Small Business Saturday Blog

Celebrating the North East’s cycle stars

Thursday, September 12 at 00:30

Today’s #SmallBiz100, Inspiral Cycles, run by husband and wife team Gary and Fiona Ewing, talked to Small Business Saturday about the journey they’ve been on over the past five years, and why their attitude to customer service means they’re on the ascendant.
In 2014, husband and wife Gary and Fiona Ewing both left their ‘safe’, salaried jobs to open Inspiral Cycles: a good, honest, proper local bike shop for servicing and fixing all range of cycles, alongside sales of new bikes, plus parts, accessories and clothing.
The couple had a business vision which would serve the Durham Dales community. Away from the cities of the North East, this area has significant unemployment and deprivation, yet it also has stunning landscapes and amazing cycle routes. Gary says, “We wanted to help locals get out to enjoy and explore the countryside on their doorstep. We’re not simply a shop: we are primarily a service. Inspiral Cycles has very quickly established itself in our local community as a trusted, family-run local business where we help our customers get out and ride bikes, not try to sell them things regardless.”
Gary and Fiona told Small Business Saturday that customer engagement is why they exist in the first place: it is the free expert and personal advice, the quick tweaks to someone’s cycle to make it safe, the options given in suggesting fixes rather than just replacements, that their customers most value.
While it is Gary’s life-long cycling skill, knowledge and enthusiasm which pedals the bicycle side of the business, it is Fiona’s passionate community engagement which has firmly fixed Inspiral Cycles into the local consciousness. They are always happy to support local independent businesses, such as carrying out puncture repairs for their local pram shop or recommending local cycle-friendly cafes to their customers, and have engaged with local events such as Easter Egg hunts and allowing local schools to decorate the shop as part of the Advent Windows Event. They have also worked with local charities including the Hamsterley Trailblazers and taken part in events such as The Hamsterley Beast mountain bike challenge, raising money for Great North Air Ambulance Service.
In the past five years, the shop has gone from strength to strength, now boasting five members of staff in their close-knit team, with over 130 combined years of cycling expertise. Fiona adds: “This is an especially exciting time for us as Inspiral Cycles has grown to capacity in four years, thanks to our customer support. We are now looking forward to extending our current shop space, with more room for extra staff in a new workshop and therefore a quicker turnaround time on cycle repairs.”
Overall, they say, their long-term goal is to deliver the best service for customers, rather than what delivers the highest profit for the shop – and their 5-star Facebook and Google reviews confirm that they are currently hitting their target.
Inspiral Cycles are taking part in American Express’ Shop Small campaign: find them here on the Shop Small Map.
Click here to visit Inspiral Cycles’ website, and click here to find out more about the AMEX Shop Small campaign.

Don’t know what to write about? 9 ideas for your next business newsletter, blog or social media post

Wednesday, September 04 at 21:59

Staying in touch regularly with potential clients is crucial if you want to get more sales. Emails are a particularly useful marketing tool to drive more traffic to your website, to build your relationship with potential and existing clients, and to build your credibility and profile with them. Blog posts are great for publishing relevant content on your website and are a good starting point to increase your ranking with the search engines.
But if you’re feeling a bit stuck, here are nine ideas for what to write about to keep your audience interested and engaged.
1. Why did you start your business?
Was there a special reason you became your own boss? Who or what inspired you? Is there a bigger purpose behind your business? Readers like to know more about your personal motivations, and writing about the origin of your business is a great starting point.
2. Where do you live and work?
Are you in the middle of Shoreditch or in the middle of Wales? How does your location influence your work? Write about your location, and how that specifically impacts on your work and business.
3. Review an exhibition, event or book
Share your inspirations, passions and values. Write a book review or create a photo-based blog post about an exhibition that you loved. Share pictures of a city visit or quiet walk. People buy from people. Show your personality. Dare to be a little different and stand out!
4. Show designs and products in process
Show how you get inspired. How you sketch out your ideas. How you create prototypes or select the right materials. Create a series of emails or blog posts that reveal a new collection step-by-step – from the initial ideas to the final pieces.
5. Share in-depth case studies
Collect case studies from clients. Talk your reader through all the different stages: your meetings, the changes you made, the challenges. Show the end result and some quotes from your client - not just about the final piece, but about the process and what they liked about working with you.
6. What is special or different about you?
It’s a pretty competitive market out there. What makes you different or special? Niche is good!
Write about what is special about you, your team, your business, your products? Do you use only ethical materials? Are you one of a very few in your sector?
7. Share useful tips and recommendations
Sharing practical tips or resources that are useful to your audience will make them value you. For example, if you sell wedding rings, recommend other small businesses, such as letterpress designers, a makeup artist, local photographers, and florists. If you are a printmaker, write about how to hang pictures on the walls for best effect.
8. Do a timely post or email
Make your communications more relevant and newsworthy. Be aware of WHEN your readers are most likely to buy. When are their key gift giving moments? Christmas? Mother’s Day? Valentine’s Day?
9. Invite others to write for you!
Invite guest contributors to your blog. Interview someone you know your readers would love to hear about. Or create a so called ‘wrap up blog post’ where you ask three to five contributors to respond to the same questions.
This is from more in depth post by Patricia van den Akker of The Design Trust.

Take a butcher’s at the first of the #SmallBiz100 2019

Friday, August 30 at 00:01

Our incredible journey through one hundred of the UK’s most exceptional small businesses, the #SmallBiz100, starts today, and to celebrate we’re showcasing our very first #SmallBiz100, of the year The Butchers Social, an independent bar and restaurant in Henley-in-Arden.
The Butchers Social started life as a pop-up in a disused butcher’s shop in Harborne before moving to its Henley home in 2016 (followed by a huge refurbishment project completed by a local construction firm in just two weeks!). The ethos of the restaurant is all about fine dining without the façade: the finest seasonal produce is served up in the pub’s relaxed atmosphere, showing that they can remove the formalities of traditional dining without compromising on incredible quality food.
Head chef Mike Bullard has invested a huge amount of time into the local community, building relationships that gained the trust of the local trade, and championing other independents. This year also sees him join forces with a number of Michelin Star chefs in various collaborations to profile what small independents can do.
He says, "Being situated in a small village, The Butchers Social had to earn the respect of the locals. It tries as much as possible to use only local suppliers, really showing its authenticity and dedication to making sure the local high street is thriving. It has a partnership with Purity, stocking their craft beers and visiting their brewery three miles down the road, we enlist a local florist for bouquets and order stationery from a neighbouring store; even our eggs are laid minutes from our door, our milk and cream are from an independent dairy and our meat from the Midlands.”
He adds, "Surviving against the marketing moguls, huge budgets and ubiquitous presence of the food franchises dominating UK high street is tough, but incentives like SmallBiz100 provide an amazing platform to profile businesses like The Butchers Social. Being an independent restaurant means consistently competing against chain restaurants, with small businesses under increasing pressure to go above and beyond to offer amazing customer experience and a completely unique offering.”
Mike also highlights AMEX’s work through its Shop Small offer and as principal supporter of Small Business Saturday as particularly important in ensuring small businesses like The Butchers Social succeed on the high street.
He is an ardent advocate for encouraging and growing talent and passing on his passion for food and cookery to others through training and mentoring. As a self-taught chef who worked his way up through the ranks from pot-washing to Chef Director of his own restaurant, Mike is determined to share the knowledge he has gained over 20 years in the industry and empower and support others to do the same.
One of the prime examples of this teaching is his apprentice, Olly, a local Henley resident with learning difficulties. Olly had made it known that he was desperate to become a chef, but no-one would take a chance on him and train him up. When Mike learned of Olly’s passion, he took him on as a chef apprentice through the HIT Training scheme, and never looked back. Olly has now been with The Butchers Social for nine months full-time, and Mike has made it clear that he intends to continue providing the professional development he needs to become a chef, no matter how long it takes.
Having overcome initial challenges, The Butchers Social has now become one of Warwickshire’s leading restaurants, loved by locals and destination foodies alike. In the two years since opening its doors, Mike has grown The Butchers Social into a welcoming, unpretentious venue, where everyone is welcome. Whether you’re looking for a relaxed country pub to enjoy a pint and some nibbles; a chance to try the renowned chicken wings by the kilo; a destination for a business meeting or a date night; or an opportunity to experience a nine-course tasting menu where flavour is king: The Butchers Social has it all, without compromising the outstanding food and brilliant seasonal ingredients.
Click here to visit The Butchers Social’s website, and click here to find out more about the AMEX Shop Small campaign.

7 essential growth tips that small businesses need to know

Thursday, August 22 at 09:27

Image credit: Pixabay
It’s one thing to start a business, but it’s another entirely to turn it into a major success. After all, the road to growth is riddled with potholes and challenges, fully prepared to arrest your development (or even send you hurrying back to square one) if you’re not careful. Because of this, if you’ve started taking your first steps down that road, you should stop to think.
What should you think about? For a start, how prepared you really are for the route you’re taking. If you’re feeling anything less than 90% confident (some doubts are unavoidable), then I strongly suggest you do some more research before continuing. To help you move in the right direction, here are 7 growth tips that every small business owner should follow:
Learn from comparable companies
You’re not running your business in a vacuum, and while it’s somewhat commendable to want to discover everything for yourself, it’s simply a bad way to operate when history is littered with incredible examples of everything from absolute success to miserable failure. By identifying some companies already active in the business world that are similar to yours (not direct competitors, but useful points of comparison), you can learn from their paths.
Keep loyal customers happy
It’s true that you might well outgrow your first set of customers, but you should hold onto them for as long as you can. Why? Because their loyalty and support are invaluable and will prove critical for convincing new customers that you’re truly worthy of their attention (referral schemes are very impactful, and an ecommerce growth tool like Girafi can help you implement them). Churn is a dangerous enemy indeed, and you need a solid foundation upon which to build. Even as you expand, then, you musn’t forget where you started.
Get your finances in order
Money isn’t everything, but not having enough of it is. Growth demands investment (not just personally, but also financially), and you can’t get where you want to go unless you figure out how to balance investment in your future with the needs of today. Above everything else, get your accounts sorted: Wave has free accounting software designed for small business, so you can try that, or just set up a spreadsheet and log everything (this will take longer, though).
Assemble a great team ASAP
You can start out as a solo entrepreneur. You can even create a business and run it yourself fairly successfully, particularly if you’re operating as a freelancer — but you can’t indefinitely run a rapidly-expanding business with no assistance. Sooner or later (probably sooner), you’ll find yourself exhausted and frustrated, having lost all energy for your project. To stop that from happening, you need to build a great team (the earlier, the better) to lighten your load.
Delegate anything you can
Speaking of not doing everything yourself, you need to learn how to delegate. This is something that plenty of business owners struggle with (even experienced ones). They’re so used to controlling everything that they don’t know how to stop themselves from micromanaging tasks or simply handling them directly. But if you’ve hired a great team, that team deserves your trust and respect — so trust them to do things correctly, then step back and focus on sales.
Document all your procedures
If you’re extremely fortunate, your team will stick around while you grow, but you’ll need to hire new people eventually. When that happens, you may need them to take over the handling of various existing tasks. Doing this efficiently is all about having your procedures fully documented — even something as simple as updating the company calendar could be given a walkthrough. (Tallyfly is a program designed to digitise manual processes, and you can try it for free.) Then, in the event that a vital employee does leave, they won’t take all their knowledge with them and leave you in the dark, because much of it will have been added to the documentation.
Don’t try to rush anything
Perhaps most importantly, don’t feel the need to grow at a rapid pace. You’re running a marathon, not a sprint, and you needn’t be thinking too much about where your business will be in a year. Instead, think about where you want it to be in two years, five years, or even ten years. Growing too quickly can lead to huge practical issues, such as being unable to fulfil orders, which can ultimately make your business smaller. Wait until you’ve clearly demonstrated that your business is ready to grow, then step on the accelerator.
It’s great to be proud of the business you’ve built, and to aspire to more, but don’t let that ambition send you in the wrong direction. If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Be smart, follow these growth tips, and you’ll minimise the risk.
Kayleigh Toyra is a content marketer and writer based in Bristol and Finland. Find out more at www.kayleightoyra.com or contact her at kayleigh@kayleightoyra.com or on 07954421522.

Making a great first impression: photography & small business

Wednesday, August 14 at 21:56

Being a small business can seem overwhelming at times, especially when you’re juggling the finances and weighing up where your money is best spent to maximise return.
Photography can appear to be a luxury, but if you’re in the business of selling something, whether it be a service or product, quality photography could be one of the best investments you could make. Of course, there are areas where professional photographs can be supplemented with your own photography to really tell the story of your brand.
Engaging with your customers should be a top priority, and photography, as we’ve explained before, is the visual aid to help sell your products or services. Whether it be professional or not, you can instantly gain interest by using an image that captures the imagination, gets people thinking or simply tells a story. It can also work the other way, and poor imagery may result in potential buyers switching off as they are not reassured by the brand and its value.
Getting the mix right:
You may opt to reach for the smartphone and take those selfies, provide insight into the company or interact with your followers at an event. But be wise as to what images you take.
Think about the framing, the message and ultimately your brand before uploading and hitting that ‘send’ or ‘publish’ button. Here are some top tips to help you when covering a business or social event:
  • Familiarise yourself with the camera or smartphone. Figure out how to use the flash, make recordings and know the device’s limitations. Zoom features on smartphones for example are not great and can destroy the quality of the image.
  • Visit the venue beforehand to get a feel of what is where, best angles for shooting from and try out the equipment.
  • Ask permission to take photographs and be relaxed. Guests will be happier to smile if you do!
  • Avoid taking photos of people eating!
  • Make sure you note down any names of people you have snapped and capture a wide variety of images including logos and branding, especially of any sponsors of the event. Try where you can to capture the vibrancy of the event by being creative.
Another temptation is to use stock images. It might seem a cost-effective route to go down, but it’s a tricky one to navigate. While these images are great for showcasing a generalised idea, they don’t show YOU or YOUR business off to its best advantage. People want to know who they are buying from, what they are purchasing and want to build a rapport with you. Stock images won’t give you that personable approach and can make you appear too ‘general’ or ‘similar’ to others. You are unique, so shout it from the rooftops!
Equally, think about the overall look of your business and whether it’s worth investing in some professional photography to help build your brand. Headshots, corporate setting shoots and product photography are often best left to the professionals. A great photographer will work with you to reflect your brand values and can make you stand out above the competition.
Search engine optimisation is also imperative in garnering interest and visits to your website or social media and one of the main elements of this is through images. If you get it right and people go to your site because they like what they see, your hit rate goes up and you will feature more highly in searches carried out online.
Your business is yours for the making and I appreciate entirely the need to evaluate carefully where to allocate funds. But if you choose wisely and do your homework, it need not be a huge expense and it’ll be one you will reap the rewards from in the long term.
David Wellbelove runs a small commercial photography studio in Bletchley, Milton Keynes. Find out more here.

Strength in numbers

Thursday, July 11 at 00:32

Andrew Goodacre,CEO of the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira), shares the work the association is doing to support thousands of independent retail businesses.
It isn’t easy being a small business owner. That’s why it is good to know you have someone on your side. Our membership organisation supports thousands of independent retail businesses up and down the UK, representing everyone from pet shops to cafes, from department stores to health food shops. Our collective strength means we get discounts and offers with a number of key business services and suppliers that help save shop owners time and money.
As well as savings, we are also heavily involved in lobbying the Government on a number of issues facing the High Street. Business rates are currently a very hot topic with our members, with many small businesses being unable to afford them, resulting in closures. The Government announced a 30% reduction in the last Budget for those businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 but we need to keep the pressure on to make sure that the Government continues to offer support for small businesses.
Our Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, made up of members, have been working very hard to lobby Government in this area. We’ve been to the Houses of Parliament to debate the issue, we’ve met with the Treasury at Downing Street and we’ve even got the Treasury Committee, who are doing an inquiry into business rates, coming to our offices in Birmingham this month to meet with our members. We are lucky that because we represent so many independent retail businesses it means the Government listen to us and have been exploring our ideas for reform.
Of course, business rates are not the only burden for retailers. Town parking, or the lack of it, ever increasing paperwork and costs (e.g. Making Tax Digital, auto-enrolment pensions, National Living Wage), retail crime, increasing legislation on things like knife sales, as well as decreasing footfall - all mount up to make retailing more difficult. We will continue to work on a number of initiatives to ensure small businesses are considered when new legislation is introduced and that the playing field is levelled between online and bricks and mortar retailing.
Bira would love to hear from independent retail businesses to hear what issues you are facing and how they can continue to support you. They are determined to keep independent retail businesses at the heart of our communities, and are looking forward to this year's Small Business Saturday and highlighting all of the work being done to showcase the amazing retailers we have in the UK.
If you want to know more, you can keep up to date with their policy work here.

How to choose the right pricing strategy for your business

Tuesday, June 18 at 11:52

Researching how to price a product might feel like an endless black hole, but, as we’ll explain, the compact size and flexibility of your small business put you in a good position to make it work. To begin with, there’s no one strategy that should be used at any one time, and no demand for you to stick to the one you choose.
Getting started with pricing strategies
Getting your pricing strategy right is important for your business’s sustainability. If your prices are too high, you’ll struggle to sell; too low, you won’t be able to cover your costs. Setting your pricing is one of the first things to do when starting a new business. It forms an important chapter in your business plan, and arms you with the knowledge to sway investors. And when it’s time to scale, your pricing strategy will heavily influence how that happens.
The factors that influence and affect the pricing of your products include:
  • Their value — be that how much it costs to make them or (in the case of services) the time and expertise they demand
  • The fixed and variable business costs you need to cover
  • The spending power of your target market
  • How your competitors price their products and services
Common pricing strategies for small businesses
Pricing strategies can be overlaid, used at strategic points throughout the year, implemented as a reaction and more. It’s unlikely you’ll ever need to use just one strategy, and likely that the strategies you choose today will get tweaked in the future as you grow and develop.
Full cost pricing
With the full cost pricing strategy, the production costs of a product (material, manufacturing and labour costs) are added to the selling & admin costs (accounting, legal, marketing, facilities, sales and corporate costs), before a markup is added to create a profit margin. This number is then divided by the number of units the business expects to sell.
(Total production costs + selling and administration costs + markup) ÷ Number of units expected to sell
Benefits
  • Simplicity: the formula is simple to understand and use.
  • Profit-focused: the formula is designed with profits in mind, so if your predicted costs and sales aren’t too far wrong, a profit isn’t far away.
  • Easy to justify: your prices can easily be explained.
Disadvantages
  • Budgeting basis: the formula is based on predictions, which will probably lead to some inaccuracy.
  • Uncompetitive: the formula doesn’t take into account competitor pricing or consumer spending power, which may lead to under- or over-pricing.
  • Hard to scale: the more products you add to your offering, the more tricky it is to allocate their individual costs.
Price creaming
Creaming (also known as “skimming”) is where a business initially sets a high price for its product, before gradually reducing it over time. Price creaming works best if you’re bringing a new concept to the market where very few or no other competitors are present: your business brings an original and desirable product to market, as there is high demand, customers are happy to pay a premium price. You then gradually reduce prices as both demand decreases and competitors begin to emerge, known as “riding down the demand curve”.
Benefits
  • Captures a surplus: you can capture the majority of the market at a high price point, giving you the monopoly.
  • Recoups startup costs: it quickly captures the market at a high price point, giving you high returns early on in your business’s lifetime.
Disadvantages
  • Demand for absolute originality: this strategy is limited to businesses who are bringing something entirely new to the market.
  • You have to move fast: lower-priced competitors can enter the market and snatch the surplus away from you if your marketing and sales efforts don’t prompt sales quickly enough.
Freemium
Freemium pricing is used a lot by digital companies, like software providers and game developers. It works by drawing customers in with a basic, free product, then charging a premium price for add-ons, like more storage or additional tools.
Benefits
  • Good for growth: by welcoming in customers for free, you can quickly grow your user base.
  • Good for testing: it’s an easy way to get more people to test your product without high marketing costs.
Disadvantages
  • It’s free: it’s harder to break even when you rely solely on people buying add-ons, or making money through other means such as advertising.
  • Except it isn’t really free: “nothing in life is free” goes the saying, and as more companies use the freemium model, customers are getting savvy with what they sign up for.
Loss leader
A loss leader pricing strategy uses a product sold at a low price (often below the cost it took to make it) to encourage profitable sales of other products. The psychology behind this is that if you can draw a customer in to buy “bargain” items, you can then upsell higher-priced items. Businesses with physical stores often place loss leader products far from the entrance, so that customers are exposed to higher-value products en route.
Benefits
  • Increases footfall and loyalty: customers know where to go for a bargain, and they keep coming back.
  • Inventory cleansing: items that are hard to shift can be paired with high-value products when you’re clearing out inventory.
Disadvantages
  • Questionable profitability: because the loss leader itself is at or below cost, you absolutely rely on the appeal of your high-value items.
  • Research is needed: you need to be spot-on when choosing your loss leaders, so that they and the high-value items shift.
Pay what you want
As you’d expect, the pay what you want pricing strategy asks the customer to choose their purchase price, sometimes with a minimum price in place. This strategy is best used only occasionally, for example when you’re testing a new product or running a promotion.
Benefits
  • Promotion: it’s a great way to showcase new products and get customers hooked so they pay in future.
  • A temporary tool: unlike a lot of the other pricing strategies we’ve mentioned, it can be used in short bursts to instantly drive certain customer behaviours.
Disadvantages
  • It takes thought: too many pay what you want incentives will desensitise your customers.
  • Non-returning customers: many customers will try the product and never come back.
Penetration pricing
A penetration pricing strategy sets product prices low to gain market share through customer volume. The price is gradually raised over time as you make that gain. Done right, it can discourage new competitors who simply don’t think it’s worth their time to contend with such good value being offered.
Benefits
  • Great for new businesses: this is a solid strategy for new businesses building their niche and carving out a safe place among their competitors.
  • Long-term impact: the theory is that by creating demand with a bargain product, you create higher demand and higher price potential for the future.
Disadvantages
  • Maintaining quality: if the quality of the product remains unchanged, or if you fail to create a positive brand experience, customers may buy from competitors when you raise prices.
  • Perceived value: if you decrease the price too much, any future increases might be met with resistance from customers.
Premium pricing
A premium pricing strategy keeps the price of a product or service high to encourage sales. It’s a method that uses the psychology of “you get what you pay for” — from the luxurious connotations of certain watch brands, to the perceived ethics of organic food products. New trends, social consciousness and social aspiration are three big drivers of premium pricing.
Benefits
  • Great for many small businesses: many small businesses have built their brand around a social, environmental and welfare-based awareness — perfect for premium pricing.
  • Entry barrier: if you get your branding right, competitors may be put off by the marketing investment required to justify their own version of a product.
Disadvantages
  • Branding cost: a premium pricing strategy is driven by a strong brand and proposition — something that takes time, skill and money to build.
  • Market limitation: the high price point of your products will only attract certain customers, this means your overall market penetration may be limited.
How to price a product
To price your products so that they drive cash flow, you need to be clear on these things:
  • The cost of producing your product, or
  • The value of your services to your clients
  • How much your customers have and want to spend
  • The overall running costs of your business
  • What critical costs need to be covered short-term (e.g. loan repayments)
  • How your competitors price their products
Your pricing should take all of these into consideration with the ultimate goal of making your business profitable. What that looks like is different for everyone, and could require any number of pricing strategies. You may even uncover a need to tweak your business model through the process of setting your pricing strategy. This includes things like cost-cutting, restructuring your team or developing your brand.
Pricing strategies aren’t for life. All businesses test and change over time, and your compact size and management structure make it far easier to make changes quickly. Your sales are a good source of proof when deciding if and when those changes need to be made. So it pays to have an integrated payments system that tells you how much your selling, when and to who.
Square is proud to support Small Business Saturday. This article was first published on Square's blog: read the original here.

How taking matters into her own hands led to huge success for Revival Retro

Saturday, June 08 at 23:43

A passion for retro events plus frustration at not being able to find the right clothes and shoes to compliment this look led to Rowena Howie opening Revival Retro boutique in 2011. 
Since its opening as both a gorgeous store in the heart of London and an online boutique, Revival Retro has gone from strength to strength, thanks to its beautiful design, bespoke variety of clothing and shoes, impeccable customer service, and offering a definite point of difference in the market place. Rowena has found her business has also received a great boost from being an ambassador for the Small Business Saturday campaign and being included in the Amex Shop Small offer for a number of years now.
“One of my qualms was how to find a stunning retro outfit that looks great, has a definite 30s/40s style, but won’t fall apart when you wear it or try to clean it?” explains Rowena Howie. “Why was all gorgeous vintage clothing too small for me? How do I avoid yet another unsuccessful foray into moth-balled cupboards, sifting through endless eighties sequined jumpsuits labelled as ‘vintage’? This is why I decided to take matters into my own hands.”
And what hands! Not only has Revival Retro stacked up awards since its incarnation seven years ago, but it has built a huge digital presence and following all around the world, and currently has nearly 33k followers on Instagram.
Rowena herself is prolific in banging the drum for small business owners and is a huge part of the Soho community, supporting fellow business owners and being at the forefront of issues impacting small business owners in the area and nationwide. Before opening her boutique, she did a lot of research about the viability of opening a brick and mortar store in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
“From the very beginning I used workshops at the British Library to further my knowledge about running my own business. Long before I ever opened the bricks and mortar store, I was examining the viability, profitability and likelihood of scale for the venture. I started the business because I was thirty-something and couldn’t envisage ever owning my own home on the salary I was earning. The drive for me to learn and grow was fundamental to commercial success of the business, helping me achieve my personal goals.”
The award-winning team at Revival Retro’s success lies in not only offering a beautiful range of clothing, footwear and accessories but being passionate about helping women feel good, and they do this by offering second-to-none customer service and really listening to and understanding their customers' needs.
“There is nothing worse and soul destroying that being shoehorned into an outfit that you feel hideous in – we’ve all been there! We want our customers to love our clothes as I believe there is the perfect outfit here for every woman, and we pride ourselves on our knowledge and expertise to find it and leave our customers feeling wonderful. Clothes are such a powerful thing used well.”
Rowena continues to be an ambassador for this year’s Small Business Saturday UK campaign, and an AMEX Shop Small Merchant, and will be sharing her success story, insight and experience with fellow business owners in the lead up and inspiring like-minded business owners all over the UK. Watch this space!
Click here to visit the Revival Retro online store, and click here to find out more about the Amex Shop Small campaign.

Why apply to be a #SmallBiz100 2019?

Thursday, June 06 at 00:05

Applications for this year’s SmallBiz100 are now open and we can't wait to celebrate the best of Britain's small businesses in the run up to Small Business Saturday 2019! If you've been wondering whether it's for you, read on to find out more.
First things first – what is the SmallBiz100?
In a nutshell, we choose 100 brilliant small businesses and celebrate one every day in the run up to Small Business Saturday, which takes place in December each year. It’s a great opportunity to showcase your small business and raise awareness both locally and nationally. On your allocated day, your business will be celebrated across Small Business Saturday’s social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, making it a fantastic way to make a big impact.
Outside of your allocated day, there are plenty of PR opportunities within the media. Local press love to get involved and feature local businesses which have been selected to join SmallBiz100, and Small Business Saturday will support you all the way by preparing press releases for your local papers.
When we speak to our previous SmallBiz100 participants, the one benefit which comes up time and time again is the support network which it provides. Running your own small business can be lonely at times, and it can be hard to know where to turn for help and advice from those who really know what you’re experiencing. Taking part in SmallBiz100 provides you with a fantastic community and a ready-made support network of small businesses just like yours, all at different stages of growth. You’ll get access to a private alumni Facebook group for sharing tips, asking for advice, providing support and celebrating your success.
There are also plenty of opportunities to collaborate, with businesses who have been there and done it sharing their experiences. And finally, if you prefer your networking done in person rather than online, the fabulous blue tie ball takes place every year and is open to all SmallBiz100 participants, alumni and newbies alike.
Claire from Addiscott's, who was one of the SmallBiz100 in 2018, says “I was inspired by the dedication and commitment of the Small Biz Sat team and made some fantastic connections and friendships along the way."
She adds: "If you’re thinking about applying just GO FOR IT! Being a Small Biz 100 really does make a difference and is a wonderful celebration of all that is Small but with HUGE support from your fellow 100’s and the team! From Bus Tours to Blue Ball’s there is opportunity to showcase and shine.” Claire has also written a blog about her SmallBiz100 experience - find it here.
All this and taking part is completely free! Sounds good? Applying to take part in SmallBiz100 2019 is quick and easy – just click here to register and start your journey. Already registered? Click here to apply to SmallBiz100.
Even if you feel that your business is not yet ready for SmallBiz100 or you’re not selected as part of the 100, there are still numerous benefits to getting involved.
Simply registering with Small Business Saturday can improve your business’s visibility, making you searchable via the Small Business Saturday app and via the business finder on the Small Business Saturday website, which is regularly promoted across social media. It’s also a great place to promote special offers, and to pick up tips and advice from other small businesses via our blog.
We can’t wait to present the SmallBiz100 2019! Make 2019 the year that you take your small business to the next level and take part in something amazing: apply now for SmallBiz100 2019.

5 content ideas every small business needs

Wednesday, May 22 at 22:14

Your content strategy is an effective channel for growing your small business. It’s good for SEO, builds your customer community, and keeps customers returning to your business for more than sales.
But a good content strategy is a diverse one. Read on for five content ideas that every small business needs in their strategy in 2019.

Provide product guides that get your business noticed

The research stage of the buyer’s journey is a vital one — this is where they explore their options to find the right product for them. And while the research stage might seem out of your hands, it’s actually the perfect time to get your foot in the door and push ahead of the competition.
By producing product guides that inform potential customers about their options, you can push your product to the fore. Create a guide that provides comprehensive overviews of the various options on offer, while ensuring yours comes out on top as the obvious choice for the customer.
You can achieve this in a variety of ways, but video is perhaps the most popular. As a content form, video is popular and engaging — plus, it’s easy to create and cascade across social too.
Takeaway tip: product guides let you join the research stage of the buyer’s journey on your own terms. Use your guide to identify potential issues your customers might have with your product and head them off early, overcoming objections before they arise.

Be a brand with a heart with a strong charitable commitment

More and more consumers demand that the businesses they shop with have clear, charitable commitments. Brands with dedicated ethical, charitable, or sustainable practices increase customer loyalty by showing themselves as more than just businesses — they are brands with a heart.
Even the smallest of businesses can (and should) implement such an initiative into their strategy. It doesn’t need to be on the scale of big brand charity commitments — just donating a percentage of your profits to a small or local cause is enough to show your customers your charitable side.
Publicise your efforts through your content. Charity Q&A sessions, founder profiles, original videos of the work your chosen cause does — these all make for great content that engages your customers with your business on a deeper level, enhancing your branding as a result.
Takeaway tip: if you are a brick-and-mortar business, choose a local cause as your supported charity. This helps engage local customers, building an offline community as well as your online one. Partner with your charity for a content exchange, promoting each other on your email and social channels for a beneficial relationship that works for each party.

Embrace UGC for customer-focused content

User-generated content (UGC) is a content quick-fix that virtually every business can take advantage of in 2019. With so many social platforms at your fingertips abundant with fresh, unique content, it’s an idea you need in your small business content strategy.
UGC isn’t just a quick, low-cost way of sourcing content to fill your editorial calendar. It’s also a great way of building your customer community by showing them some appreciation, and that’s money in the bank for small businesses.
A strong customer community is a loyal one, with shoppers return to your business time and again. UGC reinforces this by showing them that you value their input, nurturing your community as a result. It also provides you with some powerful social proof into the bargain — very slick.
Takeaway tip: there are a number of UGC content ideas you can use, but competitions are the easiest and most popular. Launch a UGC competition and invite your customers to submit their unique snaps to your small business, using a branded hashtag to collate all the answers. Share the best ones to your own feed (with permission, of course), and celebrate your customers and the value they bring to your small business.

Create comprehensive guides that educate your customers

You know your customers inside-and-out, and you know the issues they care about and the problems they face. Your buyer personas provide an insight into how your customers tick — and inspiration for your own content too.
Create comprehensive guides that directly address these issues. In doing so, you position your small business as more than a commercial entity, but as a resource hub that your customers can turn to time and again.
For example, let’s say you’re a tech brand with a target market interested in gadgets and electronics. Your customers will naturally have concerns about a range of tech-related issues, such as how to hard reset an Android phone or how to sync a smartphone to a tablet.
Address these issues in your content, and create guides that are always relevant and regularly updated. These make for evergreen content that people will turn to when they need it and generate leads as a result.
Takeaway tip: conduct deep customer research to find out their desires and pain points, and create a series of detailed guides that resolve these issues. Update them regularly with new data, and use natural headings and an FAQ section to make it SEO-friendly. Click here for more evergreen pointers.

Play with interactive content to nurture a community

Interactive content is perfect for small businesses, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it strengthens your customer community, engaging them with your business. But it also encourages further sharing of content on social and adds diversity to the usual one-way content formats.
There are a number of interactive content ideas you can easily use for your small business’s strategy. Competitions are one of the most common and are simple to set up. The offer of a prize encourages customer participation, and it’s a great way of sourcing customer emails to build your subscriber lists.
Other great interactive content ideas include quizzes, polls, and surveys. Polls in particularly are ideal for sourcing customers’ thoughts on new products, providing quick-fix market research when you need it.
Takeaway tip: Twitter and Instagram both have useful poll features that you can use to serve a specific purpose, such as sourcing customer opinions on product development, or simply as a bit of fun. Take this further by turning your poll responses into blog content in its own right, e.g. “80% Of Our Customers Use Fabric Conditioner — Here’s Why”.
As a small business, your content strategy is vital in generating new leads, driving traffic to your store, and making your brand stand out against your competition. Follow the tips above and create a diverse content strategy that serves your business time and again.
Author bio
Kayleigh Toyra is a content marketer and writer based in Bristol and Finland. Find out more at www.kayleightoyra.com or contact her at kayleigh@kayleightoyra.com or on 07954421522.

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