Caption: From the left, Cllr Heather Timms (Warwickshire County Council), Sara Palmer (Molly’s Cotton Tails) and Jim Clark (CWLEP Growth Hub)

An organic clothing and toy shop in Warwickshire has officially opened its expanded zero-waste food section after receiving a grant from Warwickshire County Council.

Molly’s Cotton Tails was launched five years ago in the High Street in Alcester to sell children’s organic clothes and fair trade wooden toys, and has a re-fill station for household and food products.

After re-opening in June 2020 following the national lockdown, owner Sara Palmer contacted Jim Clark at the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub to discuss if there was any financial support available to increase its growing range of zero-waste products.

Jim put Sara in touch with Simeon Lee from Warwickshire County Council, and he helped her apply for a £7,500 grant from its Covid-19 Retail and Hospitality Recovery and Investment Fund which proved successful.

A stock room has been converted to create a re-fill room and the grant has paid towards scales, dispensers, a coffee grinder, cabinets and software for the till which now has a scanner.

Sara is thrilled with the new-look room which has also given her the opportunity to expand her business.

The mum-of-two said: “It was always our plan to open a re-fill shop and the wheels we had put in motion came to a grinding halt when the national lockdown was announced last March.

“While the shop was closed, I started volunteering as part of a community group in Alcester delivering meals to the vulnerable twice a week and I then started advertising our sustainable cleaning products online by working together with our brands which are other small local businesses.

“The response was really good so I re-visited our expansion plans last summer and discussed the possibility of any help with Jim at the Growth Hub.

“He organised for me to speak to Simeon and he helped me with filling out the application form for a grant, and Jim and Simeon have both kept in touch and been really supportive. When I found out I had been given the grant, they were as excited as I was.

“I’m really pleased with how this new part of the shop looks and previously I was running the shop by myself but I have just employed someone to help out.

“It all seemed like a pipedream to expand the zero-waste section because I was just talking about it but to see it become a reality is wonderful.”

Jim Clark, account manager at the CWLEP Growth Hub, said Molly’s Cotton Tails was an excellent business which is an important part of Alcester’s retail offer.

“The Growth Hub is here to help businesses of all sizes whatever their sector and in these difficult times, it has been great to help Sara make the most of a previously under-used room and transform it into a purpose which will benefit her business,” he said.

“More and more people are thinking about the environment and this will be an ideal place to visit for zero-waste products.”

Cllr Heather Timms, Warwickshire County Council’s portfolio holder for Environment, Climate and Culture, said the Retail and Hospitality Recovery and Investment Fund had provided grants between £2,000 to £7,500 to help micro and small businesses in the retail and hospitality sectors fund capital investment projects to sustain businesses, safeguard jobs and support future growth.

She said: “The scheme gave businesses the opportunity to put the grants towards refurbishing or refitting property to increase footfall or improve visitors’ experiences, create an online sales presence, invest in dedicated IT and computer software, and buy minor equipment.

“That is exactly what Sara at Molly’s Cotton Tails has done and the end result looks fantastic. As well as the stimulus to jobs that the grant has given, it also supports a business that has the reduction of waste at the heart of what it does so that is an exemplar of what we were looking for the grants to do. We wish them all the best as they go forwards.”