Fifty years of friendship and finance – meet Richard Snow

In our series of interviews with friends from the last fifty years, today we meet Richard Snow, CEO of Oxford Wood Recycling. We last spoke to Richard in 2020, to find out how the business had managed through Covid at that point.

“I’ve been aware of ICOF since before my time here at Oxford Wood Recycling. I first knew of them during my time in employment with Co-operative Futures, going back to 2005, and then following that we had a more close relationship when I joined the Plunkett Foundation in 2008. I was with Plunkett until 2014 and we were partners on various programmes. So a varied history!

The relationship with ICOF as a borrower with Oxford Wood Recycling would have started in around 2013, 2014. We borrowed a small amount and then later we borrowed something like £80,000 in 2015, when we moved, which we paid off over a number of years, interrupted for a short time by COVID.

That loan was to cashflow growth and development, in order to meet the new increased costs of a new premises. We knew the move would unlock more business but the costs of running the organisation in the new premises were a real step up – the rent and rates costs were six times what they had been and we had to grow into that space. That £80,000 allowed us some breathing space to develop the trading part of the organisation to the extent that was required to to inhabit that larger space.

We wouldn’t have got a loan for something like that from a high street lender. There was no way – in fact, we may even have tried from our bank. But they are a very conservative lender. We were running the organisation on a shoestring and this would have been a gamble for ICOF. I got the impression that that’s what they were in the business to do, they were willing to accept the risks involved in supporting social enterprises and co-ops to start up and I think that was probably decisive in our ability to work with them.

I’ve always found the relationship with ICOF to be very understanding, sensitive and businesslike. It’s been really good. There was always someone on the end of the phone, one felt one had an advisor. The fact that there was always a small cohort of people there, it was not a large office, meant you got to know people and there was always a sympathetic ear. They are a a proper social lender.

Happy birthday ICOF on your 50 years of lending. You thoroughly deserve to light a very big cake!