Mark Ralf

“I can still remember our co-op number from the age of eight.  Today, many years later, the principle of reinvesting our profits in our business, our members, our communities and our associates is very important to me – and I know it can work very well for all.

I am a Chartered Director with the Institute of Directors and have an MBA from University of Lancaster.   In my career, most recently I was Group Purchasing, Property & e-Commerce Director at Bupa. Before that I held senior roles in SmithKline Beecham and British Airways.

Since retiring I have served on a number of boards including Radian Group Housing Association (creating affordable homes in the south & west) and West Wittering Estate – (looking after the environment, beach and coastline in the beautiful village where I live). In the past I have been a school governor and chair of several charities.

I volunteer at the local library helping people with their phone, tablet and laptop problems just because I like techie things.

On a personal note, I am married to Claire and have two grown-up boys who live in London.  I enjoy walking (Claire and I have finished Coast to Coast and almost finished the South West Coastal Path), skiing, watching films, computers and woodwork.”

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Bev Wyatt

“I am proud to have been employed by Southern Co-op for over 14 years. I joined as a Store Manager in 2003, allowing me the opportunity to continue in retail along with the opportunity to be fully engaged with local communities, schools and groups such as Fairtrade societies.  Southern Co-op actively promotes the development of colleagues and encourages internal promotion and over ten years ago I was given the opportunity to manage my first of five areas within the business.

The business has changed over the years through and I am pleased to have been involved in making the business the success it is today.

My passion lies in team building, training and development, watching people grow in their roles by supporting and coaching using the development tools and opportunities available, and watching them succeed.

For me, success is ensuring we keep Southern Co-op independent, invest in our people through support and development, promote the unique local aspect and continue to be active within our local communities.

As a director I will use my retail experience, my people skills and my passion for our business and the local communities we work in to ensure that any decisions made within the board match our values.”

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Elizabeth Rogers
Elizabeth Rogers

“I have many years’ experience of working in business development in commercial companies, teaching and managing in higher education and some part-time roles in other social enterprises. From 2005-9, I chaired the UK standards body that formulated the National Occupational Standards for Sales, and I consider myself a pioneer of sales education. When selling is done professionally, customers get good value. I am currently Head of an academic group at University of Portsmouth Business School (since 2012). I have
learnt a huge amount throughout my career about the importance of organisations working creatively and positively with their customers, and I felt that this could be useful to the Board of The Southern Co-operative.

I have been interested in co-operatives and The Co-op since I was a teenager. I feel very proud to be part of an organisation which has a long history of giving people power over the quality of their food and ownership of their local shop. It is like being part of a big, extended family. My local store is at Portchester; a bright and friendly store close to where I live.

I have been known wherever I have worked for being open to new ideas and helping to implement them, and I think that is an important quality for a Director. We live in a very fast-moving, highly competitive world and there are always new retail formats to explore, new technologies to apply and new risks to manage. I put myself forward to become a Director of The Southern Co-operative (2016) as I would like to help the business grow.

Given the difficult trading conditions for grocery retail, we need to emphasise our difference and our values as an ethical and fair trade organisation which supports local communities. I would get a buzz from winning customers away from competition, but I want to win them for the long-term; creating more members and encouraging members to be active and
join in with all that we offer them.

In my spare time, I like gardening and do my best to consider bees in whatever I plant. One of the few things that help me to relax is hearing them buzzing away! I also enjoy theatre and music. Having grown up in High Wycombe, I’m a big fan of Wycombe Wanderers FC.”

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Kate Hibbert
Katharine Hibbert

“As a colleague member, The Southern Co-operative means many things to me; integrity, family, success, co-operation and value led community, not just my employer. I am proud of what the business has achieved; it has changed immeasurably from when I joined in 2003 – when I couldn’t buy the ingredients to make a chilli on a Sunday from any store in Portsmouth within striking distance of my home.

I feel protective of The Southern Co-operative brand and am keen to preserve it in a positive light. I want us to be leading the way in community responsibility through volunteering, charity involvement, local sourcing and sustainability.

My role as Local Sourcing Manager takes me to some amazing places and I meet some fantastically passionate people. I lead a committed Local Sourcing team, and we are dedicated to helping secure the future of our food producers and their associated communities. I am privileged to have an insight into businesses of varying size, and engage with suppliers wanting advice on products, pricing models, business expansion and sometimes just a friendly ear!

Our local sourcing and wider community strategy is a strong point of difference for our business and critical to preserving our individuality in an increasingly competitive market. Working with over 200 local food and drink suppliers gives me a unique perspective of our business and its impact on the community and I hope that this insight is valuable to the Board when considering future plans for the business. Our strength also lies in our people so the promotion of The Southern Co-operative and our co-operative values to the next generation is imperative to ensure a vital and energised membership for the future. I am keen to support this through my role as Director.

I am a foodie through and through so in some respects my work overlaps my leisure time. I love eating out, cooking, seeking out interesting places to buy food, creating dishes a little out of the ordinary – using locally sourced ingredients of course! My Mum was always a bit avant garde in the kitchen and what I perceive to be quite normal is not always so to my friends, I am experimental! I love the gym, pilates, running, playing tennis, and being outside; walking affords time for quiet introspection. An avid theatre-goer, as a Friend of Chichester Festival Theatre I see pretty much every production they put on. When not in Chichester I like to wander the galleries and museums of London.”

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Neil Blanchard
Neil Blanchard

“My involvement with The Southern Co-operative (TSC) started in 1990 when I joined as a Trainee Accountant. I spent 17 years working for TSC, qualifying as an accountant and working in various financial roles culminating as Head of Performance Measurement.

I have always had an interest in the education sector and so decided to broaden my experience by taking on the role of Deputy Bursar at Churcher’s College, an independent school located in Petersfield in Hampshire, where I have now been for over eight years. This role has a wide brief that includes being involved with Finance, IT, HR, Health & Safety, Catering and Grounds. I believe this experience has given me an excellent understanding of how a business works.
I have now been a member of TSC for over 25 years. Despite no longer working for TSC I have always shared the Co-operative values and principles that are at the heart of what TSC does. This is why I decided to put myself forward to become a Director six years ago.

Since being elected to the Board, I have also taken on the additional responsibility as Vice Chairman and Chair of the TSC Audit Committee. I have also most recently become a TSC appointed Trustee of the Pension Fund. My financial background and understanding of the Society have greatly helped in these roles.

I very much enjoy the challenge and responsibility that being a TSC Director brings. It is an important role within which the future strategy and direction of the Society is determined. The retail sector has become increasingly competitive and I believe that how we interact with our key stakeholders, such as our colleagues and members within our local communities, is the key to our on-going success.”

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Mike Hastilow
Mike Hastilow

“I am currently Chairman of The Southern Co-operative (TSC) and also chair TSC’s Governance Committee, Remuneration and Appointments Committee and TSC’s Group Pension Scheme Trustee Board. As Chairman, I am working with the Board and colleagues to ensure that TSC’s governance structure is fit for purpose as the business grows in scale and complexity. I have also been instrumental in continued investment, not only in bricks and mortar, but of our most valuable resources, our people.

I am a member of the Institute of Directors and achieved the Advanced Diploma in Co-operation and Mutual Directorship in 2010. I have completed the Pension Regulator’s Trustee training, and appreciate the vital importance of continual professional development and keeping abreast of current techniques of both management and benchmarking.

I have gained significant management and Board experience during a career that spanned the Royal Navy, catering and retail, including having worked for TSC.

As a TSC Director I have played an active part in determining and overseeing strategies for delivering values and principles. Such work has included TSC’s launch of its Share of the Profit for members and encouraging electoral participation and meeting attendance. I was also involved in the strategic decision for TSC to move provision of community support from its charitable foundation back into trading operations, and to embed an environment of support and volunteering into colleagues’ regular activities.

Community responsibilities have included Group Scout Leader and Chairman of Governors of a large secondary school for 18 years and Deputy Launch Authority for RNLI. I was awarded a diocesan medal for services to education in 2001 and the Queen’s Jubilee Medal for services to the RNLI. I have trained as a beekeeper and am TSC’s designated beekeeper. This role includes educating our members during tours of the hives on Bee Island in the grounds of 1000 Lakeside.”

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John Harrington
John Harrington

“A member of The Southern Co-operative since 1973, I am committed to maintaining the society as a successful independent co-operative and a model employer.

I have worked for three Co-operative societies, including Store Manager and Senior Training Manager roles with The Southern Co-operative.

As part of the senior management team who developed One Stop Stores, my role as Training Manager directly involved opening 190 new convenience stores across England, and I also managed the Post Office division.

I have lectured at eight colleges, including Southdown College, Highbury Tech and Southampton City College, plus seven years at the Co-operative College, teaching management, marketing and accounting. I have a degree and a number of qualifications in management accounting and marketing, including the Diploma in Co-operative Management.

Recent governance experience includes ten years as Vice Chair of Hermitage Housing Association, including being on the Guinness Trust Audit Committee. I have experience as a Director of a Credit Union and four years on the Board of The Southern Co-operative. I re-joined the Board of The Southern Co-operative in 2014, also serving on the Society’s Audit Committee and its Governance Committee.

An active and vocal advocate of Co-operatives, I am keenly involved in a number of Co-operative organisations, on the executive of the National Federation of Progressive Co-operators as well as editor of their magazine.

I am also an amateur artist and volunteer with the National Trust, specialising in art and social history, and an active member of a local sports club.”

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Fran Hobson
Fran Hobson

“I have been a member of the Society since 1998 and value TSC’s ethical and community focus, as well as it’s drive for addressing sustainability issues.

I put myself forward to be a director of TSC in 2006 and since this time my knowledge and experience of the business has grown. The decisions made as a Board reflect TSCs ethical focus and ensure our values and principles are employed in the decision making process.

My professional business experience is complemented by a HND in Business and Finance. I am an analytical, methodical and patient person and possess good communication skills. Within the co operative field I have attended member meetings, co-op congress and co-op UK events. I have also participated in various volunteering and fund raising activities for TSC’s partner charities.

As a director my aim is to represent member views, contribute to the success of the Society and continue the exciting journey that is TSC.

My TSC career began in 1998 in our Fratton Road offices and has continued to our central support office in Lakeside. I was employed in the role of Payroll Manager until March 2016 when I left the society to take on challenges within another business.

Outside of work I enjoy playing golf, keeping fit and reading.”


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Diane Knight
Diane Knight

“My first job with The Southern Co-operative was back in 1966, working in a department store in Petersfield for four years. Since then, I have worked in TSC’s stores small and large, with roles from CSA (Customer Service Assistant) to Manager.

As maternity leave didn’t exist when I had children, I had to leave but returned in 1983 to work in the Society’s hypermarket in Havant as a supervisor, then moved into management for the next 17 years.

I enjoyed working in all aspect of retail throughout my career and have met a considerable variety of colleagues and customers, each with their own personalities and outlook. I have always believed in the values and principles of the co-operative movement, its business morals are very important to me. Now retired, I joined the Board in 2014.

Whilst I have no professional qualifications, my long career with TSC has given me the retail and people focused experience which I can draw on to contribute to the business as a Board member.

My other interests include helping to run a friendship club for the over 60s in my local area of Waterlooville (near Portsmouth); we organise trips out, coffee mornings and bingo.”


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Amber Vincent Prior
Amber Vincent-Prior

“I joined The Southern Co-operative when it was called Portsea Island Mutual Co-operative Society (PIMCO) and I was a teenager, because of my belief in Co-operative values: caring for others, community concern, democracy, equality, plus the ethical values of honesty, openness, self-help, self and social responsibility.

I have been involved voluntary youth and children’s work all my adult life, starting as a Sunday school teacher which led to organising events and outings, and leading services. In the last few years I have also been doing one to one mentoring in secondary schools and interacting with pupils at a breakfast club. In recent years I have done voluntary work in the Fairtrade movement.

Since 1974 I have been a voluntary trade union representative, promoting and protecting members’ interests and representing them with management, as well as representing my local members to the national union by attending conferences and framing policy based on their views.

I studied theology, world religions and ethics at Winchester University and in the last 10 years have preached, mainly in the Church of England.

As well as the voluntary work outlined above, I have done paid work as a manager,  technical caseworker, examined business accounts, written reports, dealt with Health and Safety issues, recruited and trained staff, been an NVQ assessor and conducted funerals and burials.

Since being a Director of The Southern Co-operative, I have visited all our food stores, our Starbucks coffee shops and many of the local food producers who supply our stores.  I have visited the Co-operative wholesale distribution centre in Hampshire, several of our funeral homes, our natural burial ground, Clayton Wood, and our crematorium, The Oaks. These visits give me great insights which I can use within my role on the Board.

My hobbies include cooking, cycling, DIY, gardening (especially vegetable growing) sailing, travelling and walking.

I am committed to maintaining The Southern Co-operative as an independent local business that supports its colleagues, local communities and local producers.”

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