James Dyson looks back on the last 5 years of Black Cat.

As we approach our 5th Birthday I have taken a moment to consider what we have achieved in the last 5 years and, whilst I am incredibly proud of the business successes that we have experienced, I am even more pleased with what that business success has allowed us to do for the wider community.

When Stephen, Ben and I set up Black Cat in late 2015 we wanted to create a firm which was open, transparent and flexible for its employees and delivered an unrivalled level of service to its clients. We identified people who we felt would flourish in the environment that we had created and could deliver on the service promise, and through varying degrees of persuasion we were lucky enough to get them on board. Based on the hard work, skill and experience of those individuals, Black Cat has gone from strength to strength over the past 5 years.

We have therefore been fortunate enough to be in a position to be able to give a little back. We did this sporadically to begin with and without much of a plan, we gave generously to the various charity challenges that regularly appear in your inbox, charity rides, runs, hops etc. We encouraged staff to sponsor their kids teams, and in Bens case his football team for middle aged men who should know better.

As time went by, we began to give more consideration to what kind of causes we would like to give our support to, why they were important to us and how we could do more than just sign a cheque.

We had all been involved in Sports and Social Clubs growing up and we all believed that they had played a part in the development of skills and values that have helped us in the world of work. They are basic skills and values that are incredibly important to us but unfortunately, we often find are frustratingly lacking in others. Work ethic, determination, professionalism, teamwork and communication.

We therefore knew we would like to support youth sports teams and social clubs, but we wanted to do more than sponsor a kit or a club. We wanted to try and use our knowledge and skills to hopefully make a bigger impact.

Luckily enough we came across some people at Shevington FC and Shevington Sharks ARFLC. The two clubs had represented the parish of Shevington for generations and they had both built successful clubs with teams at every age group, but they had no home to bring all those age groups together as a club. They wanted pitches and a clubhouse to secure the clubs future and to help them become even stronger.

When we first met with these amazingly generous and dedicated volunteers, they had already secured hundreds of thousands of pounds in funding to turn some local agricultural land into pitches and they were looking at potential funding for a clubhouse facility. However, it was difficult to find funders and found it was difficult to persuade them that your project was more viable than the many others who were looking for funding.

We saw an opportunity here to use the knowledge, skills and contacts that we use everyday to help these clubs deliver something really special, that would have a long lasting, positive impact for the clubs and the community. We therefore offered our project management services free of charge for as long as was necessary to get the job done. We quickly helped the clubs put together designs, costs and programmes and we secured them planning approval. When we re-engaged with the sports funding bodies with this information to support our bids, we immediately received more positive responses because they could see this was a viable project.

It took three years from those initial discussions to the point where we had the funding in place to commence the works and there were several occasions in that period where we came across obstacles that we thought would derail the whole project. I cannot tell you how many times we said we can see light at the end of the tunnel only for it to move a little further away. Despite the long application forms, the paperwork, the redesigns to meet each funders’ requirements, the successful tenderer going into administration and Covid-19, we have the funding. We started on site in February 2020 and we are due to complete in September 2020.

With support and funding from the FA, RFL, Sports England, Wigan Council, IKO, Fulwood Roofing, Black Cat and several other community businesses and the incredible dedication of individuals involved from both clubs this project is nearing completion. It has been an amazing experience to see a community pull together to deliver over £1 million pounds of investment in this recreational and social facility and Black Cat are delighted to have played a part in that.

 

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