UWTSD student diversifies and transforms social enterprise during Covid-19


Survival has been the main aim for many social enterprises in the coronavirus pandemic - but some ventures like the one run by UWTSD mature student Sandra Richards-Davies, have used the crisis to diversify and transform.

UWTSD student Sandra Richards-Davies has diversified and transformed her social enterprise during Covid-19

Sandra is studying for a Certificate of Higher Education (CERT HE) in Social Enterprise Management at UWTSD, to help her social enterprise business succeed in Llandysul, Carmarthenshire.

Before lockdown, Sandra was attending lectures at the University’s Carmarthen Business campus and putting her new skills and learning into practice at her new enterprise called Nyth-y-Robin, a vintage book shop, with social space providing an opportunity to meet people to reduce social isolation - which had become popular with local customers and the elderly in particular.

“We hadn’t been open long but I could see just how popular the meeting place had become which prompted me to set up a sustainable tea room/coffee bar. The country then went into lockdown,” said Sandra, a former mental health nurse. “My course which continued online, the support from my lecturers and the research I had undertaken for assignments gave me the confidence to look at what was immediately needed during this unprecedented time.

“I knew the enterprise was an important community hub that was providing a life-line for the elderly in particular and I wanted that element to continue. So with the help of my husband, we decided to diversify and use the tea room to create a meals on wheels service to continue to help and support our customers who could no longer visit us.

“That side of business has now taken off massively and we are rushed off our feet coping with demand with any surplus revenue going straight to the more vulnerable. We’ve also had requests from volunteers in the local community to help us help the community further.”

Sandra said there is a real sense of community in Llandysul and a desire to help each other.

“I think lockdown has brought us even closer together,” she said. “We are still able to communicate regularly with our customers and because we know what they want – we can respond accordingly.

“You may think it takes big groups to make big decisions, but it’s also smaller groups making small changes that can also have a big impact on communities.”

Sandra, who sits on the Llandysul regeneration board, where she is also able to put her learning into practice, has now enrolled on a degree course at Carmarthen Business School. She said the diverse group of students on her one-year-programme had influenced her thinking and her lecturers, her desire to continue her education.

“It’s an inter-generation group and hearing the thoughts of young and old has been fantastic and such a learning curve for me,” she said. “It’s definitely had an impact on the way I think and plan and structure my social enterprise. I initially enrolled because I wanted to help grow my social enterprise and my lecturer Jessica has been amazing. She has not only taught and supported us but has facilitated our learning, sharing resources, skills and expertise and encouraging us to push further in our work. So I’ve now enrolled for the degree course.”

UWTSD’s Jessica Shore, Acting Programme Manager, Carmarthen Business School said: “Social enterprises are at the forefront of solutions to the crisis, on the health and social care front line providing crucial community support to the most vulnerable during these unprecedented times.

“Although many have all found the lockdown period extremely difficult, there have been a number a number of positive outcomes associated with this phase.

“We have seen a number of our students getting to know their local communities again and through their social enterprises managing to rapidly diversify their services and transform their businesses on to online platforms, developing online sales and payment systems showing to all of us just how resourceful and innovative the sector can be in times of crisis.”

Further Information

Rebecca Davies

Swyddog Gweithredol Cysylltiadau â’r Wasg a’r Cyfryngau

Executive Press and Media Relations Officer

Cyfathrebu Corfforaethol a Chysylltiadau Cyhoeddus

Corporate Communications and PR

Tel: 01792 483695

Mobile: 07384 467071

Email: Rebecca.Davies@uwtsd.ac.uk