Can community-focused neighbourhood workspace concept Patch save the high street?

The Patch team

Patch is on a mission to revitalise local high streets with plans to bring its community-driven co-working social hubs to 100 small towns around the country.  

Created by former management consultant Freddie Fforde, the company converts empty high street premises into combined “work near home” and community spaces that benefit people living locally. Inside there’s a mixture of smart co-working offices alongside publicly accessible areas such as coffee bars, libraries, pop-up shops and event rooms.  

In contrast to traditional co-working spaces found in major cities, Patch’s focus is on smaller towns with a population of around 40,000+ people. This is an intentional part of its overall strategy: to breathe new life into local communities where people live.   

Saving the high street

Creator Freddie says the idea is to keep people in their local areas to regenerate towns and support nearby businesses such as indies. “Patch is about rethinking what the high street is used for,” he says. “It was primarily a place of retail, but for various reasons that has changed. The long-term impact of technology has meant more people are able to work remotely. Patch provides a place that reflects modern life and a mixture of needs. It allows people to spend more time where they live – doing what they love.”  

Patch’s first location opened in Chelmsford in 2020 while this summer will see the two further venues arrive in High Wycombe and Twickenham. Long-term plans include the roll out of 100 sites over the coming years, with the team on the lookout for suitable empty and disused premises.  

“Although many of our investors are former CEOs, they all grew up somewhere”

Freddie Fforde, Patch

Each Patch location is completely unique and created especially with the local area and residents’ needs in mind. “We don’t instruct communities in what they do, we give them space and ask them what they want to do with it,” says Freddie. Its plans include transforming buildings with civic value – like former breweries or libraries – into new centres for commercial and cultural life. Its team also invites a diverse range of local businesses, social enterprises and charities to use Patch as their neighbourhood base and venue to host events.

Stay local  

Patch’s unique concept is already receiving a lot of attention. The company has recently secured £3 million from JamJar Investments – the fund launched by the founders of Innocent Smoothies – as well as Blue Wire Capital, Vectr7 Investment Partners LLP, Active Partners and Triple Point Ventures.

A number of high street stalwarts are also backing the concept as angel investors, including PureGym founder Peter Roberts, former Wagamama CEO Emma Woods, Jeremy Sanders, co-founder of Coco di Mama and Wendy Becker, former CEO of Jack Wills.

Patch Chelmsford

Freddie says it’s popular because the idea behind Patch resonates with everyone: “Although many of our investors are former CEOs, they all grew up somewhere. No one wants to see their local towns completely gutted. Our belief is simple: great people are everywhere and they deserve the same opportunities too often sequestered in our major cities.”

Patch is also working with people from diverse backgrounds to ensure its locations benefit everyone. For example, 30 per cent of its investors are female while 60 per cent are from minority or underrepresented groups. “This has been a very deliberate choice,” concludes Freddie. “We want to build a company that reflects our customer base – that’s very important to us.”

Retailers wanting to register interest in having a Patch location in their town can fill out a form on its website via patch.work