Small Business Saturday Blog

Building an enabling bridge, brick by brick

Friday, November 08 at 00:30

Our day has arrived! What a great opportunity.
When we submitted the application and video, we knew how incredible this would be. We hugely value being part of the #SmallBiz100 and Small Business Saturday campaign, and having the privilege to share our in depth knowledge of what it takes to build accessibility into a business.
We are delighted with the engagement in the 100 tips campaign we are running up until December 7th, Small Business Saturday. Meeting so many of the other fabulous #SmallBiz100 past and present at the Blue Tie Event in London back in September was such positive reinforcement of the campaign.
It has been intriguing to see which posts have been of the most interest to people. For example, tapping someone on the shoulder to get their attention. Flicking the lights to let someone know you’re there. Smiling and being welcoming. Raising your voice makes you look angry.
We support businesses to enhance engagement with D/deaf people.
It’s the simple things that make a huge difference. Engaging with D/deaf people is an excellent business decision. 1:5 of us has some level of hearing loss and this is becoming more so with the ageing population. All of us know someone who is affected. These people currently feel unable to let you know they have difficulty accessing your services. Not engaging is less embarrassing than asking for support.
By adapting the business environment and methods of communication to include D/deaf people, you expand customer reach and your potential pool of employees.
We have a comprehensive step-by-step process to ensuring that your business can achieve our ‘Gold Standard’ when it comes to engaging with D/deaf people. We are available to come along and talk to your company about how we can support you to implement this.
To celebrate our day, we are sharing real life experiences from Deaf people themselves, their experiences of things they come across everyday. Some are funny, some are serious, all are an interesting insight into Deaf people’s lives. In addition, all the tips and useful information we’re sharing over the 100 days, are all available when you sign up here.
This evening, we are having a celebration of signed song and TED-style talks from three of the top signed song performers in the UK. This promises to be a fun evening and an opportunity for D/deaf people and businesses to mingle and share experiences. There’ll be food, there’ll be drink, there’ll be music and lots of laughter – don’t miss it!
Small businesses have so much to offer and we can be life changing for those we engage with and who engage with us. We can lead the way when it comes to being innovative in our approach to business.
Keep in touch and together we can make a difference, building an enabling bridge, brick by brick.
Sarah Gatford works alongside other small businesses in Derby to enhance accessibility and improve D/deaf people’s experience of the world. Visit her website here. Over the 100 days leading up to Small Business Saturday on 7th December, Sarah has been sharing 100 tips and insights into the lives of D/deaf people on her Twitter account - check it out here

Get ready to rock with Rockit

Thursday, October 31 at 00:30

The Rockit portable baby rocker, the launch product from #SmallBiz100 Rockit, was developed by three dads on mission to help other parents safely soothe their babies to sleep.
Their innovative product, which fits easily on to any stroller or pram and gently rocks to help keep baby asleep when the stroller comes to a halt, was invented by Dr. Nick Webb when his three-month-old daughter, Abby, refused to sleep in her pushchair when he stopped at the supermarket checkout or paused for a well-earned coffee. He noticed that other weary parents had the same issue, and decided to make a prototype rocker. It worked, and the next day Abby remained asleep even when her pushchair stopped moving.
Nick set about developing the prototype with product designers Matt Dyson and Matt Sparrow, who have seven children between them, and over the next few months, with backing from the Design Council, the Rockit was born. It has since gone on to win a number of awards, including the Design Council Spark award and the prestigious European Product Design Award.
Rockit started trading in July 2017, and within a few months was stocked by John Lewis, Mothercare and JoJo Maman Bebe, alongside 130 independent retailers across the UK. Rockit also sell via Amazon.
Matt Dyson says “Amazon gives us a fantastic opportunity to get Rockit far and wide, not only in the UK but across Europe and North America. The next day Prime delivery is a massive bonus for our sleep deprived customers as they can get hold of Rockit quickly and easily, when they need it most.”
In January 2018, within 18 months of launch, Rockit started exporting, and have now sold over 60,000 units worldwide in over 40 countries around the world, leading to them being named ‘Export Champions’ by the Department for International Trade. As Export Champions, Rockit now advise and mentor other small businesses who are taking their first steps towards exporting internationally.
Despite their international sales, Rockit try to keep the work they outsource as local as possible, with their web designer, photographer, videographer, overseas trade advisor, warehousing and social media consultancy all based in Bristol or the surrounding area.
The team have also been involved in a project with UWE's Business School in Bristol, working with a group of young entrepreneurs who are studying for a BA in Business (Team Entrepreneurship). With CEO Matt Dyson being a former Design Technology teacher, they are keen to promote both entrepreneurship and product design amongst young people, and look forward to collaborating further in future.
Nick, Matt and Matt are now developing two follow up products that will be launching at the end of the year. Watch this space!
Click here to visit Rockit on Amazon.

How to create an event for Small Business Saturday UK

Wednesday, October 23 at 22:33

So you’ve heard about Small Business Saturday UK, and you’ve caught the bug - there’s no better way to promote this amazing campaign, on a local level, than with an event.
First of all, you need a venue.
Many councils in the UK are supportive of Small Business Saturday UK, and some even include it in their manifesto. Luckily, Derby City Council is one of them. So, when Essential Print Services was one of the first #SmallBiz100 in 2013, the local council contacted me to be a panellist at one of their business growth events. Great!
At that time, the campaign was only just getting started, and I was determined to ensure that more people knew about Small Business Saturday UK for the following year. I kept in touch with the council officials to find out what their plans were for Small Business Saturday UK the next year. From that conversation, we agreed that I would co-host a free event with Derby City Council, and all entrepreneurs, retailers and service providers would be welcome. It would include free exhibition space and popup stalls, free workshops, inspiring talks and networking.
When you’re thinking of a venue, are there areas in your town or city in need of extra footfall?
In 2017, we switched venues from the Derby City Council house to Derby’s historic market hall? Why? Derby’s Market Hall is beautiful and is located in the city centre, but over the years, the visitor numbers were in decline. I made it my mission to fill the stalls with popup traders for our Small Business Saturday event and to keep it completely free.
It was a great success with one particular retailer taking over £500 in sales on her popup shop, which is usually online only. She loved meeting her regular customers face-to-face. A couple of popup traders became regular stallholders!
So you have a venue, you have the format. To make this a success, you will need help.
What’s your superpower? I own a small print firm in Derby, and I am passionate about what I do, but I also love networking and bringing people together. These passions come in very useful when organising events. But not everyone is a confident host. If you’re not happy about public speaking, ask someone else to compere. There are times when I am not feeling 100%, and on those occasions, I take a step back and instead, I help manage the event behind the scenes. After all, you can’t do it all yourself.
Ask for help. You’re a small business owner – you’re already busy, but you really want to create this event so, ask for help. In 2016, the event took place one week before my wedding day. I was running a business, hosting an event and organising my wedding. The event would not have been such a success without the help of my business buddies.
Find your tribe: find a group of people who are reliable and who will support you. Create an event committee with other local entrepreneurs. Decide on what needs to be done, by when and assign tasks. Save time by using an online collaboration tool to communicate in one place and to see how the project is moving.
So you have a venue, you have the format, and you have people to help you. Now, you need people to turn up. How do I spread the word?
Networking: I network extensively in my local area at several business groups, and my business has a large client base. After a short evaluation, it was apparent they were our perfect target market, so the next step was to promote the event to those audiences.
How?
Make it personal. It is a nice feeling to receive an invitation, so send personal emails to people you know inviting them to your event. Include your LinkedIn connections too. Remember to include local MPs and dignitaries.
Be resourceful. Utilising our resources, I design and print flyers to hand out at meetings and to include in our delivery packs. I even walk around local business parks and the city centre pushing them through letterboxes. Remember to give a supply of printed literature to everyone who has agreed to help you and ask them to distribute them amongst their contacts. Many local organisations will agree to display the flyers in their reception areas, including the local tourism office.
Get social. I schedule regular social media posts on all our business platforms and identify online business groups who will agree to include it in their event listings. In 2016 I created a Facebook Group for Derby's small business community, which has now over 550 members. Any events I host, I let the Facebook group know. I use Eventbrite to ‘sell’ the free tickets.
Remember to include Small Business Saturday UK in your social media posts – they will help you spread the word to their vast number of followers.
On many occasions, I struggle to conjure up social media content for my own business, but the Small Business Saturday events gives my business something to shout, and it also showcases our corporate social responsibility.
And last of all, any opportunity I have to talk about the event, I do!
There are other ways to promote your event.
Local Media Channels: Back in 2014, I used one of the Small Business Saturday press releases as a template to distribute an article to the local press. I included business organisations such as our local Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses and the Council’s own communications team. At this point, I had only been in business for two years and to see my company name on my Council’s website was a real thrill. I loved the thought of a big organisation supporting a small business. Another proud moment was in 2016 when I hosted the event in the council chambers and I sat in the Mayor’s chair in front of 80 people.
Flash Mob: To generate some anticipation in the run up to an event and for a bit of fun, I organised a flash mob on one of Derby’s historic streets, Sadler Gate. It is an area with many small, independent retailers – the perfect place. I called upon my network of business buddies and invited the local retailers to join me at a specific time with a print out of their company logo for a photograph. I incentivised the idea by agreeing to use the photo for all the publicity in the run-up to the event. I knew the image had to be perfect - I needed a professional! Looking at our client base and contacts, who did I think would be willing to take the photographs and what could I offer them in exchange? Simon from JAKT Photography agreed without hesitation- he simply wanted to help. This happened in 2014, and the image is still in use today*.
During the flash mob, a local restaurateur; Holly from The Wonky Table, saw what was happening and opened up just for us. She offered the ‘flash mob’ free drinks and a chance to network. Those who took up the offer made new contacts, which created new business opportunities. Not only that but The Wonky Table made some new, repeat customers, me being one of them.
What can you do during the event to create a positive atmosphere and make your day memorable?
Everybody conga! During our event in the Market Hall, we had a small business exhibition, popup traders, networking, talks and two workshops but the climax of the day was when we did the conga around the stalls. At this point the local newspaper arrived and captured our antics, which led to publicity online and in the newspaper not just for the event, or the campaign, or even my business for that matter, but for other delegates and stall holders too. Win, win!
Razzle dazzle them! Find a local band or music students to provide some live music. What about a flash mob-style rock choir?
Last year we implemented a ‘Golden Ticket’. We put all the delegate names in a hat and picked out ten to present their ‘elevator pitch’ to the entire room of over 80 people. We gave them physical golden tickets and asked people to wave them in the air, which provided some theatre as well as an excellent opportunity to promote their business.
I have enjoyed hosting and curating these events over the years. One crucial factor for me is that everything remains free: free to exhibit and free to attend. I believe it is essential to make it inclusive to everyone and to remove the hurdle of cost. These free events can only remain free with the generosity and support of my local business community, and for that, I would like to say a public ‘thank you’.
In summary:
+ Contact your local Council. Can they sponsor a venue? Small Business Saturday UK is an excellent way of them showing support for their local businesses.
+ Use your tribe – who do you know? Sometimes the best people are right in front of you.
+ What are you doing it for? It is great to help others in your community but remember to accept and create opportunities to publicise your own business too.
+ “What’s in it for me?” Quite often, you won’t feel the benefit of your efforts until months or years to come. Be patient.
+ What does success look like? Set a goal: what would a successful event look like to you?
+ Quality, not quantity. Don’t be disheartened if delegate numbers are low. Many of my best meetings have been with fewer people because it allows you to have meaningful conversations.
+ Add some razzle dazzle!
+ Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
+ Know your strengths – use your superpower.
+ If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Be cheeky – you’ll be surprised how many people are willing to volunteer their time, skills and resources. When asking for freebies and help, be clear with your reasons why others should attend and get involved.
Yvonne Gorman owns Essential Print Services in Derby, which was one of the #SmallBiz100 in 2013.
*I would recommend you ask people to sign a Model Release Form or at the very least ensure people understand you will be using their photograph. This applies to photography for any commercial event.

Jampacked with passion: the local cinema that’s giving back

Wednesday, October 09 at 22:28

Located in the heart of Whitley Bay, the Jam Jar Cinema is an integral part of the community and has an enthusiastic local following. Offering the best in local, friendly, affordable, inclusive and diverse cinema, they believe that a trip to the pictures is a unique pleasure that should be available to everyone.
The cinema first opened its doors in 2011, screening the best of British, art-house, indy and Hollywood releases in pubs, soft plays and churches before taking their first lease in 2013.
In 2015, they installed top of the range equipment, making them a truly digital cinema. They’ve recently added a second screen, with plans for a third along with a lift by Christmas, making them completely accessible, and hope to increase their annual footfall from 50,000 to 75,000 in the year ahead.
Earlier this month, the cinema launched a ‘Pay As You Please’ scheme whereby customers can choose what price they pay for a ticket, which is intended to make a trip to the pictures even more accessible to locals.
As an independent, local cinema, the Jam Jar prides itself on its excellent customer service, friendly welcome, cosy bar, and passion for film. It now boasts 15 employees, actively supporting working parents to work part time, and is proud to pay living wage.
The contribution that the cinema makes to its community is also impressive. Visitors to the cinema translates to a footfall of over 150,000 to the town, adding around £800,000 to the local economy. As well as providing gallery space for local artists, the cinema donates over £2,000 per year in vouchers to fundraisers directly, and offers a charity hire rate to fundraisers that enables groups to raise approximately £15,000 a year for good causes. Finally, around 80% of their suppliers are local businesses.
Jam Jar Cinema founder, Dan Ellis, is delighted to take part in the campaign. "Championing the local community and economy is at the heart of everything we do at Jam Jar Cinema, so to take part in this collaboration is fantastic. We can promote Whitley Bay even further and encourage locals to support all the other businesses on their doorstep too".
The Jam Jar cinema is taking part in American Express’ Shop Small campaign: find them here on the Shop Small Map. Click here to visit the Jam Jar Cinema website, and click here to find out more about the AMEX Shop Small campaign.

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.

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