In our latest blog post, Bedminster-based Christian Shanahan introduces We Are BS3, a virtual local high street for the area. Christian and his business partner Phil Stevens plan to roll out this platform across the UK.

Back in June 2017, Phil Stevens and I (both BS3 residents) met while attending antenatal classes with our wives. My background was in recruitment and headhunting, whereas Phil is a technology enthusiast. After a few late nights talking shop in the pub (and quite a few months after the birth of our children), we co-founded Employtec.

Our goal was to put technology to work for smaller businesses, whose owners typically aren’t able to compete or efficiently operate their business because of off-putting tech costs or lack of skills. Our first two products were focused on recruitment, the first of which was a ‘talent management system’, free to small businesses and affordable to medium-sized businesses.

But then COVID-19 arrived, which caused a sudden halt to nearly every industry, but most of all the hospitality industry.

Our second product, which was launch-ready before the pandemic hit, was a job and education board, free to everyone in the hospitality industry. The reason to do this? Job seekers see less than 20% of all the vacancies available to them online. No business should ever pay to advertise jobs that can help the economy.

We are now proud to launch ‘A Job In Hospitality‘. We hope to potentially change the face of how job seekers are hired in the hospitality industry. The short term goal for the job board will be to help businesses avoid having to think about cost, compliance or their time management when it comes to hiring upon reopening safely.

We also needed to rethink our strategy in the here and now. Enter #WeAreLocals, a platform to deliver a sense of place for local businesses to showcase their products and services to the local community and beyond. A virtual high street that, in essence, will help ensure that—when you are able to go more freely to your local high street or town centre in the future—there’s still somewhere to go.

We decided that our first pilot should be where we live, an area with a thriving independent business scene: BS3, here in Bristol. Now, after months of hard work, we are very proud to have just launched our first virtual local high street, www.wearebs3.co.uk.

Stacey Fordham from Zero Green, listed on the www.wearebs3.co.uk website

We wanted to do something positive during the lockdown, and provide all businesses with the tools to sell online. We believe in the sense of place and community that a high street brings, and we want to help preserve that for the future. One food business that we are adding to the website, for example, told us they had never imagined having any internet presence, so this is a huge shift in mindset for them.

We believe in buying and supporting local. Local businesses working together means helping each other, and we hope that this approach will support the local economy as a whole by helping sales in all independents, and thus recycling economic benefits. It is heartening to see that shopping or ordering from independent food retailers is at the heart of the #BristolFoodKind campaign, and we are keen to play a part in helping Bristol to continue to have a thriving food scene in the future.

We now plan to take #WeAreLocals to other parts of the UK and Ireland. Our initial partnership was with the Bedminster BID (Business Improvement District) and our aim is to partner with other BIDs and town councils to embrace the project in the same way it has been in Bristol.

The future of how we shop and interact with the food and retail scene is changing, but that does not mean it’s the end of our high streets or our local communities. Instead, it’s just the start of empowering them with transformational change for the better, and excelling in the new normal.

Discover www.wearebs3.co.uk, which currently features online purchase and delivery services from a host of local businesses, ranging from food and drink and groceries to toys, crafts and art. 

Read the #BristolFoodKind: Support local food highlights on the Going for Gold blog. #BristolFoodKind is a collaboration between Bristol Green Capital PartnershipBristol Food NetworkBristol City Council and Resource Futures.

Visit Bristol Food Network for more information and resources on Bristol’s Good Food response to the pandemic.