apart from the project director, Austin Casey, we are all volunteers at Be Richmond, so we need businesses to come to us – big and small – and tell us what they would like improved in the area and how we can help them. We’d love to build up the website and would welcome contributions from smaller businesses– the more information we about local businesses, the more useful it the website will be.’
Are you just flying the flag for shops – or also those businesses without a ‘shop front’?
‘We are trying improve the area as a whole, which will benefit every business in Richmond and attract as more people come to visit, work and spend their money. And it’s not just businesses we help – I was recently asked by residents to get the telephone box on Richmond Green re-painted. They’d been fighting for this for years, but there just wasn’t the budget. I promised them it would get done – and ended up painting it myself!’
How can local businesses find out what’s going on and how they can contribute?
We hold quarterly networking meetings in Richmond and would love more local businesses to attend. It’s a great way to build contacts, promote your business learn about the work we are doing and also to find out how everyone can get involved. We all need to work together to make Richmond an even better place to work and live. Nobody is there to sell anything, we all just want to share our knowledge and understanding of what’s happening locally.
What are the plans for the future?
‘As well as making it the cleanest and safest place to live and work we are also working on a new Be Richmond app, which will help workers and residents benefit from promotions and events hosted by local retailers. We will also be organising future May Fairs on Richmond Green and intend to make it a destination event to bring more people to the area.’
It’s a lot of work on top of a normal working day – why do you do it?
‘Because I have a vision for Richmond and I will get things done. I think we can do so much more to make it an even greater place and really help local businesses – but we need to work together.’
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