Banbury “petrol head” still driving thanks to council grant

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A petrolhead who sold almost everything to start her used-car business up is ‘eternally grateful’ for a grant which saved it from certain closure.

Rachel Foakes, 37, put everything into her used-car business, Foakeswagons, which she opened in Warmington near Banbury three years ago.

It sells a variety of used cars, including ‘first time cars’ such as Ford Fiestas and Honda Jazzes, through to larger saloon and SUV models.

But the coronavirus pandemic put the future of the business in serious doubt – until a grant from Stratford District Council gave her the money she needed to keep it going.

She said: “I’ve loved cars ever since I was little, so I knew I wanted to work with them in some way.

“I started out as a mechanic, but I quickly realised I actually preferred talking about cars with people than being in the garage repairing them.

“I knew I could do a lot better buying cars, sprucing them up and selling them on, so I sold my car, my campervan, and used all the savings I had to start my business in Warmington.

“My policy was to make sure the cars I bought were of good quality and to please my customers, rather than to make a quick sale and to maximise my profits.

“That way, more people would recommend me, and I’d always get good business compared to garages who sold poor quality cars to unsuspecting customers.

“Running my own used-car business was something I’d wanted to do for a long time, and it had been going really well.”

As the coronavirus pandemic began to worsen in the weeks before lockdown, Rachel realised it could have a long term impact on the buisness and opted not to buy any more cars as fewer and fewer people were heading out.

And once lockdown was enforced, Rachel began to worry that she might have to close down her dream business through no fault of her own.

She said: “The business was going strong before the lockdown hit – it was so sad because there was nothing I could have done to stop it.

“My income dried up, and it wasn’t as if I’d lost money through buying poor cars or something along those lines.

“But this grant from the council was a lifeline to me. It meant I was able to stay afloat when I had no customers.

“Honestly, I think I’m going to be alright now. I don’t think it’s going to be easy for a while, but I’ll be here selling cars for as long as I can.”

And Cllr Jo Barker, Portfolio Holder for People at Stratford District Council, was very pleased the grant made such a difference to the survival of the business.

She said: “It’s amazing to hear how positive Rachel is about the future of Foakeswagons.

“Rachel sacrificed so much to get Foakeswagons started – it would have been a travesty if she was forced to close.

“Businesses like hers are the lifeblood of this district, so we’re thrilled the grant was able to keep it going through lockdown.

“She has a real drive to please her customers and to make her business succeed. We wish her all the best as things start getting back to normal.”

Stratford District Council awarded Foakeswagons a Stratford-on-Avon Discretionary Business Rate Grant, which was created by the Government to support small businesses that suffered significant falls in income due to the pandemic.