New Chair for CuparNow’s Steering Group
After three years as Chair of CuparNow’s Steering Group, Alison Strachan – owner of Maisie & Mac Gift, Art & Contemporary Craft on St Catherine Street – has stepped down and handed on the baton …
Alison – together with colleagues in the town’s business association – was instrumental in the work with the Scottish Government, Digital Scotland and Fife Council that led to Cupar being chosen as a demonstration project to prove the concept of a Digital Improvement District. She chaired the business-led steering group from Day 1 and campaigned to persuade businesses and organisations to back the idea.
Alison says: “Back in 2017, it was acknowledged that Cupar had little digital footprint and that while many did use local businesses, there was very evidently a lack of awareness both in the town and in surrounding villages about the huge range of facilities here.” Alison adds: “There was clear evidence that locals and visitors bypassed the local offering and went to St Andrews and Dundee. Many businesses reported falling footfall. After much research into how this could be addressed, we campaigned for Cupar to be considered as the demonstration project to prove the concept of a digital improvement district.”
That was in 2018. Cupar was chosen and Alison and her colleagues secured seed corn funding to enable the project to go ahead. That demonstration project ran for 15 months until a ballot of businesses in December 2019. Again – individually, and working with a group of business owners – Alison campaigned and argued for the project to succeed.
Roll the clocks forward to 2021 and CuparNow is in its second year – uninterrupted delivery to benefit multiple audiences across the town and its catchment, delivering managed, integrated communication … first and foremost, to support the town’s business community.
Alison is stepping down as Chair and will remain on the group, saying: “It is extraordinary to think that four years ago, we had none of the elements now delivered by CuparNow. The Blog, Facebook and Instagram pages – together with other digital support channels – have helped to build a combined audience that is more than 50,000 people. On top of that, CuparNow manages databases for regular communication with businesses as well as customers … those who have subscribed to the free public realm Wi-Fi delivered in the town centre. Add on the Community Directory launched at the start of this year and CuparNow’s support for numerous community groups and events, and it is clear to me that the project’s delivery to date has exceeded all expectations.”
Taking over as Chair of the Group is Andrew Thomson. Andrew has been on the group since 2018 so provides continuity and a connection with the project’s foundation. Andrew helps to run Southbridge Garage Used Car Sales on the corner of Millgate and South Bridge. He says: “It’s three years since I started here but I’ve been involved with cars for more than 30 years.” He has lived in the area for 25 years and got involved with CuparNow “as it sounded like the perfect way, in today’s digital world, to promote the businesses and the town as a whole.”
Andrew recognises the last 18 months have been “an enormous challenge” for businesses across all sectors, but he also sees opportunities and benefits for smaller towns, saying: “There is much talk of ‘twenty minute towns’ where residents are able to access all the support they need in a close community. The restrictions imposed through lockdowns have made everyone think differently. CuparNow’s ability to bang the drum and build an audience to promote local shopping has benefited the whole town.” He adds: “I can’t think of a better way to avoid the stress of navigating the big cities than to choose a destination in the heart of the Fife countryside that provides all that you need – and at a more relaxed and friendly pace.”
New partnership …
And it is under Andrew’s leadership that CuparNow is forging a new partnership – with ABCD, the town’s business association: with effect from this autumn, all levy-paying businesses will become members of ABCD. The association was formed in 2004 and, historically, has primarily represented the interests of town centre businesses.
James Hair, who became Chair of ABCD at their AGM this July, described the collaboration as “transformational” saying: “The Association is the main point of contact between the town’s business community and Fife Council on matters relating to planning, economic development and more.” James adds: “CuparNow’s support – especially through their ability to manage integrated communication – adds significant influence that will help us to collaborate and campaign to the benefit of the town.”
ABCD is involved in statutory consultations that affect the town and its businesses – not just in the town centre but across the whole of Cupar, including the business park and trading estate as well as the new retail park. James says: “Historically, the Association’s members have been town centre based. We are working with many organisations to showcase Cupar as a 21st century market town. The town’s appeal extends far beyond the centre and rightly includes each and every business across Cupar and, increasingly, in its rural catchment.”
The membership fees are being covered by CuparNow’s contingency. The move will provide better support and representation for businesses across the town. Any business who does not wish to be a member of ABCD under this new arrangement can simply request not to be included. In the coming weeks, more information will be shared. One of the first initiatives that will be delivered by the collaboration will be a survey of the town’s businesses. Poster sites are being considered to help promote businesses across the town and consideration is also being given to a town map to be made available to visitors to the town in 2022.
Our Steering Group
The Steering Group meets once a month with a rolling agenda to cover set topics against the project’s Business Plan:
- Minutes of previous meeting
- Local Authority & Levy Related Communication
- Steering Group
- Digital Delivery & Support
- Representations re CuparNow’s delivery
- Next meeting
The group is made up of the following …
Cupar’s Business Representation …
- George Cunningham: first worked in Cupar in 1987 as manager of the Adamson Hospital. George returned to working in Cupar in 2013 when he started working for Cunningham Grant Chartered Accountants. Why did he join the steering group? “I joined to work to promote Cupar as a place to visit and do business in.“
- Chloe Milne: one of the fifth generation of Fisher & Donaldson and joined the family business at the end of 2019 after almost a decade working in press & marketing roles in the arts sector. Chloe grew up in St Andrews and has strong ties with Cupar. Her great grandfather, father and uncles have all lived above their Crossgate shop in the past. Why did Chloe join the group? “In its 101st year in business, our passion for good baking and great cakes remains to this day. I am excited to be a part of the next generation of F&D and to work alongside so many great businesses to ensure Cupar thrives.“
- Bryan Nicol: runs BN Designs – a family run bodyshop trading from Prestonhall Industrial Estate. Bryan’s business carries out accident damage repairs to cars, light goods vehicles and motorcycles. Why did Bryan join the steering group? “I attended the Open Meeting in July 2021 and thought someone needed to step up to represent the trading estate.“
- Paul Stewart: runs both The Nappy Pin & Toymaster and the Subway – both on Bonnygate in Cupar. He has worked in the town for close to 20 years and took over the running of Nappypin from his father-in-law. Why did Paul get involved? “One of the founding members had to step down. They were in the hospitality sector. The group knew that I’m involved in two businesses in different sectors, so that gave me a unique perspective. I joined to find out more about the organisation and have enjoyed the experience greatly.“
- Alison Strachan: owner of Maisie & Mac Gift, Art & Contemporary Craft which has been established in Cupar for just over 10 years. The location of Alison’s shop made it a go-to destination for many shoppers asking questions – almost an information service! Customers over the years would ask where they might find or buy ‘this’ or ‘that’. It became clear to Alison that many residents and visitors had no idea of the range of products, services and events on offer. Why did she get involved? “I could also see that Cupar had a very small digital footprint and that this had to be remedied in order to encourage people to use what is here rather than bypassing the town. I was keen to join the Steering Group believing that a whole town approach to promoting Cupar and what it has to offer was essential.“
- Andrew Thomson (chair): helps to run Southbridge Garage Used Car Sales on the corner of Millgate and South Bridge. He has been at the business for three years but in the auto trade for almost three decades. Why get involved? He says: “It sounded like the perfect way, in today’s digital world, to promote the businesses and the town as a whole.”
- Judith Vandecasteele: Judith has lived in Cupar for over ten years and in that time has made it her home, both personally and professionally. When not practising as a solicitor at Rollos specialising in all aspects of property and commercial law, she can generally be found hanging around a stage of some sort – either as a member of Cupar Choral Society, Cupar Amateur Musical Society, or as director of Cupar Youth Musical Theatre. Why did she get involved? “Having previously served on various committees and boards, I appreciate the importance of strong links between local businesses and community bodies, both from a commercial and a social perspective, and as a member of the CuparNow Steering Group I am keen to help contribute towards the promotion of those links and of the town itself.“
- Bell Baxter High School: the group works closely with education providers in the town. The high school has a seat on the group that is split between two members of the school’s senior team:
- Depute Rector, Karen Manders
- Depute Rector, Brian Harris
Local Authority Representation …
- Donald Grant (Area Manager) – officer
- Margaret Kennedy (Councillor) – elected
Should you have any questions for the group, please do not hesitate to contact us via this link and we will pass them on to the next suitable meeting.
Thanks for reading!