The months within the first national lockdown after a surge of coronavirus cases, were unprecedented. Businesses all over the UK feared the unknown, the consequences of not being able to trade and the likely impact of impending changes to consumer culture, were not something that they were prepared for.

Small businesses don’t typically have much in reserve to live off in harsher months and time spent behind closed doors was unlikely to be easy in the face of so much uncertainty. The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is ‘one of thirty-eight LEPs in the country and are responsible for promoting and developing economic growth in the local authority areas of County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland’.

This pandemic was recognised by the North East LEP as a serious threat for small businesses. A fund was swiftly put together offering upto £5,000 to support businesses, charities, social enterprises and sole-traders seeking to cope in these challenging trading conditions.

Crowdfunding has become an important tool in the coronavirus response toolkit, with the highstreets closed online communities have strengthened, allowing businesses to diversify and adapt. One such business was Jam Jar Cinema in Whitley Bay. With cinemas strictly out of bounds for much of the foreseeable future, they remain a hugely impacted industry.

Key workers have played a vital role in this pandemic, that’s why the Jam Jar Cinema pieced together a successful crowdfunding campaign to honour them. The team raised money for their ‘Local Heroes Fund’, whereby upon reopening they could offer 1000 free admissions to NHS staff, The Police, Firefighters and Care Workers. In a time where cinema’s have otherwise slipped into the shadows, Jam Jar Cinema has made good use of their platform. With 325 supporters and £7,625 raised (including £2,000 from the NE LEP Fund), they have connected with their community, confirmed admissions for the future and done something with a clear social benefit.

The cinema’s owner Dan Ellis was inspired by how the country’s services had pulled together and as a business they thought about what they could do to help the effort. He believed that the dual purpose of thanking key workers by supporting a small business worked very well and people were really motivated to support the campaign. Dan told us, “The amazing thing was that it spread, lots of other cinemas across the UK started to do the same thing”. He went on to say that the “match funding from the North East LEP gave a lot of people who may not have considered crowdfunding before the opportunity to try it. Similarly, knowing that their money would go further, people had a greater incentive to support us”.

“A bit of cash really helps at a time when the biggest problem for small businesses is cash flow. I think when the pandemic is over, we will start looking at businesses who did right by people and those who did not.”

Dan and the team are in the process of printing cinema vouchers. When the restrictions ease, they will be travelling within a 3 mile radius; visiting schools, care homes, super markets and many other key services, hoping to bring a smile to the faces of those who have worked so hard.

Crowdfunder has teamed up with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership to offer up to £5,000 in match funding to projects seeking facing challenging trading conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This fund provides support to businesses, charities, social enterprises and sole-traders, if you have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, start crowdfunding today and share your story.