Norman Baker joins The Big Lemon as Managing Director for Brighton and Hove

Norman Baker, who was the MP for Lewes from 1997 to 2015 and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport from 2010 to 2013, is joining The Big Lemon as Managing Director for the Brighton & Hove area.

Norman Baker joins The Big Lemon bus company as Managing Director
Norman Baker and Tom Druitt

The Big Lemon runs bus routes and coach hire services in and around Brighton & Hove using waste cooking oil from local restaurants, and is launching two electric buses in April which will be powered by solar energy generated on the roof of the bus depot. The social enterprise won ‘Business or the Year 2016‘ at the Brighton & Hove Business Awards.

The appointment is part of The Big Lemon’s ambition to develop a national network of locally-owned social enterprises providing affordable public transport, with zero-emissions vehicles powered by renewable energy.

Since leaving politics in 2015 Norman served as Chair of Bus Users UK, working closely with Chief Executive Claire Walters in raising the profile of Bus Users and helping to steer the organisation towards becoming a more diverse and representative body.

Speaking of his appointment, Norman said

I am delighted to be joining The Big Lemon, which has gone from strength to strength in recent times. I feel particularly at home with its strong environmental approach, showing you can run a successful business in an ethical manner

Norman Baker

Tom Druitt, founder and chief executive of The Big Lemon, welcomed Norman’s appointment:

Norman has dedicated his life to his community, serving the people of the Lewes area for many years as their MP, and more recently bus users across the country as Transport Minister and latterly as Chair of Bus Users UK. We’d be hard-pressed to find a stronger champion for better and more sustainable bus services to lead our organisation in Brighton & Hove, and we’re very much looking forward to working together

Tom Druitt

What does community-based public transport look like in the UK in 2030?

The Big Lemon has put in a bid for funding to Innovate UK to explore the question of what community-based public transport looks like in the UK in 2030.

The aim of the funding is to “stimulate high-quality, human-centred design activities at the earliest stages of the innovation journey. These should identify opportunities and generate ideas for new products, services or business models that align with customer demand”.

Sustainable community public transport in 2030
Is this the future for sustainable community public transport in 2030?

We have a strong vision at The Big Lemon, that

by 2030 every community in the UK has access to affordable, sustainable transport, using zero-emissions vehicles powered by renewable energy and owned by the local community

We know that this has to become a reality, given the irrepressible desire of people to move around and the imperatives of climate science.  To date we’ve met this challenge by developing a network of innovative bus services, owned by the community and powered by renewable energy.

But, given the rapid development of autonomous, low-carbon vehicles, new, digitally-driven on-demand transport options, not to mention a challenging outlook for publicly-funded services, we don’t believe that the traditional scheduled bus service can realise our vision any more than the inefficient, congestion-causing, financially-draining model of private car ownership can.

Through user-centred design, we want to explore, co-create and test new service models with the travelling public, that we can roll-out nationwide to meet our vision – and the needs of the communities we serve. Working with User Experience experts We Are AFK, we are excited about moving beyond a bus company to an innovation leader in sustainable transport.

What do you think is the future?  Share your comments below

Our vision for sustainable transport in the UK in 2030

This year The Big Lemon will be 10 years old.  This is a good time to reflect on our journey, and look at where we want to go and what we want to achieve in the next 10-13 years.

It’s been one hell of a ride.  From humble beginnings with three old buses and a van full of biodiesel in a car park to Brighton & Hove’s Business of the Year 2016, it has been a rollercoaster of epic proportions.

Where it all began…
The Big Lemon was the first bus company in the UK to run its whole fleet on 100% recycled waste cooking oil, and the first bus company in the UK with a Facebook group (that was before they even had ‘Pages‘!)  An early adopter of Twitter, we were laughed at in 2009 for using it as a means to communicate service updates to our passengers.  Now everyone’s doing it.

The Big Lemon Team - Brighton
Team Lemon
In 2017 we have seven coaches, two little buses and a minibus working four daily bus services in Brighton & Hove as well as private coach hire, music festival coaches and Sunday Walks.  Last year we drove almost as far as the moon, taking over a quarter of a million people to where they wanted to go and saving over 220 tonnes of CO2 from going into the atmosphere in the process. We also got stuck into all sorts of local community initiatives such as Brighton Festival, a scheme to help long-term unemployed people get training and work experience, and a lunch club for elderly residents in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean.

Last year we also did a lot of work on the Bigger Picture, asking questions like “what’s it all for?”,”what’s the point in us?” and “where are we going with it?”.

The Dream Team deep in thought
Looking back over the last few months…

The Big Plan for the future
Following a Solar Bus Retreat in Dream Valley, five Dream Team meetings in Brighton, a month of relationship-building in Bristol, two full Team Lemon meetings, umpteen cups of tea and a few sneaky craft beers we agreed on our purpose:

“to enable everyone to get around their community in an affordable, environmentally-sustainable way”

and our 2030 Vision:

“By 2030 every community in the UK has access to affordable, sustainable transport, using zero-emissions vehicles powered by renewable energy and owned by the local community”

 

Anything’s possible
The Solar Bus Retreat team selfie

because Life’s more Fun on The Big Lemon!
So how do we go about that?

the-big-lemon-is-hiring-a-new-md

We have decided that the best way to achieve our goal is to hire a Managing Director to take The Big Lemon in Brighton & Hove to the next stage of its development; and set up a wider network to realise the 2030 Vision. This network will be led by our CEO Tom Druitt and would have four functions:

  1. to develop creative and innovative solutions to address the transport needs of the future in a sustainable way
  2. to facilitate the creation of new social enterprises in other communities under The Big Lemon’s umbrella, with shared values and a common purpose but operationally independent and locally-owned
  3. To provide training and coaching to support and develop the new teams in the network
  4. To provide business support in the form of licensing, marketing, administration, financial and legal support to give all the social enterprises in The Big Lemon family the best chance of success.

Would you like to be part of our future – and help us realise our vision?

Come to our AGM on Sunday 5th March at 3pm at Lemon HQ.  The whole community is welcome, but only shareholders are able to vote.  If you’d like to come please fill in the form below so we know how many people to expect:

Do you know anyone who would relish a new challenge leading one of Brighton’s most exciting businesses, and one of the UK’s most innovative social enterprises?  Please tell them about our new vacancy for a Managing Director in Brighton.

 

Happy New Year from all of us at The Big Lemon!

We’d like to wish all our passengers, customers and friends a very happy New Year!  The last year has been our best so far and we’d like to share a few highlights.

Here’s the 60 second whistle-stop tour:


January: We set our aims for the year:

  1. To benchmark our performance in each area and set up a system for measuring our performance
  2. To use the system to improve our performance in each area over the year
  3. To become the best workplace in Brighton & Hove
  4. To go for growth.
  5. To start operating services with electric buses.

February: We set out our electric bus plans and raised £250,000 for investment in electric buses. We now have two in a factory in Sheffield having their finishing touches done; we will take delivery of these in the New Year.  In February we also went on a team fun day out, digger-racing in Kent.

March: In March we had a big Team day, where we shared our hopes and dreams, both as individuals and for The Big Lemon. The same evening we had our AGM, where it was agreed to invest 80% of our surplus from 2015 in our electric bus plans and in the company’s growth, and split the remaining 20% between a staff fund for our team, and our very first dividend payment for our shareholders.

April: We held two public meetings, in Ovingdean and Woodingdean, to meet our passengers and the wider community to find out how our Service 52 was going and what residents needed most in the future. We also did surveys on all three of our services, and found high satisfaction levels on all services, with highest marks (93% in one survey!) going to our drivers for their friendly, personal service.  Our main area for improvement was found to be the lack of technology giving passengers real-time service information, something we are addressing with our new electric buses.  In April we also won a “Best Recycler” Award from Paper Round for our 82% recycling rate, up from 64% the year before.

May: The May bank holiday weekend saw us kick off our festival season, with Beltane Fire Festival just outside Lewes. We were also honoured to be the subject of Patcham Junior School’s float in Brighton & Hove’s Children’s Parade.

June:  In June we started two new bus services for a large employer in Hove, providing their staff with a shuttle bus between Hove Station and the office, and also a daily coach shuttle between their offices in Hove and Surrey.  We also won two awards at the inaugural Brighton & Hove Independent Business Awards, for Innovation and Green Business.

The children of Patcham Junior School made a Big Lemon bus for the Brighton & Hove Children’s Parade

July: We took over the lease on our depot on 1 July from our landlord (who retired), giving us much more freedom to do things like… put solar panels on the roof (more on this later!)  But before we could anything with the depot we had to get rid of two scrapped cars and two shipping containers’ worth of rubbish!

August: We bought another coach in August, taking our coach fleet from three to seven in less than six months. These coaches worked pretty much non-stop all summer, on weddings, parties, school trips, day trips, music festival coaches and transport for language school students.

September: We won a hat-trick at the Brighton & Hove Business Awards this year, winning the Green Business Award, Best Place to Work, and Business of the Year. Probably the proudest moment in our story so far.

At the Brighton & Hove Business Awards The Big Lemon won awards for Green Business, Best Workplace and Business of the Year!

October: Our Solar Bus campaign with Brighton Energy Coop  won the regional contest for the M&S Energy Awards, with 1473 votes and 171 crowd-fund backers raising a total of £13,325. Together with £12,500 from M&S Energy this campaign raised £25,825 to put 128 solar panels on the roof of our depot to power our new electric buses. We’re massively grateful to everyone who helped, and especially to Sussex Backup, Infinity Foods and Buddies Cafe for their very generous financial support. Incredibly, we also won the Transport category at the 2016 P.E.A. Awards.

November: This year undoubtedly has been the best yet for so many reasons, but what put the cherry on top was recognition at the UK Social Enterprise Awards in London, where we were named Environmental Social Enterprise of the Year.

December: What a year – thank you for being part of it! To finish, here are some stats:

  • over 270,000 passengers carried on five bus services
  • 624 private coach hires, not including regular hires, festival coaches or our subsidised trips for community organisations; an average of 52/month or 1.7 per day
  • 1133 people taken to 12 different music festivals
  • 84 local walkers taken on 7 Sunday Walks
  • 97,700 litres of biodiesel used, diverting 112 tonnes of cooking fat from the waste stream
  • 218,416 miles driven by a total of 16 different buses and coaches
  • 220 tonnes COsaved from the atmosphere (from using biodiesel instead of diesel)
Seasons Greetings and Happy New Year to all our passengers and friends – Cheers!

The Big Lemon wins national social enterprise award

The Big Lemon, a social enterprise based in Brighton has won the Environmental Social Enterprise of the Year  award at the UK Social Enterprise Awards, held on Monday night at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London [28 November 2016].


The national competition recognises excellence and outstanding achievements by social enterprises – businesses that reinvest their profits for good, benefitting people and planet. There are now more than 70,000 social enterprises in the UK, contributing £24 billion to the economy each year.

The Big Lemon was recognised for its use of recycled cooking oil in the buses and the progress made in pursuing zero-emissions electric buses powered by renewable energy.

Tom Druitt, Founder & Managing Director of The Big Lemon said the award was “the icing on the cake” of a very good year and paid tribute to the drivers who put in “120% every day to give an awesome service to passengers”.

The annual celebration of British social enterprises was hosted by two time Edinburgh Comedy Awards Finalist, Nish Kumar. The ceremony was attended by leading UK social enterprises, representatives from large corporates and the Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson MP.

Social enterprise supply chain

The Big Lemon and the other winners were presented with bespoke trophies made by the social enterprise, Designs in Mind, which employs people with mental health problems. Social enterprises also supplied all the goods and services on the night, including the catering, rigging, drinks, flower displays and goody bags.

The Awards are organised by Social Enterprise UK, the national trade body for social enterprise.

Peter Holbrook CBE, Social Enterprise UK’s Chief Executive, said:

“Year on year the UK Social Enterprise Awards get bigger and better. This year the competition was particularly fierce, so a big congratulations to insert name of your social enterprise for taking home a trophy.

In a year that’s been dominated by political uncertainty, divisions and inequalities, hearing the stories behind the winners and all the finalists has been a breath of fresh air. Social enterprises show that another way of doing business is possible, one that puts people and the planet first. Because they’re free of shareholders they’re able to reinvest their profits for good.”

Social enterprise facts and figures*

• There are 70,000 social enterprises in the UK, contributing 24 billion to the UK economy and employing one million people.

• Social enterprises are experiencing a start-up boom – 35% are three years old or less, three times the proportion of SME start-ups.

• Social enterprises are much more likely to be led by women than mainstream businesses – 40% of social enterprises have a female leader, compared with 18% of SMEs and 5% of FTSE 100 companies.

Sponsors of the Awards are the British Council, Big Society Capital, CAN, GLL, Johnson & Johnson, Landmarc, Mutual Ventures, Natwest, PwC, P3, Santander and Wates Group. The Big Issue is media partner to the Awards.

* Leading the world in social enterprise, a report published by Social Enterprise UK, 2015 – http://www.socialenterprise.org.uk/advice-services/publications/state-social-enterprise-report-2015

The Big Lemon wins funding for Solar Bus project from M&S Energy Fund

Following a marathon six week effort from hundreds of local people, The Big Lemon and Brighton Energy Coop‘s joint Solar Bus project has won funding from the M&S Community Energy Fund to cover the roof of The Big Lemon’s bus depot in solar panels to power the new electric buses on clean green renewable energy.

The Big Lemon zero-emission electric bus

The 120 solar panels will generate 30,000kW of electricity – the equivalent of 1.8 million kettle boils. With no emissions, the Solar Buses will reduce noxious gases in some of Brighton and Hove’s most polluted areas and will power the 52 route between Woodingdean and Brighton on 100% renewable energy.

We’re thrilled to have won the regional M&S Energy Award for our Solar Bus project and would like to thank all those who voted, pledged funds and shared our story to help make it happen. This will enable us to cover the roof of our depot in solar panels so we can run our new electric buses on renewable energy.

As far as we know there is nothing quite like this in the country yet, so this award will help us push the boundaries of what is possible and bring a zero carbon, zero emissions bus service to our community.  We would like to pay tribute to the other wonderful projects in our region and wish them well in developing their plans in the future.

Tom Druitt, Managing Director

The Solar Bus project was one of 199 different applications to the scheme, 125 of which were shortlisted.  These were put to public vote for six weeks during September and October and the voting process also included the option to donate to the project via the Crowdfunding platform.

We have been overwhelmed by the amount of public support for this project and would like to say a special thank you to all those who have helped us get this far.

This is a journey of discovery, and we have discovered above all the value of partnerships. We started off with just two organisations and an idea and now have a whole community of people engaged in the project, a number of local businesses supporting it, and enough money to cover the roof of The Big Lemon’s depot in 120 solar panels – enough to run a whole bus service on renewable energy.

Will Cottrell, Chair, Brighton Energy Coop

The Solar Bus project was one of 19 regional winners, with 1549 votes, 170 pledges, and a total of £13,325 raised through crowdfunding, almost half the total amount of£28,798 raised through the scheme nationally.  The project will benefit from £12,500 funding from M&S Energy which, together with the £13,325 crowdfunding donations will fund the solar array on the roof of the bus depot.

Congratulations! A fantastic achievement

Andrew Boag, Chair, Brighton & Hove Buswatch

The project has received support from a number of local businesses including three Founding Partners: Sussex Backup Ltd, Infinity Foods and Buddies 24 Cafe, and five Founding Sponsors: Yelo Architects, Propellernet, Acumen Business Law, Ideal Glass & Glazing, and Mooncup.

sussex-backup-ltd   infinity-foods    buddies

The solar panels will be installed in the New Year and the first solar bus will go into service in the Spring of 2017.