Mark Hitchins

Mark Hitchins

Mark grew up in various places including London, the Isle of Wight and Norwich, and studied psychology at York University. He says “after a series of  boring menial jobs – then as now it was hard to get decent work as a graduate – I landed at Essential Trading in Bristol soon after it was set up”. Mark stayed at Essential for about 15 years, covering all aspects of the worker co-operative’s business from mixing muesli, loading lorries and picking orders to paying wages and dealing with contracts and insurance.

“Once I was involved in the administration and management of the co-operative I found, rather to my surprise that I enjoyed accounting, particularly doing the management accounts and dealing with the year end.” After leaving Essential Mark worked as a co-operative development adviser for Avon CDA, alongside Tim and Mark, and the idea of setting up Co-opportunity was born.

Mark specialises in management accounts and works in this capacity for some of Co-opportunity’s larger clients including Southmead Development Trust and Age UK Bristol. Outside his busy work life he’s happily married and enjoys spending time with his daughter and son.

Simon Jacobson

Simon Jacobson

Simon has worked as an accountant and business adviser for over twenty years, specialising in co-operatives, not-for-profits and charities, as well as conventional small businesses.  "I first trained as an accounting technician in a chartered accountancy practice in Dorset which gave me a solid grounding in paper and computer based accounting systems. Wanting more interaction with clients I helped set up the Accountancy Co-operative,  building up a client base in the west country and further afield."  Later Simon joined Tim and Mark in establishing Co-opportunity when he was working part time as a business adviser for Avon CDA, the co-operative development agency.

He managed another social enterprise development agency in Dorset and qualified as a business adviser, continuing to develop his skills and experience beyond number-crunching into group facilitation, legal structures, funding applications,  project planning, and company and charity regisrations. Simon has also worked as a volunteer and treasurer for various organisations including a music festival, a youth counselling charity and a community woodland project.

Simon now lives in Stroud with his son and continues to work for Co-opportunity, mainly based at home.

Tim Blanc

Tim Blanc

Tim has been designing databases for over 20 years. He first learned his skills developing the sales and stock control computer systems at Essential Trading Co-operative, the Bristol-based natural food wholesaler. Tim designed and managed the sophisticated reporting systems needed by Essential as it grew into a multi-million turnover business.

Tim remains a part-time co-op member and company secretary for Essential Trading, and has been a motivating force for Co-opportunity since its inception in 1997. Through his work at Co-opportunity, Tim has been sharing his extensive experience of information systems by building databases for a wide range of organisations. As well as his database work, Tim uses his information handling skills to set up and manage accounting and book-keeping systems for our clients.

As a committed co-operator, in addition to his paid work for Co-opportunity and Essential Trading, Tim has volunteered within the wider co-operative movement. He has served as a council member for ICOM - the federation of UK worker co-ops - and he’s currently the treasurer of Co-operative & Community Finance (ICOF) Ltd.

Tim is a keen cyclist, and has recently become an accredited Bicycle Trainer, teaching and encouraging primary school children to ride their bikes, and working with disabled people in a wheels-for-all bike project. His years spent in the organic & natural food business show in his enthusiasm for good food … and he’s a great cook!