When shops and businesses closed for the first time last March, no one could have predicted how the next year would play out. It was a time of uncertainty, not to mention fear, but it was also a time for community.

People came together to ensure the businesses and venues they loved would be there for future generations to enjoy. 

In July 2020, the Mayor of London partnered with Crowdfunder to create Pay it Forward London. Through this 100% free crowdfunding initiative, businesses could pre-sell products, goods and services, securing vital custom during a time where their doors had to remain closed. Small and independent businesses could also access up to £5,000 in match funding from the £1M Back to Business fund to stay afloat, rebuild and recover from the impact of the pandemic. 

Now, almost a year on from the creation of the Back to Business fund, the fund has been allocated to help London’s vibrant streets recover! That’s over 150 businesses that have been able to stay afloat with help from Pay it Forward London and the crowd. 

In fact, over the last nine months 47,850 people came together to raise £2,261,800 to support the businesses they love.

One such project that received an outpouring of support from the community was Stanfords Map and Travel Bookshop. After 167 years of being the first port of call for adventure and armchair travelers alike, it almost had to close its doors for good. That was until the crowd rallied around, raising over £146,000 to keep them afloat. This included a £5,000 boost from the Back to Business fund!

On their crowdfunding page, the Stanfords team explained, “This funding has given Stanfords a much-needed lifeline to see us into 2021 and we cannot begin to tell you all how much it means to us.”

Now, following the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown, Stanfords is open to the public once again and they couldn’t have done it without you! 

Though it wasn’t just shops that benefited from this vital lifeline. London’s Hackney Empire is a cultural home for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities and is one of the UK’s most beautiful and best-loved theatres. Like so many theatres across the world, lockdown hit them hard. They were left facing the biggest challenge in their 120 year history.

Their Crowdfunder quickly gained the support of their community, raising £116,682 and an estimated £23,642.50 in Gift Aid. This included the £5,000 in funding from the Pay it Forward London scheme.

In an interview with Crowdfunder, Hackney Empire’s Artistic Director, Yamin Choudury, told us, “The scheme has enabled us to harness the huge amounts of goodwill that there is for Hackney Empire and turn that into the funding that will help to see us through these uncertain times. It’s giving us the best chance of reopening our doors for music, for comedy, for theatre, for young people and of course for Panto in the years to come.”

When it’s safe to do so, this theatre is looking forward to welcoming back their crowd again with open arms and plenty of new performances. 

Similarly, Pollock’s Toy Museum needed a helping hand when their future looked uncertain. As the oldest toy museum in the UK, it’s no surprise that over 800 supporters donated what they could to ensure that their doors didn’t remain closed forever. 

One commenter said, “I have fond memories of visiting Pollock’s Toy Museum as a child with my dad in the 60’s/70’s. It would be such a shame for it to close. I have not visited for many years but I definitely will when you re-open.” 

In just 28 days this historic museum raised £41,568 from the crowd, including £5,000 from the Mayor of London. They’re now getting ready to reopen in May!

“Our doors will be open this Summer and big smiles and irreplaceable history awaits.”

The sense of community that sprung up around London’s businesses during this pandemic is enough to put a smile on anyone’s face. There are shops and venues open today that would not be here without the incredible work of the crowd and the Mayor of London’s Back to Business Fund.