Small Business Saturday Blog

Why apply to be a #SmallBiz100 2024?

Saturday, June 01, 2024 at 06:00

In the current economic climate, there’s never been a better time to make the most of the support, networking and promotional opportunities that being a SmallBiz100 provides. Applications for SmallBiz100 2024 have now opened, and 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, Small Business Saturday chooses 100 brilliant small businesses and promotes one every day in the run up to Small Business Saturday, which this year will take place on Saturday, 7th December.
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 promoted 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. It doesn’t end after your day is over either – the campaign is always thrilled to share good news from former SmallBiz100 businesses.
Why apply to take part?
When speaking to 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 other small businesses who have been there and done that sharing their experiences.
What information do I need to provide?
We want you to tell us the story of your small business: what makes it tick? How does it fit into your local community? What makes it special?
As per previous years, we’re also asking you to make a short video so that we can find out more for your business and get a good feel for it – anything up to two minutes would be great and it doesn’t need to be a fancy production.
Not sure it’s for you?
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 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.
How do I apply?
Applying to take part in SmallBiz100 2024 is quick and easy – just click here to register and start your journey. Already registered? Click here to apply to SmallBiz100. Don’t forget, it’s all completely FREE!
We can’t wait to present the SmallBiz100 2024! Make 2024 the year that you take your small business to the next level and take part in something amazing: apply now for SmallBiz100 2024.

Saying cheese in Prestatyn

Thursday, November 30, 2023 at 06:30

The Little Cheesemonger is a multi-award-winning cheesemonger based in North Wales that provides an extensive selection of quality Welsh produce, including cheese, meat, preserves, crackers, coffee, confectionery, cakes, gins, rum, ales, and various other fantastic British and European goods. What sets them apart is their commitment to quality and passion for cheese.
The shop was founded by Gemma Williams, who trained as a cheesemonger in Edinburgh, Chester, and Conwy before setting up her first shop in Rhuddlan in 2017. Her passion for cheese inspired her to run specialised events where customers could meet craft producers and sample their wares.
The Little Cheesemonger takes pride in offering a wide range of artisan foods from independent producers and suppliers. Their emphasis is on making quality cheese and produce accessible to all through their hands-on customer service, tasting events, and great value sharing platters.
Gemma also creates show-stopping cheese wedding cakes and grazing tables, alongside delicious picnic boxes, and sharing platters for a special treat. The shop also hosts events such as cheese and wine tastings, cookery demonstrations, and anything else Gemma can think of.
The shop offers national delivery of their products, including popular cheeseboards in a box, customised gift packages, and catering services for events such as weddings.
The local community and the future of the planet are both priorities at The Little Cheesemonger. Gemma actively engages in supporting other small businesses and her local community. She has served as a voluntary board member for Cadwyn Clwyd, representing small businesses on behalf of Local Action Groups (LAGs) in Denbighshire, Flintshire, and Wrexham. Additionally, she has volunteered as a board member for the local food festival, and is currently part of the Prestatyn Business Forum, working to improve business in the town through innovative events and initiatives.
She told us, “American Express offers great opportunities for my business, especially when it comes to things like the Shop Small Offer, which gives cashback to its Cardmembers, and its support of Small Business Saturday. I share these on my social media, ensuring that my customers can reap the rewards while supporting local businesses like mine.”
When it comes to sustainability, the business has also participated in environmental projects, such contributing to the “Too Good To Go” app, which allows customers to purchase short-shelf-life foods at a minimal cost to prevent waste.
Gemma told us, “At The Little Cheesemonger, we are dedicated to sustainability practices. We are committed to reducing our environmental impact and continually seek ways to enhance our sustainability efforts.” All their plastics are recyclable, and they encourage customers to bring their own bottles, containers, and wrapping when purchasing from their refill areas in order to minimise waste.
It sounds to us like The Little Cheesemonger is quite the big cheese.
Visit The Little Cheesemonger at 87 High St, Prestatyn LL19 9AP or shop online here. Click here to find out more about the American Express Shop Small campaign.

Hitting the sweet spot in Bucks and Oxon

Tuesday, November 21, 2023 at 06:30

Rumsey's is a family-owned artisan chocolate company which produces award-winning hand-made chocolate, alongside running two chocolateries in the market towns of Wendover in Buckinghamshire and Thame in Oxfordshire. From exquisite boxes of hand-made, hand-wrapped chocolates, to bespoke commissions for individual and corporate clients, they only use the finest, ethically sourced (and, where possible, local) ingredients to make the best products they can.
Their story began in 2001, when Nigel Rumsey began making handmade chocolates from his home kitchen. His aim was to produce top quality products from the finest ingredients. Three years later, Nigel and his wife Mary opened their first chocolaterie in Wendover, followed by another in Thame in 2007. In 2016, their daughter-in-law, Kate, joined the family business, and successfully navigated Mary and Nigel’s retirement in 2022.
Despite the current economic climate, the company has flourished under Kate’s leadership. Rumsey’s now employs 50 people, and makes over 200,000 chocolates per year by hand, with a turnover of over £1m. They have a rapidly growing presence online, and have recently expanded their Production and Fulfilment departments in order to meet demand.
Owner Kate Rumsey told us, “We offer a bespoke, personalised service, and are particularly focussing on growing our corporate gifting clients and our place within the wholesale market. We are also growing sales and our brand more nationally through investment online and in social media.”
The Rumsey’s chocolateries are a much-loved feature of their local high streets, with strong links to their communities. Kate told us, “Working alongside other small, independent companies is something we consciously do. Even with increasing costs, we always make decisions to work with businesses who align to our family values – many suppliers have been with us since the early days of Rumsey’s”.
Their dairy is sourced from a local farm, and their coffee comes from a small, family run roastery on the south coast. Though not local, they are passionate about the sustainability of their cocoa and supporting the farmers who grow it, often in some of the poorest regions in the world.
They are also proud to work with their town councils on initiatives to drive footfall and mentor other small businesses locally. The American Express Shop Small campaign also helps with this. Kate told us, “Shop Small is a brilliant initiative, which not only ‘talks the talk’ but financially motivates customers to spend with us, as they literally get something back in return. We’ve accepted American Express for many years and regularly see an increase in spend during the Shop Small period. Customers talk to us about it extremely positively.”
As an independent, family business, Rumsey’s is committed to a long-term view. Above all, they aim to ensure that they always do what is right for the future of the business, so that they leave Rumsey’s in a good place for the next generation. They are constantly working on removing all plastic from their chocolateries, and all recent packaging is 100% recyclable. They offer discounts for customers who bring in their own cups, and wherever possible use locally grown ingredients – including some from their own gardens and allotments – to reduce their carbon footprint.
Their hard work has certainly paid off: they were the proud winners of Buckinghamshire Business Awards Family Business of the Year 2021, finalists in the Oxfordshire Business Awards Retail Award 2022 and Small Awards 2023, and recipients of a Highly Commended in the Great British Food Awards 2021.
Last word goes to Kate, who told us, “We are committed to ensuring our two chocolateries continue to thrive for another 20 years on the high street. We aim to make chocolate special.”
Visit Rumsey’s at The Old Bank, 26 High Street, Wendover HP22 6EA or 8 Upper High Street, Thame OX9 3ER, or shop online here. Click here to find out more about the American Express Shop Small campaign.

Telford’s Lean Green Eco Machine

Monday, November 20, 2023 at 06:30

The Little Green Pantry is a multi-award-winning zero waste shop currently enjoying its second year on Wellington High Street in Telford. The business sells plastic-free refills of dried food, baking ingredients, cleaning liquids and much more, and has built a loyal following among eco-minded customers who want to do their bit for the planet.
Owner Keli King works hard to research new eco-friendly products, so that customers can make easy green swaps in their weekly shop, and is also able to offer advice on how to live more sustainably. And it’s working: she calculates that so far, The Little Green Pantry has diverted more than 49,000 pieces of plastic from landfill, due to customers purchasing their household toiletries and kitchen goods in recyclable paper or cardboard packaging and refilling rather than buying new.
Keli launched the business as a popup stall on Wellington Market back in 2019 after identifying a need for a plastic-free shopping experience in the Telford area. At the time, the nearest zero waste shop was more than 16 miles away. She told us, “Factoring in time, emissions, and costs, I didn't see this as a sustainable way to shop, so I decided to launch something similar in my local community.”
She shared an online survey in local community groups on social media, which gave her valuable feedback and showed there was a growing demand for this type of business. The community raised £4,486 in crowdfunding, including £1,500 funding from the Natwest Back Her Business Campaign, and this allowed Keli to set The Little Green Pantry up as a pop-up stall.
During covid, Keli switched to a delivery model to keep her business going. In 2021, she was able to move to a bricks and mortar shop on the high street, and the business has gone from strength to strength, which Keli attributes to a strong social media following and community support. She told us, “Since covid lockdowns, we have noticed an increasing appreciation of small local business in our town of Wellington. Shoppers are supporting our High Street and wanting to put money in local business owner pockets, and accepting American Express has made this even easier.”
Keli told us that she actively seeks out and supports local like-minded businesses, either through becoming a stockist of their products or offering pop up space within the shop on busy Saturdays to help them reach new customers. This helps bring some variety to the shop on a weekly basis, and her customers love discovering new local businesses.
Indeed, Keli told us about the revival she’s noticed on Wellington High Street over the last year or so, thanks to the opening of small independent shops like The Little Green Pantry.
She told us, “The variety and personality of each shop and its owners is attracting people from further afield, including from out of town and overseas, and this is having a positive impact on footfall, supporting many other local businesses too. We are so grateful for American Express’ support through their Shop Small Campaign, as it literally puts our business on the map, making us visible to many more people across the country. Accepting American Express payments allows us to serve many more customers and visitors to our town.”
The Little Green Pantry played a major part in gaining plastic free accreditation for Wellington, with Keli being deputy chair of the local Wellington Plastic Free Community Steering Group and the shop being used as a hub and meeting point for local community group leaders to discuss their progress.
The business has become a hub in many other ways too, hosting toy, clothes and food swaps in collaboration with The Climate Action Hub Telford, offering a free Tetrapak collection in store, collecting confectionery tubs in January which are then sent to the Greene King Tub2Pub scheme to be recycled, and acting as a collection point for the Christmas Smile Project, which provides gifts for children and adults in care.
Keli and her team have also been involved in local litter picks, eco festivals, youth climate summits and local green day events, spreading the word of plastic free shopping and educating the general public on becoming more sustainable.
Their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed: they have also won Telford & Wrekin Council’s bi-annual High Street Awards two years running, as well as an Award for Business Champion for Social Responsibilities at the 2022 Telford Community Pride Awards. It’s clear that the future looks bright – and green and plastic-free – in Telford.
Visit The Little Green Pantry at 2 Crown Street, Wellington, Telford TF1 1LP, or shop online here. Click here to find out more about the American Express Shop Small campaign.

We all scream for ice cream

Thursday, November 16, 2023 at 06:00

Baboo Gelato is a Dorset-based ice cream manufacturer that focuses obsessively on using the best possible ingredients, sourced as locally and seasonally as possible.
Annie and Sam Hanbury started the business because they wanted to use the incredible local ingredients available in their area of the West Country. Annie trained as a gelatierie (master ice cream maker) in Bologna, Italy, before opening Baboo in 2016 with one small kiosk in the seaside town of West Bay.
Sam told us, “From day one, people recognised that local seasonal ingredients in a well-made ice cream served by happy staff in an eccentrically decorated kiosk really can make one’s day!” Major awards quickly followed: Baboo Gelato was named Champion Ice Cream from Taste of the West in 2016 and 2020, and has placed in the top three finalists every other year. The business was Best British Speciality Food in the Great British Food Awards and has won many stars from Great Taste. Meanwhile, they’ve grown from one to six kiosks, and serve about 200 restaurants, pubs, farm shops and stately homes in their local area.
With their focus on buying locally and seasonally, they support many local farms, with tractors and vans filled with fruit turning up at their door all summer long. They told us that they love fruit that is ripe and misshapen, not bland and supermarket-ready. Ugly fruit is welcome, and local fruit suppliers use them when they have excess stock, all of which reduces food waste. They also forage in hedgerows for under-rated ingredients like elderflower. With ice cream this good, very little is left unsold, but occasional excess stock is sold through ‘Too Good to Go’, so nothing is thrown out.
Sam added, “We make all our ice cream from scratch using real ingredients. And this year we’ve been particularly lucky in finding interesting new suppliers. We’re currently talking to a charity that runs a Victorian walled garden in Dorset about picking their extraordinary crop of heritage variety damsons. We’ve also found a Brazilian supplier to give us the juiciest deepest flavoured mangoes we’ve ever tried. And we’ve got a Sicilian connection whose blood oranges need to be tasted to be believed.”
Baboo spent the winter of 2022 building a large new production site, which means they now have four times the production capability and for the first time in years are able to take on new customers and begin new initiatives.
Naturally, as a company that makes everything from scratch and loves to use local seasonal produce, they are planning on going large for Christmas 2023. They have a full suite of Christmas flavours led by their Brandy Gelato (think mince pies with a rich brandy gelato melting across it), which makes use of their neighbour Somerset Cider Brandy for a really full flavour. Also on the menu are homemade Gingerbread Gelato, Christmas Spice Gelato, Spiced Orange Sorbet, and their very popular Plum Sorbet. For the kids (and kids at heart), they’ve got Humbug Gelato, Chocolate Orange Gelato, and Chocolate with Candy Canes.
They’ve also started a nationwide home delivery service. Sam told us, “It used to break our heart to receive emails from customers who’d visited our Dorset outlets asking how to get their Baboo Gelato fix in Birmingham or Glasgow, and we’d always have to disappoint them. But as of September 2023, we’re now able to send a range of our award winning ice cream across the country.”
They haven’t forgotten our four-legged friends either! They have an exceptionally popular iced treat for dogs called Doggy Doggy Yum Yum. They are delighted to have been able to partner with Dorwest Herbs, the UK’s leading authority for herbal remedies and supplements for dogs and cats. They now add a spoon of their Keeper’s Mix in every tub of Doggy Doggy, and told us that the reception to this new formula has been stupendous.
Baboo were also honoured to be part of the American Express Small Business Saturday programme in 2022 and 2023. Sam told us, “Not only was it fascinating to meet so many other businesses going on the same entrepreneurial journey, but their weekly programme of webinars from leading experts was consistently useful, and has taken our social media and PR capabilities to a new level. Small Business Saturday really offers something of value to everyone.”
Baboo’s highly skilled manufacturing team makes all their ice cream by hand. Many teenagers in West Dorset will have their first summer job with Baboo, where they are trained well and treated with respect. Sam told us, “Our staff handbook is a legendary book of obsessive detail about the preparation, care and presentation of ice cream. Our staff come back to us year after year so we must be doing something right.”
Visit Baboo Gelato online here and click here to find details of their kiosks in Lyme Regis, West Bay, Weymouth, Morcombelake and Swanage. Click here to find out more about the American Express Shop Small campaign.

#SmallBiz100 Joco returns to its roots

Tuesday, November 14, 2023 at 06:00

Nuneaton's largest dedicated gift shop and former #SmallBiz100, Joco Interiors, has relocated for what owner Jo Williams describes as “a fourth and final time”.
Joco offers local artists and crafters a valuable resource to sell what they make, alongside branded merchandise such as Harry Potter and Disney. Catering for all tastes and budgets, their ranges start from just 99p, and cover anything from gothic style skulls to Disney princesses.
When it opened back in April 2015, Joco was based in a tiny shop on the outskirts of Nuneaton. After two years, with a low footfall and an equally low turnover, Jo had to decide whether to close her doors altogether or take a leap of faith and move premises. She chose the latter, moving to the Abbeygate Shopping Centre in the heart of Nuneaton. Fortunately, the gamble paid off: her turnover multiplied five-fold and she soon had to take on her first member of staff, followed by an apprentice.
Within two years, Joco had outgrown the unit it was in, and relocated again, this time to the prestigious Ropewalk Shopping Centre in Nuneaton town centre, while the team grew to include six part-time staff.
Now they’re back on Queens Road in Nuneaton: Jo told us “It’s where it all began back in 2015, albeit in a shop 10 times the size of the original one!” They completed the move back in August 2022, and share the space with Jo’s other business, Terry’s Bed Centre.
Supporting the local community with fundraisers and attending charity events has made Joco a household name locally, and they also support three local charities as often as they can, with raffles, donating prizes for events and a collection tin for change.
Joco offers a savings club for those who would like to spread the cost of a big event such as a wedding or Christmas, a loyalty card scheme and payment plans for larger items. The small team is very friendly and will help with any customer query, even if it means directing them to another shop in the town.
Jo told us, “Times are tough and weathering the storm is incredibly stressful, but the team is pulling together and coming up with innovative ideas to ensure the business’s survival. With many new plans already in the pipeline, these will be announced shortly to our customers, and we are working with our suppliers to create some jaw dropping window displays. I will definitely be taking part in Shop Small again this year.”
Joco recently won Coventry and Warwickshire Retailer of the Year 2022, then Jo was announced as one of the UK’s 100 inspiring female entrepreneurs as part of the f:Entrepreneur #ialso100 campaign, and finally the shop has just been crowned as the Best Independent Gift Shop in Midlands and Wales for the third time in the Greats Gift Retailer Awards 2023 – so let’s hope the new premises have room for a large trophy cabinet too.
Visit Joco Interiors at 42-44 Queens Rd, Nuneaton CV11 5JZ or online here. Joco is taking part in American Express’ Shop Small campaign: find them here on the Shop Small Map, and click here to find out more about the American Express Shop Small campaign.

Coming in from the cold in central London

Tuesday, November 07, 2023 at 06:30

The Bath House – Banya London is a unique establishment that offers guests a traditional banya experience consisting of steam baths, restorative and invigorating treatments, and Eastern European food and drink.
The banya is the Slavic cousin of the Finnish sauna, Turkish hammam, and other steam baths. Hotter than the hammam, but cooler and more humid than the sauna, the temperature in the steam room ranges from 60-75°C, with a humidity of 60-70%.
In the past century, many banyas arrived in England with the mass immigration of Jews. For them, the banya was part of religious ritual, and they would visit before going to the synagogue. Many of these banyas were destroyed, and only now is this culture being revived.
The Bath House’s mission is to introduce the local community to the banya culture. Director Robert Procopé told us, “Our mission as a business is to educate a wider audience about the numerous benefits of the banya and to promote banya culture in general. These benefits include physical and mental health, general wellness and self-care, healthy habits and new ways of socialising. We are delighted to be part of American Express’ Shop Small campaign and be featured on the Shop Small map, which will help us share the story of the banya with as many people as possible.”
The Bath House – Banya London was established in 2019 by Robert, a Brit, and Alexander Lazarev, who was born in Ukraine, and who are both great lovers of the banya. The business withstood the challenges of repeated closures during the pandemic and is now the top ranked spa in London on TripAdvisor.
Located opposite Buckingham Palace in Victoria in the heart of London, it blends the traditions of the traditional Slavic banya with the best of the contemporary spa, and is inspired by the grand urban bath houses of tsarist Moscow and St Petersburg. Guests enjoy the deep penetrative heat of the sauna, the ice cold plunge pools, delicious homemade Eastern European food, and authentic treatments like parenie, organic honey and coffee scrubs, and seaweed wraps.
The business is located in a former bank: the main parilka (banya) is situated where the money vault used to be. Robert told us, “With our central London location and international outlook, we have a lot of international clients. American Express is one of the most recognisable brands in the world, so it is reassuring for our guests when they visit us.”
The Bath House is an active supporter of a range of different charities and initiatives. It plays an active role in the local community, supports Ukrainian refugees, and contributes to Sauna Aid, a charity set up to bring the warmth and healing power of the sauna to people in Ukraine. It tries to maintain sustainability by minimizing the use of all resources, recycling, and reusing materials with very little plastic or non-recyclable components. All treatment ingredients are organic.
So far, The Bath House has performed more than 30,000 parenie rituals (traditional steam and leaf massage) since opening and plans to expand further both in London and beyond.
Visit The Bath House – Banya London at 1 Grosvenor Gardens, London SW1W 0BD, or online here. Click here to find out more about the American Express Shop Small campaign.

Bitten by the bug in East Sussex

Saturday, November 04, 2023 at 06:30

Maybugs is a family run, independent gift and homewares company based in East Sussex, selling “beautiful things for fabulous people” that are sourced both locally and across the globe. Owner Greg Rose told us, “In Maybugs, you’ll find some of the biggest giftware brands in the world sitting comfortably alongside items made by a lady down the street in her garden shed.” Being flexible about payment options is important to them too: Greg told us, “Taking Amex in our stores opens a whole new world of customers for us. Not only commercial clients, but also many foreign visitors too.”
The Maybugs story all began with a chat in the garden on a summer’s day five years ago. Greg and his husband, John, had decided that it was time for a change: John wanted to move house, but Greg had bigger plans – he wanted to open their own shop.
With combined experience of over 40 years in retail and customer service, they knew they could make it work, and opened their first store, in Hailsham, within four months. Within the next four years, they opened two further outlets, in Eastbourne and Bexhill, and have won a number of awards.
One of the cornerstones of the Maybugs business is that they are part of the community in each of the towns where they are based, and actively support many local causes and charities – something they were thrilled to have recognised when they won the High Street Hero award at The Small Awards 2023.
Maybugs currently employs 15 local staff from many different walks of life. Greg told us, “We utilise their individual skills to make Maybugs as great as it can be. We believe in investing in our staff to help them reach their fullest potential by training in store, as well as using online courses.”
In July 2023, Maybugs opened a permanent artisan market on the first floor of their Eastbourne store, to supply a free space for local artisans to sell and promote their businesses. The market is open five days a week, and features a plethora of local Sussex-based producers and a selection of UK made products.
Greg told us, “When we were starting out with Maybugs, we were given so many opportunities and help that this is our way of paying forward the favour. We hope that locals and tourists alike will love the concept of a permanent base in the town where you’ll find the best of what Eastbourne has to offer.”
Any small business can apply for a stall, and Greg and John, with their decades of retail experience, will mentor the stall holders, to help them understand how to approach other retailers and succeed in the world of retail.
Sponsoring events, charities and sports in their community is also important to Greg and John. They’ve been the main club sponsor for Hailsham Hockey Club for the past four years and counting and have sponsored the Charity for Kids annual calendar event for the past two years, with plans to do it again in 2024.
In the past, they have proudly sponsored Eastbourne Pride, Hailsham Live, Bexhill Community Coronation Celebrations, and are current sponsors of Bexhill Community Carnival, as well as supporting hundreds of smaller charities, schools and good causes with raffle prizes and goody bag giveaways.
In the run up to Christmas last year, they held an ‘advent calendar’ on their social platforms promoting other local businesses. Alongside this, they also offered free parking for customers who spent over £50 in their shops throughout December, which saw more than 800 shoppers claim their parking charges back from Maybugs and which benefited all the retailers in their towns.
They’re looking forward to celebrating Small Business Saturday in December too – one of the many benefits of the American Express Shop Small campaign – and, unsurprisingly, they’re excited to include other small local businesses in their plans. Greg told us, “We can’t wait to be part of Small Business Saturday! We have some exciting plans underway to make sure the day is extra special and is focused on celebrating all the small businesses in the towns where our stores are located.”
Maybugs’ future plans don’t stop at East Sussex. Greg told us, “Our future involves expansion across Sussex and beyond. We’d also love to expand into premium ladies’ wear and children’s clothing, all with a focus on sustainability where possible. Ideally, we will trade with more local independent businesses too.”
Visit Maybugs at 27 Vicarage Field, Hailsham BN27 1BG, 42 Devonshire Road, Bexhill On Sea TN40 1AX or 129 Terminus Road, Eastbourne BN21 3NR, or shop online here. Click here to find out more about the American Express Shop Small campaign.

Still rocking in Southend on Sea

Tuesday, October 31, 2023 at 06:30

When Emily Vermont and her husband, Gordon, opened Indirock on Southend on Sea’s high street, they had three aims: to bring bouldering to Southend in as accessible a way as possible, to be part of the regeneration of the local high street, and to create opportunities for vulnerable people from the local area.
Since opening their doors, they’ve hosted over 42,000 climbs, and celebrated their first birthday in March 2023. They also held an amazing climbing competition this summer which saw elite climbers gather in Southend from as far afield as Brighton, Kent, London, and Norfolk, and they’ve been hosting a successful work experience scheme for vulnerable young people furthest from the workplace. Emily told us, “It feels like we’ve hit our stride.”
Indirock provides accessible indoor climbing facilities (and a coffee shop) for all ages to enjoy. Its 7500 sq ft high street venue had stood empty for 15 years, but has now been transformed into a light and aspirational space for the whole community to enjoy.
The couple raised the £650k start-up finance through grants, loans and their own savings, and now run Indirock on a not-for-profit basis.
Its central location, in the heart of Southend, means that it is accessible to those who don't drive, as well as those who use wheelchairs or prams. They are also able to attract passers-by who might never have heard of bouldering but who are drawn by what they can see through Indirock’s spectacular 30m wide windows, thus helping to achieve one of the local council's aims of getting more people from the local community active and engaged with sports.
They have given work to a variety of local artists, and prioritise buying from local businesses. They have created their own coffee blend with a local coffee roaster, and source all their cleaning products from local business Southend Refills, which also dramatically reduces their plastic waste. Partnerships include running yoga for climbing classes with a local studio.
Emily also set up a new initiative called Thrive Collective, with the aim of getting local small business owners to meet and support one another. It is a semi-regular meet-up, hosted by a different local venue each time, where they discuss the future of the town and how they can work together to be bigger than the sum of their parts.
Sustainability is at the core of the business, which has seen them recognised by an EU grant for low energy solutions for their low energy lighting and ventilation, and by Surfers Against Sewage as Plastic Free Community Champions.
They are currently preparing for big changes next year as founder and CEO Emily will be on maternity leave from January 2024. Emily told us, “This gives us a great opportunity to promote members of the team and entrust the running of Indirock to them, for a few months at least.” She’s getting ready by doing as much fundraising as possible for new charity outreach projects in 2024, with plans to work to divert young people in Southend from violent crime, support people experiencing homelessness and addictions, and support families on the lowest incomes in the city.
Emily told us, “We will definitely be taking part in the American Express Shop Small campaign again this year. Southend is built on small businesses, so it’s the perfect excuse to celebrate that while joining in a national campaign that encourages people to support independent shops.”
Visit Indirock at First Floor, Victoria Plaza, Southend-on-Sea SS2 5SP or visit them online here. Click here to find out more about the American Express Shop Small campaign.

Nobody's fool

Friday, October 27, 2023 at 09:44

Bob and Vanessa McCulloch always dreamed of doing something that would have a huge local impact, while celebrating their love of great coffee, delicious food, music and the arts.
Tom Foolery Coffee Company, which they opened in 2014, combines all of these passions. The ethos has always been to bring the best in locally sourced food and drink with a warm welcome. They serve their own blend of coffee – Fools Gold – developed in partnership with local suppliers Horsham Roasters, in their vibrant shop overlooking the River Adur.
Family friendly, dog friendly, and supportive of people working from home with free Wi-Fi, Tom Foolery has always had deep roots in the community. It is a core supporter of local events and a key element of the annual Adur Arts Trail and Adur Wordfest. They have provided pop-up restaurant space for start-ups, and have a rolling programme of local art exhibitions, as well as hosting various speakers, shows and comedy nights. They are also part of the national Chatty Café scheme, providing opportunities to socialise in a friendly environment for those who may not always have the chance.
Like many hospitality businesses, Tom Foolery had to adapt and pivot a number of times in order to navigate through the Covid years. After closing during the initial lock down, they came up with a plan to build new counters at the front of the shop – taking advantage of their bi-fold doors which fully open the frontage – and developed a brand new ‘street food’ takeaway menu, becoming a lively presence on the high street with their festival stall approach. As restrictions eased, they developed a branded retail offer, ranging from T-shirts to homemade jams and sauces, to help cover the 30% reduction in available floorspace due to social distancing.
The subsequent years have seen Tom Foolery tackle the Cost of Living and energy crises head on. Investment in energy-efficient high-speed ovens for front and back of house has enabled them to significantly reduce their energy usage, while their community focus has seen them redevelop the menu to offer more affordable options whilst maintaining the high quality they are known for.
Never ones to stand still, recent projects have included the introduction of a booking system, prosecco brunches and a range of artisan cocktails, all of which just add to the fun!
Tom Foolery has been working with American Express since it opened and appreciates the brand’s understanding and support of small businesses. It has taken part in the various Amex marketing initiatives, such as Shop Small with its Cardmember cashback offer, which has proven popular with customers.
Whether you’re popping by for breakfast, brunch or just a fabulous cup of coffee and a cake, Bob and Vanessa always aim to make a big impression for a small business. This has led to invaluable support from their community since they opened in 2014: they are clearly no fools!
Visit Tom Foolery at 6 High Street, Shoreham-by-Sea BN43 5DA or online here. Click here to find out more about the American Express Shop Small campaign.


Latest Posts: