Small Business Saturday Blog

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.

The Flour Pot Bakery's secret to success

Wednesday, May 15 at 23:08

It’s been five years since bakery chain The Flour Pot hit Brighton’s high streets for the first time.
Since founder Oli Hyde opened that first Sydney Street premises in the town’s historic North Laine area, the business has grown to now boast seven stores in the Brighton and Hove area.
It’s an East Sussex empire built on foundations of sumptuous sourdough: “Sourdough is the core of everything we do – we actually started as a wholesale provider of the bread, before expanding our offering and opening our first retail stores,” head of marketing and sales, Louise Tamadon-Nejad, explains.
The business works on a vertically integrated supply chain model, still selling wholesale to other bakeries, cafes and restaurants in the region, while also providing the bread, cakes and pastries for its own stores.
The Flour Pot has expanded its product range to enhance its brand, and now has ambition to expand beyond the South East: “We always have ambition to grow, but the most important thing is maintaining the quality of what we do and a consistency between stores in quality of product and of customer service,” Louise says. “This is the key to our success and we would not expand beyond our current offering if we didn’t think we could ensure this.”
The bakery has become renowned in Brighton and Hove for the impressive customer experience its 120 employees provide, with long-serving store managers and sales teams working between the seven sites to ensure the same high-quality experience is provided at each, regardless of the target customer.
“Each of our stores attracts different customers because of the area each is based in,” Louise says. “Some attract tourists, others local figures in the area like the Brighton & Hove Albion football team, but all of them from the smallest to the largest bring in a diverse clientele, from young families to the longest-standing members of our community.”
If strong collaboration between The Flour Pot’s seven stores ensures its reputation, Louise emphasises that collaboration between the town’s independent retailers ensures both they – and the high streets around them – continue to thrive. The Flour Pot’s latest site, on Portland Road in Hove, has taken this co-operation to another level, partnering with a local florist and building adjoining doors between the two shops.
Louise 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 Flour Pot succeed: “Small businesses are integral to communities, but this is often kept out of the spotlight.
“It’s great that these campaigns exist to encourage community residents to get behind their local businesses, and in turn we give back to our customers with special offers.”
Last year was the third year The Flour Pot took part in Small Business Saturday, and it was a particularly special one. They were joined by a member of Brighton & Hove Albion football team for an interview that featured on Gillette Soccer Saturday on Sky Sports on the day itself.
With just over six months until this year’s campaign, will The Flour Pot be involved for a fourth year? “Of course we will!”
Click here to visit the Flour Pot Bakery, and click here to find out more about the AMEX Shop Small campaign.

How to harness the power of Instagram and drive your business forward - the GB Labels way

Friday, April 26 at 10:34

Standing out online as a small business is becoming trickier to do. But by showcasing your unique brand personality (and a little creative flair), it is possible to carve out your own little corner of the internet and fill it with your raving fans.
No one knows this better than Derbyshire-based woven label specialists GB Labels. Just three years ago, GB Labels didn’t have any social accounts. Now their feeds are bustling communities of designers and makers, thousands strong - and sales have soared.
How do I know? Because they’re one of my many small biz clients using social media to successfully tell their story. And rather than keep our findings to ourselves, we’re super-excited to share them so more small businesses can thrive online. Here’s exactly how we made it happen…
Tailoring social media to suit your needs
Three years ago GB Labels was in a bit of a conundrum. As designer manufacturers of niche branding products, they were struggling to make social media work for them.
GB Labels’ director Jason Gregory explains: “We make high-quality branding solutions such as ribbon, swing tickets and garment labels. Because our products are so niche and typically sold to designers and makers, we worried that publishing social posts out to a wider audience would be pointless. And while we’re really proud of what we make, we wondered who’d actually be interested in our content.”
“The funny thing is, we make clothing labels for some of the biggest brands in the world, so there’s a wealth of awesome stories to tell. Unfortunately, when working for exciting household names, there’s always a confidentiality agreement that comes into play. This left us stuck on what to actually talk about on social media.”
But GB Labels didn’t want to give up. They’d noticed that bigger label companies based abroad couldn’t match the quality or personal service they offered, meaning smaller brands, indie businesses and student designers often flocked to GB Labels after having a bad experience elsewhere.
Advertising online would give them a platform to showcase their quality and prevent newbie designers getting it wrong - which is why it’s so important for them to get their social media right.
Why Instagram?
Home to over one billion users worldwide, Instagram is one of the fastest-growing social channels around. Popular with the 18-34 demographic, it’s an effective way to reach out to a range of different types of people - and encourage them to follow your brand’s journey.
Instagram works for small businesses because it’s inherently visual and can act like a catalogue for prospective customers.
But even if your business isn’t visual, there’s always something to show. Authenticity and provenance are the biggest marketing trends around right now - two things small businesses have in bucket loads. With Instagram, these two aspects can be tied together perfectly.
For example, GB Labels can support and nurture new designers with behind-the-scenes and Q&A Instagram Story videos (showing authenticity) and use photos of their products to demonstrate their decades of expertise (sharing their provenance story as a family business).
This made Instagram the natural fit for GB Labels and why it might be perfect for you too.
Instagram photography made simple
The first thing I worked on with GB Labels was their photography. But while Instagram is all about being aesthetically pleasing, there was no need to spend lots on fancy equipment - we kept things simple. Want to know how we got those really good snaps? This is the advice I give to all small businesses:
Get inspired
What colours do you associate with your brand? Pick three or four and stick with them for backgrounds. You’ll also need to consider what your competition is doing (and if you can do it better).
Even if it’s a completely unrelated industry, think of your favourite accounts and bloggers and what you like about their Instagram posts. Perhaps it’s their style of lighting or location that floats your boat? Take some snaps in that style and add your own twist.
Keep standards high
Good lighting in natural daylight is super-important - and make sure your set or background is clean and neat before taking a photo. This is essential to make sure photos look high quality, particularly if you’re working with a small budget.
A crisp, white background always looks great and laying products out flat (known as a ‘flat lay’) is a hugely popular style of post. And don’t forget to look around you - brick walls, quiet streets and rural areas provide stunning backdrops for free!
Customers also love getting a sneak peak at what you do so make close up ‘details’ shots, candid team photos and that gorgeous view from your work space a priority.
Reach out to customers
What’s one of the first things you do when you purchase an awesome product? Share it on social media of course. Why not create a special hashtag and encourage your customers to share snaps of them using your product or service? You’ll be surprised just how many people respond - and there’s nothing like positive feedback to boost team morale!
For GB Labels I created the hashtag #ShareYourLabel which has now been used over 200 times (and counting). It’s been an effective way to create an online ‘portfolio’ of their products. And it’s been lovely for the GB Labels team to see where their labels end up.
Hashtags are your friend
And speaking of hashtags. Don’t forget to use a few under each post. Think of hashtags as a ‘filing system’ that puts your photo in the same category as other similar posts, helping more people to see it.
That means not hashtagging elements of the photo (because no one’s going to search #Chair #Window or #Office) but using hashtags that your target market are using. GB Labels use hashtags such as #MakersMovement, #HandmadeParade and #DesignersOfInstagram, because that’s exactly who they want to reach out to.
Look at what hashtags are used in your industry and start using them to measure which get you the most engagement. Stuck for ideas? Tap a hashtag and Instagram will show you suggestions of other hashtags to use. You could then create a ‘bundle’ of hashtags you like, save it in your phone and pop them under each post. Easy-peasy.
Spark a conversation
Because small businesses are passionate about what they do, they’re often friendlier and up for a natter about their products than their larger counterparts. Again, this is where you can use Instagram to your advantage.
The best way to build a following is to engage with as many accounts as possible. If you like someone’s product - tell them by commenting on their post. Want to know which trade fairs are best for your brand? Message a fellow maker and ask. Think someone might like your product? Tag them in a snap. If you join in enough, you’ll find you become part of the small biz community in no time - and there really is no friendlier, more inspiring group to be a part of.
What GB Labels say
Finding a niche on Instagram has been vital for GB Labels in lots of different ways.
Jason says: “We now have over 2,400 followers on Instagram, nearly all of whom are designers that love the things we make. Not only can we market directly to them, we can support and guide them through their branding journey, which is very rewarding.”
“Deciding to shift our marketing towards championing the smaller maker or designer was important to us, because it’s what we’re all about as a family business ourselves. Instagram is the best place to do that - and we love seeing all the weird and wonderful places our labels end up. I’d recommend Instagram to any small business - it’s easily our most powerful marketing tool.”
This handy guide to Instagram shows being a niche business isn’t a barrier to building an online community. In fact, it’s your superpower. If you’ve been inspired to seize Instagram success, I’d love to hear your stories - over on Instagram, of course.
Author bio
Abi Rose is a marketing consultant from the Peak District. She works with inspiring independent businesses - helping them to tell their story through social media. Follow Abi on Instagram or take a look at her website.
Small biz bio
GB Labels is a family-run business, born and bred in Derbyshire. Known for its signature woven labels, its entire range of branding solutions is made right here in the UK - using only the highest quality materials.To browse the range or order a sample pack, head to the website. And of course, they’d love you to follow them on Instagram.

Making Tax Digital is here! What does it mean for your business?

Wednesday, April 24 at 22:59

Making Tax Digital (MTD) came to the UK this April, and it’s set to transform the way taxes are managed and filed through HMRC (the government department responsible for their collection). So now is the time to find out if and how MTD affects your small business, and what you or your accountant need to do to get ready.
What is Making Tax Digital?
MTD is an HMRC initiative designed to make the UK tax system more efficient and effective by replacing the manual process of submitting your tax records with an integrated system that does it for you automatically. Businesses will be asked to store and submit their tax records using MTD-compatible software (which we’ll come to later), and will no longer use Government Gateway for tax filing.
Why is it happening?
It’s easy to make errors when a year or more’s worth of financial data needs to be organised and submitted. The risk increases when businesses go without any of the digital tools designed to consolidate and simplify the process. When UK200, the UK’s leading association of independent chartered accountants and law firms, surveyed its members on their approach to tax, they found that:
  • 65% of those members’ SME clients didn’t use software to keep tax records
  • 50% used manual records or spreadsheets
  • 16% used a shoebox
MTD encourages companies like these to be more digitally-minded, reducing the chance of information being lost and errors being made. The knock-on benefits of this for small businesses are huge. According to Business Advice UK, small businesses lose three working weeks and about £5,000 to tax compliance every year. This is time and money you can’t afford to be without, and with the shift to MTD, the hope is that you can win them back.
The new digital system will also impact the UK in a broader sense. Mistakes cost the government over £9 billion a year, according to HMRC. Add the £15 billion lost to tax fraud, and you start to see a sizeable tax deficit. This has a knock on effect for everyone, as services like education and transport receive less funding. By simplifying the process, and making it harder for fraudsters to abuse the system, the government hopes there will be fewer losses.
What types of business does it affect?
MTD will be limited to VAT filing for the time being. This means that from April 2019, UK businesses with a taxable turnover above the VAT threshold of £85,000 will be obliged to submit their VAT records to HMRC using MTD-compatible software. Companies in HMRC’s deferral group don’t have to enrol until October 2019. You can see what types of company fall into that group here.
Corporation Tax, NI and Income Tax will be added to the MTD initiative from April 2020.
What are businesses required to do?
Now to the part you’ve been waiting for. We’ve broken down everything you need to do if your business is VAT-registered, or if you think you’ll exceed the £85,000 threshold in the next 12 months.
Choose MTD-compatible software
The type of software you should choose is affected by whether you as the business owner, or an agent, manages your business’s tax. If it’s a financial agent or accountant making the selection, get them to involve you in that process — platforms have various different benefits and price points to suit different businesses.
HMRC has created a list of compatible platforms for both businesses and agents. There is also a list of platforms in development, i.e. platforms that HMRC is reviewing and trialling for their compatibility.
Create a Making Tax Digital account
Next, you need to sign up for an MTD account, which will allow you to link your software with HMRC’s systems and receive extra help on going digital.
You can sign up for an MTD business account here. Or if a financial agent manages your records, they can sign up here.
Authorise your software
Once you’ve got your software and MTD accounts set up, simply authorise the software. This connects the two and gets you fully ready to send your VAT returns digitally.
How will businesses manage tax from now on?
MTD will eventually phase out all existing manual and paper-based systems by 2020, replacing them with a process that uses your MTD-compatible software to:
  • File digital records (business information and records of services/products supplied or received, such as online invoices and sales data)
  • Track the tax you owe
  • Send quarterly tax data to HMRC
  • Send an end-of-year statement to HMRC (most software will do this and the quarterly update automatically)
This new process means that business owners will need to stay on top of collecting digital records day-to-day. Integrated payment systems like Square are designed to take care of this in the background by consolidating sales data from all areas of your business. With a bakery for example, Square’s point-of-sale app would collectively save all records for goods sold in-store, large orders paid for via invoice and any payments taken over the phone.
Square is proud to support Small Business Saturday. This article was first published on Square's blog: read the original here.

How we should champion success for International Women's Day

Saturday, March 02 at 14:54

With International Women’s Day this week (8thMarch 2019), the discrimination or otherwise of women in business is a hot topic.
We are seeing a growing cohort of female-led businesses that is stretching its wings and finding its power. This can only be a good step forward!
Although the increased focus on female entrepreneurs from the British Business Bank and the Treasury is to be applauded, I can’t help but notice that the picture is incomplete. Are we missing the point a little by measuring female businesses by old standards that don’t always apply any more?
Should we instead be celebrating the businesses being successful in different ways, because they have redefined what success is?
At f:Entrepreneur, the 100 businesses being celebrated ahead of International Women’s Day are doing just that – redefining what it means to be an entrepreneur. And a message is ringing out loud and clear – your rules do not apply to me. The view of a successful entrepreneur starting with a business plan, getting funding high growth, investment, scale and eventual exit is alien to many female founders.
The most common answer I get when asking female founders why they started their business is freedom – I started because I wanted freedom: freedom from bosses, from out-dated expectations, to manage my life, to make decisions unimpeded. A big part of this is a sense of control. Without going into a history of women in business, it is not a stretch to point out that women controlling their careers and own companies is a relatively recent phenomenon in the grand scheme of things. So it should be unsurprising that many do not relish the idea of taking on the “burden” of debt or giving away equity as it can translate into less control.
This is not saying that there should not be more investment in female-led businesses – there absolutely should. And investors can expect strong returns off the back of it. But there should be a broader definition of success for a 21st Century entrepreneur – and recognising that success can mean many things.
If a business has decided to grow organically and not take on investment, applaud them for the work they are achieving, don’t berate them for their slower growth rate. If businesses are creating opportunities for other women, a key common driver for women-led businesses, do not mark them down for lower productivity due to a larger workforce, applaud their opportunity creation and that they are lifting up those around them.
And let’s be very careful not to put female-led businesses into a bucket of “lifestyle” business because they are not following a start-up / scale trajectory. This is derogatory and undermines the hard work, long hours and passion put into these businesses.
Let’s instead celebrate the new ways of working we are now seeing and shout about their worth. Let’s celebrate the job creation, the innovation; let’s celebrate the increased social conscience; let’s highlight the benefits of freedom and flexibility; and let’s demonstrate how these businesses are bringing value into the economy.
I am not going to tell phenomenal women I see every day that they are somehow falling short because they don’t succeed on a set of metrics that really do not apply to them.
I am going to tell them they are amazing. They are inspiring. They are role models for both men and women and their value far exceeds their P&L or Balance Sheet. I am going to thank them for their bravery in going it alone and celebrate the freedom and control this now affords them.
What better way to celebrate International Women’s Day 2019?
About the Author: Michelle Ovens MBE is Director of Small Business Saturday

Step aside Mystery Shopper scheme - hello new Public Procurement Review Service!

Thursday, February 21 at 10:53

Have you ever had a concern about a public sector contract? Have you experienced late payment by the public sector? Maybe the Public Procurement Review Service can help.
Public Procurement Review Service is the new name for the successful Mystery Shopper scheme that allows suppliers to raise concerns anonymously about public sector procurement. It has helped hundreds of suppliers in challenging public procurement opportunities.
Since 2011, the team (which is part of the Cabinet Office) has handled over 1550 cases and helped to speed up over £6.2 million in late payments. By working closely on difficult cases with contracting authorities, we help the government improve how it buys goods and services. Cases are summarised and published; only the contracting authorities are named.
So why the new name?
Simply put, the new name reflects what the team does and makes it easier for suppliers to search for the service and find out how it can help them.
Suppliers of all sizes can use the Public Procurement Review Service where they feel that a public sector procurement is not being run in line with the procurement rules and best practice, or have issues obtaining payment for work that has been completed. The service is particularly used by small businesses.
Things you need to know about the service
  • It’s free to use
  • Suppliers can use in complete confidence of anonymity
  • We aim to either broker an effective and satisfactory resolution and / or gain a better understanding to stop problems ‘next time’
  • We can assist in unblocking late payments
Find out more about the Public Procurement Review Service on the gov.uk website. We’ve also prepared a useful guide that explains the work of the service in more detail. (If you’re a small business experiencing payment problems on a private sector contract, you may want to contact the Small Business Commissioner).
We are keen to spread the word about the PPRS; in that way the team will be able to help even more concerned public sector suppliers, and work with contracting authorities to prevent problems arising in the future – improving procurement for all. So please tell colleagues and friends about what we do!
Use the service by sending an email to publicprocurementreview@cabinetoffice.gov.uk.

The top three causes of entrepreneur burnout and how to avoid it

Wednesday, February 13 at 23:52

By recent iDEA Award completer Nicola Case of Pink Spaghetti.
Life as an entrepreneur can be intense, but if you’re constantly feeling exhausted, emotional, and overwhelmed, then you could be heading for burnout.
Choosing to become an entrepreneur can be an exciting, rewarding and lucrative path to take, but the journey can be rocky and it’s important to look after yourself along the way to avoid burning out.
Entrepreneur burnout is usually the result of a prolonged period of feeling very stressed and overwhelmed at work.
Warning signs that you’re heading for burnout can include often feeling anxious, exhausted, angry or emotional. Suffering with frequent headaches or insomnia, struggling to focus, losing the passion for your business, and becoming less productive or listless are also common symptoms of entrepreneur burnout.
The top 3 causes of entrepreneur burnout
If you’re consistently making these common entrepreneurial mistakes you could be at risk of burning out.
Failing to delegate tasks to others – Taking on too much is something that all entrepreneurs are guilty of from time to time. Rather than stressing yourself out by trying to juggle every aspect of your business, delegate the more repetitive or specialist tasks to another employee or a virtual personal assistant. This will take the strain off you and allow you to focus on important decision-making and growing your business.
Unhealthy work/life balance – As much as you may love running your business, every entrepreneur needs time away to switch off and reconnect with their loved ones and life outside of their business in order to remain happy and healthy. Setting boundaries when you’re ‘off work’ like times when you switch your business phone off and don’t check emails, can help you to recharge so that when you’re back in the zone you’re looking at things with a fresh pair of eyes.
Setting unrealistic goals – Being the sole driving force behind your own success means constantly pushing yourself to do better and achieve more. Whilst it is essential to your success to be self-motivated and ambitious, it’s also just as important to be realistic about what you can achieve to avoid burnout. Be sure that the goals that you are setting yourself are feasible and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t achieve them first time. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
To keep your sanity as an entrepreneur, why not delegate repetitive jobs or specialist tasks to a virtual personal assistant? Hiring a virtual PA is a cost-effective way of taking the strain off you and freeing up more time in your day. Pink Spaghetti is a national franchise network of small business owners or search for virtual PA services in your local area.
Twitter: @PinkSpag_Nicola Facebook: @PSMiltonKeynes LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicola-case/Instagram: pinkspaghettimk_nic

Get a great digital ad for your business for just £50, and help tomorrow’s entrepreneurs learn with iDEA!

Thursday, January 17 at 09:00

Under the mentorship of Mark Hill MBE, Year 7 pupils at Belmont Community School in Durham have been taking part in the Duke of York iDEA Awards, working towards their Bronze award and utilising their new found digital, enterprising and entrepreneurial skills to set up a business. They have recently entered the Primary Inspiration through Enterprise (PIE) Challenge, and as their entry for the next round they are now offering fabulous digital ads to other businesses for just £50!
The school is one of just ten to get through to this round of the PIE Challenge, and is the only school representing Durham. They have been funded £100 with which they have to design, develop and create a business model which offers support to businesses. The model must create an opportunity to sell their products and/or services to make a profit, and the school with the most profit wins the competition - and £5000 prize money.
The team of pupils has designed and created digital business adverts under the product name “Digi Biz Ads”: innovative, eye-catching MP4 videos which showcase a business products and services.
The student Marketing Manager, Jack, says, “Our Digi Biz Ads are great for any business, especially those with social media platforms”; and as the ads are sent via email, they can cater for companies regardless of location – they have recently created two ads for a company in the south of France!
Getting an ad of your own is easy! Simply email the following information to digibizads@mail.com or call business mentor Mark on 07768834991:
  • Your company website
  • Your logo
  • Any social media links
  • Your contact information
  • Any other content that you wish to promote
… and the pupils will do the rest! Most information can be taken direct from your business website, creating an eye-catching and innovative 60-120 second long MP4 video promoting your business, products and services which can then be posted across social media sites to engage customers, sent via email, or pinned to your website.
Good luck to the Belmont pupils, both with the PIE Challenge and the rest of their iDEA Award! Want to get involved with iDEA yourself and build on your own digital skills through free online expert training? Click here to find out more.

Badge Your Brilliance with iDEA

Thursday, January 10 at 09:00

Superstar Karen Sheppard of #SmallBiz100 People First Mobility has completed not only her Bronze iDEA Award, in November 2018, but also her Silver, just a month later, in December 2018. We caught up with her to find out how out more about her approach to the awards and whether she’d recommend them to other small business owners.
What appealed to you about the iDEA award?
I am always looking at ways to learn and keep my brain active. Also I am a cancer survivor, and my treatment included eight rounds of chemotherapy, which can give you something called ‘chemo brain ‘,making you more forgetful. One of the best cures for this at the moment is to keep your brain active.
The iDEA award appealed because not only would it help with keeping my brain active, it was also very flexible. It can be done at home, at work, on the train, anywhere, and at any time and any pace and on many different devices. Being able to stop and start any badge at any time allows you to fit them in around other commitments. Being able to redo the badges at any time, to be able to refresh on any skills that you need to at any point is very useful.
I also wanted to enhance my skills in the digital world. The digital world is becoming more and more used in everyday life and part of the business world, so to have something that increased my knowledge in that area was fantastic. Receiving a certificate on completion and also having a record of achievement that I could use if I had to seek employment were valuable assets of iDEA. The iDEA is so easy to use, so much fun, it was not really like studying or learning at all. The way in which the badges are presented make it an easy way to learn.
What would you say is the most valuable aspect about iDEA for your business?
The most valuable aspect of iDEA is learning new Digital Skills that are helpful in the day to day running of the business. The digital world is fast advancing and to stay on top of the knowledge is a way to be a step ahead of your competitors.
Can you give us an example of when you have used knowledge learnt from iDEA in your business? What advantage has it given you?
I have used knowledge from a few badges already. I have used social media badges to change how I am going to approach my customers through the use of social media. Social selling and advertising have again given me different perspectives on how to approach these areas of my business. The Web Designer and Making Websites badges have given me much better streamlined designs that I am now using to redesign my website. The advantage of these are that I am able to reach out to more customers in a much more professional manner and it gives me an edge over my competitors.
Which badges did you enjoy the most and why?
I can honestly say I have enjoyed all of the badges, and looking back through them I am finding it difficult to answer this question. Admittedly there were a few that took me a few days to do as they were challenging and I had to keep coming back to have another go to be able to complete them. This just added to the fun, excitement and also the determination to finish them and get that sense of achievement. The coding badges were probably the hardest for me to achieve but also the most rewarding because of this.
The Silver badges were very addictive to do as you had to complete each level to get to the next level. You had to solve puzzles and challenges. At times I spent a few hours on the badges and could not put the laptop down, thinking: I will just do this one more, then another, then another.
Would you recommend iDEA to other small businesses?
I would recommend iDEA to anyone who is self employed, has their own business or works for someone or is even still in full time education who wants to invest their time in learning more about the digital world in which we now live. The world is evolving very fast in the digital age and there are many of the badges that can help in all different kinds of job roles and situations. The badges are easy to understand , can be done at your own pace and at your own time. When each module is completed there is also the sense of accomplishment. Just be warned that once you start you may find it very addictive!
Thanks Karen, and good luck with the gold award!

How to make your Christmas the most successful yet!

Saturday, November 24 at 17:00

Small Business Saturday supporter Square gives us their top tips for having the most successful Christmas ever....
We’re hurtling towards Christmas fast, just like every year. From now until December 24, you can expect to serve a steady flow of customers hunting for gifts, stocking up on food & drink or simply looking for that festive feeling. If there’s one way to stay organised and productive through the rush, it’s to write a checklist.
Forecast your busiest times
Data is your best friend when preparing for the Christmas shopping period. Ideally, every small business’s point-of-sale software should provide access to an online dashboard that’s kitted out with analytics tools. There are two types of data you can put to use:
Historical data that reveals past trends and periods where you could have made better decisions.
Real-time data that lets you view that same performance as it’s happening, allowing you to make adjustments as soon as they’re needed.
The challenge as a business owner is learning how to blend the two. Whilst historical data allows you to prepare in advance, you need to be agile. And whilst it’s great to act on-the-fly, the right preparations are needed to support reactive management.
Checklist:
(If you don’t already have point-of-sale software)
Download point-of-sale software to track sales, inventory and employees
Set up employee management so that staff can take payments
Add your inventory
(If you already have point-of-sale software)
Identify Q4 2017’s busiest periods and days (for your online and offline stores)
Note periods of low inventory
Note items that went out of stock
Order stock (comparing past trends with business growth)
Review staff performance during past busy periods
Create a staff rota and share in advance
Include staff to help with online customer support if you have a website or use social media
Finalise time-off requests
Analyse any customer feedback you received via digital receipts
Implement suggestions that make sense for your business
Review your current busiest periods in real-time
Adjust your opening hours accordingly
Create an efficient ordering system so you can respond to real-time low inventory alerts
Increase the ways you can take payments
A queue out the door is a great thing for business, but impatient customers aren’t. You can prepare yourself for bigger crowds of shoppers by both speeding up the checkout process and offering customers more ways to pay.
Checklist:
Order more handheld readers so you can serve more than one customer on the shop floor
Get a stand for your iPad to create a secure point-of-sale
Get set up with virtual terminal software so that you can take payments remotely
Offer invoicing options for high-value items
Cleanse inventory
Now is the time to get everything in place for your team to sell efficiently during busy periods. In your point-of-sale system, make sure all the inventory is good to go.
Checklist:
Delete inventory items that you no longer sell
Add new inventory (making sure that items are named correctly)
Make sure all pricing and offers are up to date
Include photos for all items
Update your website and social media
If you have special Christmas opening hours or you’re running promotions, make sure your website and social media reflect them. The real-time insights provided by your point-of-sale system might result in last minute changes, so use these channels to let people know as soon as you do.
Checklist:
Update your store opening hours
Add festive imagery to your website and social media cover photos
Add some seasonal touches to your company “About” section
Post regularly on social media with company updates or offers
Start using Facebook Messenger to communicate with customers
Theme your online advertising and social marketing campaigns
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