Small Business Saturday Blog

Still rocking in Southend on Sea

Tuesday, October 31, 2023 at 06:30

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.
Since opening their doors, they’ve hosted over 42,000 climbs, and celebrated their first birthday in March 2023. They also held an amazing climbing competition this summer which saw elite climbers gather in Southend from as far afield as Brighton, Kent, London, and Norfolk, and they’ve been hosting a successful work experience scheme for vulnerable young people furthest from the workplace. Emily told us, “It feels like we’ve hit our stride.”
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 raised 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.
They have given work to a variety of local artists, 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.
They are currently preparing for big changes next year as founder and CEO Emily will be on maternity leave from January 2024. Emily told us, “This gives us a great opportunity to promote members of the team and entrust the running of Indirock to them, for a few months at least.” She’s getting ready by doing as much fundraising as possible for new charity outreach projects in 2024, with plans to work to divert young people in Southend from violent crime, support people experiencing homelessness and addictions, and support families on the lowest incomes in the city.
Emily told us, “We will definitely be taking part in the American Express Shop Small campaign again this year. Southend is built on small businesses, so it’s the perfect excuse to celebrate that while joining in a national campaign that encourages people to support independent shops.”
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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