The Real Ideas Organisation

8th November, 2017

PKF Francis Clark client, the Real Ideas Organisation (RIO), is truly a ground-breaking and inspirational business dedicated to tackling social problems from housing and regeneration to skills acquisition, employment creation, cultural education and business support.

Having previously worked together on the Government’s Creative Partnerships initiative in the South West, Lindsey Hall and Matt Little became convinced that innovative social enterprise is a better way of creating sustainable change and delivering public service. As a result, they established RIO in 2007 as a Community Interest Company.

The fundamental objective for RIO is to tackle social problems which they do in a variety of ways. In addition to their own social enterprises such as the regeneration of Devonport Guildhall where they are now headquartered, they provide business support to start-up social enterprises and have even established a Social Enterprise Qualification (SEQ). They have also used their accumulated skills, knowledge and experience to establish a consultancy side of the business where they service private clients or deliver strategic programmes and grants for organisations such as Arts Council England, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the EU with whom they have a number of existing projects.

Funding comes from a variety of sources including RIO’s own enterprises such as revenue from running Devonport Guildhall as an events venue and from its own Column Bakehouse, a highly successful artisan bakery. Income is also derived from its business management consultancy, the provision of skills development, education and training programmes and tenders from larger funding organisations.

They have an impressive track record. The £1.8 million refurbishment of Devonport Guildhall has led to the knock-on regeneration of the local area and the re-creation of a real community spirit. The Guildhall is now used as offices for six other social enterprises, as a venue for weddings, funerals and other community functions and as the base for RIO’s artisan bakery and a café. RIO also refurbished the historic Devonport Column which is now a viable tourist attraction. They have attracted £1 million in government funding for the refurbishment of Devonport Market Hall and their planning application has now been approved by Plymouth City Council with work due to start in early 2018.

RIO’s Head of Marketing & Communications, Jenny Bishop said:

“We are not afraid to use the word enterprise. We set out to make a profit on what we do as without it we couldn’t invest more in new projects and initiatives.

“Since 2007, RIO has grown rapidly – from the original staff team of 10, there are now around 70 of us and we have offices in Bristol, Plymouth, Liskeard and a small presence in other places in St Austell and Redruth. Over that time our areas of work have diversified and changed. We have restored historic buildings, created new enterprises, supported communities and worked with young people.”

PKF Francis Clark were instrumental in restructuring the company with the Real Ideas Company CIC wholly owning Real Ideas Trading Limited and Real Ideas Assets CIC. All the staff are employed by the trading company and the buildings they operate including the latest venture Ocean Studios in Plymouth Royal William Yard.

With the support of Plymouth City Council and Arts Council England, RIO’s latest venture is taking on the management of Ocean Studios, an imaginative conversion of the Grade 1 listed Cooperage building in Plymouth’s Royal William Yard.

Ocean Studios provides 39 affordable artist studios and workshop facilities as well as a number of shared spaces including a metal work workshop, a ceramics studio with 3 kilns, a cold glass finishing studio, photography studio with traditional dark room, digital suite and a screen print room. There is also a gallery, event spaces and an open plan studio space for emerging artists who can’t afford their own private studio.

Jenny Bishop added:

“RIO’s job is to manage the building in a sustainable way and to create sufficient revenue from renting the artists’ studios, hosting events, the coffee shop and the introduction of a new branch of the Column Bakehouse, to cover all the overheads of the operation. We also aim to support artists and makers to be more enterprising so that they create sustainable business models for self-employment.

“The building also has an impressive 80m2 function room with catering facilities and we are keen to promote this as a venue for a wide range of events including seminars, workshops, fashion shows, conferences, collaborative projects and exhibitions.”

PKF Francis Clark Senior Manager Louise Bridgett said:

“We are delighted to have been part of the journey that RIO has taken over the many years we have been working with them. They are an inspirational company and are an integral part of many communities in which PKF Francis Clark operates.

“As RIO has evolved, we have been able to advise them on the best company structure to take them forward. Our locally based VAT team has provided them with valuable advice, much of which has been around very complex VAT issues. PKF Francis Clark were also able to support and advise RIO in connection with the Ocean Studios venture in terms of structure and tax. Throughout all of this change and innovation, we have also provided RIO with core services such as accountancy, payroll and corporation tax. We look forward with excitement to what the future holds for RIO and PKF Francis Clark.”

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