During the Covid-19 pandemic, times have been hard for everyone.

But some members of our community are determined to use teamwork and search for positives that can come out of this terrible situation.

One man who has done this is Mark Craggs, who owns Proper Pizzas.

Mark says if there’s one small good thing to come from the pandemic, he hopes it keeps people buying produce locally.

That’s why he signed up to Buy Local, North Yorkshire County Council’s directory of local businesses and services, all in one place to provide an easy way to search for whatever you need.

720 local businesses have signed up so far – Buy Local is a one-stop shop connecting businesses and customers.

Mark set up Proper Pizzas three years ago, converting a horsebox into a portable pizza parlour with a wood-fired oven with his wife, Emma.

He was expecting a busy year, having started taking bookings for weddings. But when Covid-19 hit, the weddings were postponed and Mark was forced to think about the future – but instead of worrying, it made him realise how lucky he is and the importance of buying locally.

He said: “I try to buy a lot of my produce locally. If we can get what we need from a local business, then we absolutely should.

“A lot of those places were open and had stuff in when the bigger supermarkets didn’t. We should all switch our attention to supporting our local community, because it’s important. If there’s one good thing to come out of this pandemic I hope it’s that, continuing to support local businesses.”

Proper Pizzas began after Mark struggled to get a takeaway pizza in his village, Pepper Arden near East Cowton, so began making his own. With a friend, this developed into converting the horsebox and selling pizzas at farmer’s markets plus doing takeaways, before starting to cater weddings and events.

He said: “We’ve basically had all our business wiped out for a year. At first people who had us booked for their wedding rescheduled to a date later in the year, then when it became clear that wouldn’t happen, next year.

“Obviously you do worry about these things, but looking at the key workers across North Yorkshire and the effort they’ve gone to during this pandemic, it does make me feel relieved and lucky.

“I like to look at it that my glass is always half full. That business isn’t lost, it’s just moved to next year and I do appreciate that. The business overall has given me a completely different pace of life.

“About three years ago, my wife lost her mother to cancer. It all happened quite suddenly, and that’s what made us decide to go for it. You don’t know what is around the corner.

“It’s gone from strength to strength, we practiced a lot making pizza at home first, too.”

Mark joined Buy Local to strengthen this sense of community and, ultimately, to be able to support other small businesses.

He said: “We're all independent businesses trying to find stability in order to flourish and grow, so trying to build relationships can only be a positive thing.”

Mark and Proper Pizzas are currently located at Kiplin Hall while its tea rooms remain closed.

County Council Leader Cllr Carl Les said: “Buying local is something that should be heartily encouraged. Having a base of customers in a locality is something which shouldn’t be underestimated and provides help for the local economy.

“It’s fantastic that so many businesses have signed up to Buy Local. It’s a valuable resource which only increases in value the more shops and services we have on there.

“Business owners like Mark help to keep communities in North Yorkshire on their feet, provided with the vital things they need.”