Small Business Saturday Blog

Rock on in Southend on Sea

Wednesday, November 23, 2022 at 09:47

When Emily Vermont and her husband, Gordon, opened Indirock on Southend on Sea’s high street, they had three aims: to bring bouldering to Southend in as accessible a way as possible, to be part of the regeneration of the local high street, and to create opportunities for vulnerable people from the local area.
Indirock provides accessible indoor climbing facilities (and a coffee shop) for all ages to enjoy. Its 7500 sq ft high street venue had stood empty for 15 years, but has now been transformed into a light and aspirational space for the whole community to enjoy.
The couple managed to raise the £650k start-up finance through grants, loans and their own savings, and now run Indirock on a not-for-profit basis.
Its central location, in the heart of Southend, means that it is accessible to those who don't drive, as well as those who use wheelchairs or prams. They are also able to attract passers-by who might never have heard of bouldering but who are drawn by what they can see through Indirock’s spectacular 30m wide windows, thus helping to achieve one of the local council's aims of getting more people from the local community active and engaged with sports.
A strong community has already built up around Indirock. During the pandemic, Emily and Gordon organised lift shares to the nearest bouldering walls while they waited for Indirock to open, which helped to create a supportive community of customers who are already friends with one another and who are committed to Indirock’s aims.
They have given work to a variety of local artists too, and prioritise buying from local businesses. They have created their own coffee blend with a local coffee roaster, and source all their cleaning products from local business Southend Refills, which also dramatically reduces their plastic waste. Partnerships include running yoga for climbing classes with a local studio.
Emily also set up a new initiative called Thrive Collective, with the aim of getting local small business owners to meet and support one another. It is a semi-regular meet-up, hosted by a different local venue each time, where they discuss the future of the town and how they can work together to be bigger than the sum of their parts.
Sustainability is at the core of the business, which has seen them recognised by an EU grant for low energy solutions for their low energy lighting and ventilation, and by Surfers Against Sewage as Plastic Free Community Champions.
Their future plans are to grow their coffee shop to make it as much of a community space as the climbing areas already are, attracting people to use and enjoy the space even if they're not going to climb.
Emily told us, “We are also looking forward to taking part in Shop Small for the first time this year. It’s great to know that big corporations such as American Express are flying the flag for small, local businesses like Indirock. We are a family run not-for-profit doing everything we can to support our local community, so having the support of Amex to let people know we’re here feels like a friendly arm around our shoulder.”
Visit Indirock at First Floor, Victoria Plaza, Southend-on-Sea SS2 5SP or visit them online here. Click here to find out more about the American Express Shop Small campaign.


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