How Independent Liverpool is changing the social scene in the city
PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 September 2017
Rebekka O'Grady meets people in Liverpool who are passionate about making their hometown the best it can be.
I SUSPECT David Williams and Oliver Press are relieved their business cleaning wheelie bins didn’t work out. Instead of standing waist high inside Liverpool’s notoriously recognisable purple bins with Marigolds on, the two 26-year-olds are now celebrating the launch of their fifth members’ card for their business, Independent Liverpool.
‘We were just desperate to launch a business together, so we thought as everyone has a wheelie bin, why don’t we clean them,’ laughed David, who has been friends with Oliver since they were four-year-olds. ‘I think we made about £2. Thankfully, Independent Liverpool worked out.’
The concept behind the business is that you purchase a card annually for £15, which gives you discount at over 100 of Liverpool’s best independent places to eat, drink and shop. It initially began as a blog, where the two entrepreneurs would write reviews about where they met up on a weekly basis in Liverpool.
‘It started in 2013 when I was in my last year of university and David had just graduated. We would meet up once a week and try a new independent place,’ said Oliver. ‘It was around the time of the Starbucks tax scandal. Independents to us were unique places with their own personalities owned by local people, so after our date we decided to then go back to David’s house and write about our experience.’
Independent Liverpool was born. The blog was soon joined by a Facebook page and the duo watched on as the ‘likes’ started to grow. When they had hit 1,000 they knew that it wasn’t just a bit of fun anymore and they had genuinely got onto something.
‘People were listening to what we had to say, we seemed to hit a chord – there was an appetite for it. That’s when we thought how we can turn this into a business and support our independents even more,’ said Oliver.
The first card launched in 2013, with 30 businesses signed up. Today, there are now 120 independents who are a part of the network, with more wanting to come on board all of the time. It’s not just the card that is having positive results, but the reach that Independent Liverpool has online and across its social media platforms. Just shy of 60,000 follows on Instagram, the boys are aware of the power their posts have.
‘We posted an image of a “freakshake” from one business and the owner contacted us to say that after that post he had sold 1,000 of them across one weekend. It’s just great to know we’re getting bums on seats,’ said David. ‘However, we’re certainly not anti-chain, chains are good and we need them for balance. We just want to celebrate and champion the quality independents we have locally.’
Two years ago, David and Oliver expanded their business outside of the digital world and started to host events – an opportunity they viewed as a chance to get all their supporters under one roof alongside the independents. Their first event, a food festival, was an instant success selling 3,000 tickets and began the journey of their newest venture, the Baltic Market. Opened at the beginning of July, the expansive market located inside the old Cains Brewery in the Baltic Triangle area of the city, is averaging around 10,000 visitors per weekend.
‘Liverpool doesn’t have a food hall, and we had always said wouldn’t it be great to have our own, where it’s free to get in and people can enjoy food and drink from various traders,’ said Oliver. Currently, the street food market is home to eight pop-up traders, who offer an array of food from the extremely popular halloumi fries at Halfa Halfa, Caribbean vegan street food from Italfresh and even popcorn mussels from modern small plate restaurant, Octopus.
‘Some of the traders will change every two months, to keep things fresh and exciting for customers,’ said David. ‘It’s great that the market can act as an incubator for new businesses, so they can develop, get feedback and save money before spending a fortune on a site. We really do want to invest into the future of independent food in Liverpool.’
Under the umbrella of the Baltic Market, each Sunday there is also a rotating schedule of a farmers’ market, makers’ market and flea market, with the remaining date free for an interchangeable event.
‘We never thought we would reach this point. It’s just become ridiculous, we never really have time to think about it all,’ continued David. ‘Some people may think that the Baltic Market is now the happily ever after for Independent Liverpool, but we want to do so much more – you never know what can be achieved in the next five years.’