Written by Haley Pearson (find her on twitter: @BristolYankee)
Look at me! A first-time homeowner. I sure did try to pay for my new flat in Bristol Pounds, but the mortgage company was very firm with me. I had to settle for seeking out Bristol Pound traders with the skills I needed to help me out around the house.
Everyone knows that they should have their locks changed in any new property, especially if it has previously been a rental, so I called up Bricktop Locks (aka Mark), a very keen Bristol Pound trader. We made an appointment and I went on my merry way.
Moments later, what should happen but the entire lock mechanism of my main door failed. Absolutely failed. Couldn’t lock the house, couldn’t get back in, terrifying AND ridiculous! Feeling a wally, I rang Mark straightaway. He jetted right over, and I have to admit I was slightly surprised by his peroxide-blonde semi-faux-hawk Mohican hairstyle. He quickly proved himself to be relaxed and very kind, and despite not having the exact parts immediately to hand, he cobbled together a VERY secure solution and promised to order the rest ASAP. What a gem! I paid him with Bristol Pound TXT2PAY, which not only was easy, but instant. I got a thank-you text from Mark not 10 seconds after I pressed send!
On the off-chance, I emailed him later and asked if he knew any decorators. Could he recommend someone? Well, turns out he’s a locksmith AND a plasterer/decorator. Who is this mysterious jack-of-all-trades, I wondered. We agreed an ideal start date for the decorating and he got to work.
A couple of days later he was nearly done, and I asked if it would be possible to finish before the weekend. “Well,” he said. “I clean the bendy-busses on a Thursday, but I could come along around half-4?” This guy, if you can believe it, manages the cleaning all of the park-and-ride bendy-busses in Bristol!
Long story short, he finished in time for the weekend, was a lovely, friendly, funny professional right the way through and I would highly recommend his services. And here’s the best part! Mark offers a 5% discount to anyone paying in Bristol Pounds! I do believe that I made the largest single £B payment to date when I used my online account to transfer nearly £B600 to Mark’s Bristol Pound account held at Bristol Credit Union. The form even detected and filled out all of his account info for me once I started typing his business name into the box! It was ridiculously easy.
After basking in this claim-to-fame for a day or two, I began to wonder. What was the story behind this friendly bloke who bore so many feathers in his cap it might fly away? I dropped Mark an email and requested an interview. I reckoned it might make an awesome blog-post.
We met at the Clifton Lido (£B trader alert!) on one of the hottest days yet this year. It was a beautiful place to sit with the sun sparkling off the water and a breeze wafting through the wide-open windows.
Firstly, I asked him to list for me every service he offers. He recently changed his business name to Bricktop Services to reflect all those feathers. Deep breath? Plastering, decorating, locksmithing, commercial valet, domestic valet, bendy-bus cleaning, refurbishment and cleaning of pub gardens, jet wash cleaning of all kinds. And he is constantly working to add new skills to his roster.
“I don’t like to sit still, and I never turn down a job,” Mark tells me. “With all of these skills I can do something different every day, never be bored and with luck I’ll never be unemployed.”
Mark moved to Bristol after enduring a difficult corporate redundancy process and decided to retrain as a plasterer (he was already trained as a locksmith). “I heard about the launch of Bristol Pound and if I’m perfectly honest the main attraction for me was the free marketing. Anyone with Bristol Pounds to spend could potentially need a locksmith, and I wanted to be that locksmith and grow my business among a captive audience of like-minded people. It wasn’t until I started attending the first trader meetings that I began to understand how amazing Bristol Pound was. I thought it was bloody brilliant.”
On the eve of the Bristol Pound launch, Mark realised he hadn’t put together any of the promotional materials he had planned for the party in St Nick’s. “So I rushed out, put some flyers together and ordered a t-shirt. Having the t-shirt done at the last minute cost me a bit, but now I wear it everywhere and it really gets people interested, not only in my services but in Bristol Pound. I attend a lot of business seminars with the council and I always wear it.”
“Joining up with Bristol Pound helped me escape my corporate experience for a community experience. There is a kinship among Bristol Pound users that reflects the love all of us have for Bristol itself.”
I love Bristol Pound for the same reasons. How else could I have met this charming, funny guy, who I now count among my friends? Initiatives like Bristol Pound are providing the kind of community spirit that will keep Bristol great (and weird!).