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Meet Rachel Mallows, Chair of Northamptonshire Community Foundation

Here, Rachel reflects on her new role, the challenges ahead and her passion for supporting local …

Here, Rachel reflects on her new role, the challenges ahead and her passion for supporting local …

My love for Northamptonshire: I was born in Northampton and grew up in Abington where my parents had a fish and chip shop on Birchfield Road East. At the age of eight we moved to Bozeat near Wellingborough. In essence, I am a local girl with a love for this beautiful county of  Northamptonshire.

My business started a very long time ago, working on my own providing admin and accounts support to small businesses and I now have a team of 12 and work with a range of freelance staff. The business has 3 main areas: food and drink support, careers management and coaching/training.  We provide careers advice to adults and in schools as well as offering coaching and training delivering programmes from leadership and management through to interpersonal skills and psychometric profiling.  The golden thread running through my small business is to enable and help individuals, organisations and businesses move forward and progress.  They seem very different services but are tied together by this theme.

My early love for charities: I administered a charity for the Archbishop of Canterbury for more than 30 years and it was through one of their trustees that I was introduced to the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation and became a director of the charity’s trading subsidiary with the late great chef, Gary Rhodes. This charity raised funds to support the repair of spinal chord damage. Through this I was introduced to a whole new world of chefs and cuisine.

Food and drink: The Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership, as it was called then, wanted to look into the county’s food offering and what could be developed. I won a research tender which led to the development of the Food and Drink Awards, sponsored for 10 years by Carlsberg and now by Weetabix. This led to Made in Northamptonshire, launched 11 years ago – we now have a shop at Rushden Lakes and support a range of producers and eateries with networking and business growth opportunities.

We’ve added the provision of FEAST2 to this food and drink portfolio which provides grant, mentoring, technical and events support to food and drink producers in the SEMLEP area. I’m so proud of our county’s food and drink sector. All our food and drink businesses are amazing at supporting communities in need. Just one example - in the early days of covid our smaller producers and eateries adapted to provide food and other services to their local communities – there are brilliant examples of pubs, delis and farm shops going above and beyond….   Northamptonshire is home to so many wonderful food hero stories.

Getting support: I was invited to lead the Food and Drink Sector Strategy board for the South East Midlands Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) and have since became a director of SEMLEP and now Chair of the Growth Hub, supporting businesses to stabilise and grow, an area I am enthusiastic about.  Independent advice and signposting can really make a difference to business success.

Giving more: I’ve always felt a strong desire to be of service.  It is probably due to my upbringing, but it has enabled me to meet so many amazing individuals and charities.  I’m a proud supporter of the Daylight Centre in Wellingborough which stands against homelessness, poverty and social exclusion.

Being involved with Daylight and working with other food banks and homeless charities has made me truly appreciate the work of the Northamptonshire Community Foundation and the impact its grants have in keeping grassroots organisations going.

Northamptonshire Community Foundation: It was the Foundation’s response to the pandemic that I found so incredible, that really excited me. Small, grassroots organisations were being funded quickly, professionally and to great effect. 

The Foundation makes a huge difference, on the ground, to community organisations.

Endowment: It is about the long term with Northamptonshire Community Foundation – some people think if there is need now why don’t we spend it all now?  But, with the Foundation, I realise that having a resource for the future is the right thing to do. One thing we know is that the future is uncertain. We want and need to provide a degree of certainty. That is why the Foundation plans for the future and invests in longer term endowment funds.

The Foundation is a safe pair of hands, we are innovative and creative with our grant programmes and we want to ensure we can provide appropriate evaluation and impact information to satisfy our funders.

The Foundation’s future: Our CEO Victoria Miles is set to take on a new challenge and will be deeply missed. She has had a phenomenal impact on developing and growing the Foundation in this county, but there is good news. Victoria is remaining in Northamptonshire and she continues as a Deputy Lieutenant and as a Friend of the Foundation. We are losing a staff member but keeping a friend!

2022: Our challenge now is to find a new CEO, someone who will work with us to build on the Foundation’s strengths and bring both stability and innovation. We are entering a post covid world which means new challenges for our charities and groups which we intend to respond to as appropriately as possible.  We also have a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, where we are truly representing all our communities in need.

We are also looking to grow our supporters and donors this year.  Our Friends of the Foundation scheme is a great way to join us on this journey where we keep your donations really local with a Friends panel deciding on the priorities for this funding stream on an annual basis. 

I’m fortunate to stand on the ‘shoulders of giants’, those previous Chairs and Trustees of the Foundation.  Let’s see how we can build on the Foundations’ successes of the past to enable and empower our community organisations to respond to need