How Mandira’s Kitchen has its eye on spicing up your freezer
Tuesday, December 01 at 07:30
Mandira's Kitchen is an all-woman business based in the Surrey Hills that produces authentic, award-winning Indian freezer meals. All of their food is lovingly handmade using traditional methods, local produce and family recipes, offering wholesome preservative-free home-cooked food with gluten-free, dairy free and vegan alternatives.
Mandira Sarkar moved to the UK without knowing how to cook. She spent 17 years complaining about the lack of proper Indian food, until an exasperated friend told her to put her money where her mouth was. She decided to follow her heart and do something that her parents would heartily disapprove of - give up a well-paying, settled job in her forties to cook for a living!
Mandira’s business now operates out of a converted cowshed, where her team creates award-winning food, offers culinary experiences such as cookery lessons and supper clubs, alongside bespoke catering, and operates a shop boasting freshly brewed chai, the best Malabar coffee and the crispest samosas in town.
Its freshly frozen meals are available at many farm shops and can also be delivered to any UK address, ready to heat from frozen in four minutes. It has also introduced monthly ‘Boxes of Happiness’ - the UK's first Indian meal subscription service.
The team are firm believers in using local produce as far as possible and work closely with their partners to actively support and showcase the best of British produce. They are also passionate about protecting the environment, and use no single use plastic - even their meals are sold in cardboard trays.
Mandira says: “It’s great to see Amex supporting small businesses like mine with their Shop Small campaign. We absolutely need everyone to get behind us right now.”
Mandira’s Kitchen has been awarded the Trademark of Surrey Hills Enterprises, which celebrates high quality businesses and organisations that have demonstrated a high percentage of local provenance, consistent quality, environmental sustainability and support for the community and environment.
Mandira’s plan is to conquer the UK one freezer at a time – so watch out!
Visit Mandira’s Kitchen at Silent Pool, Shere Rd, Albury, Guildford GU5 9BW or shop online here. Click here to find out more about the American Express Shop Small campaign.
Wild about keeping it local and healthy in Bristol
Tuesday, November 24 at 18:12
Now approaching its fortieth year of trading in the same location - just off Bristol’s Whiteladies Road - Wild Oats health store is an institution in the local community. It offers the best quality natural, organic, fair trade foods and ethically sound products, as well as information on healthy and ecologically conscious lifestyles.
The shop has been owned by Mike and Loes Abrahams since it was established in 1981, inspired by their passion for the ‘wild and wonderful’ world of healthy wholefoods. It was a complete change of career for Mike, who stepped away from the European space agency to set up the business.
There were few shops of its kind around in those days, but the demand for healthy wholefoods was growing rapidly and their leap of faith paid off: the shop went quickly from strength to strength.
The store now offers a huge selection of health and wellbeing products; award-winning organic breads, natural and organic foods, a wide range of chilled and frozen products, extensive deli, organic wines and beers (suitable for both vegetarians and vegans), natural health products, nutritional supplements, homeopathic remedies and aromatherapy, bath and beauty items, natural baby care, cosmetics, and scoop bins for loose buying of grains, pulses, dried fruits and nuts.
Marketing manager Jordan says that they took part in Amex’s Shop Small ‘spend £10, get £5 back’ offer between June and September 2020 and value the Shop Small initiative
. “Anything which helps customers to find us and encourages people to shop small and shop local is incredibly valuable for small businesses like ours, as well as benefiting our customers.”
Wild Oats always aims to cater to all and to offer a complete shopping experience. It runs a free service for those seeking advice on supplements and dietary advice, and their staff live the ethos of the store and are well placed to give whole body advice.
Wild Oats prides itself on using local suppliers wherever possible, carefully sourcing produce from honey, to deli items and a variety of other groceries from across the Bristol and Somerset region. It also works with other nearby businesses to promote the area, share products and use local tradesmen. It also recently launched a ‘Buy 2 Take 1’ campaign to support their local community, which encourages customers to buy an extra product each time they shop, which will then be donated to a local charity.
Looking to the future, Wild Oats has recently branched out into e-commerce, and also plans to open a second bricks and mortar store in the future. It’s clearly time for them to spread their wings even further!
Visit Wild Oats at 9-11 Lower Redland Road, Redland, Bristol BS6 6TB or online here. Click here to find out more about the American Express Shop Small campaign.
Award winning small business announced at Blue Tie celebration
Thursday, October 15 at 22:04
We always knew that this year’s Blue Tie – an annual event which celebrates all of our SmallBiz100, past and present – was going to be a little different this year, but it was fantastic to see small businesses up and down the country didn’t let the pandemic stop the party.
For the past two years the event has taken place at the Phoenix Arts Club
, itself a previous SmallBiz100
, in London. Of course, due to the current Covid-19 situation this was not to be this year, but we were determined not to let social distancing dampen our spirits and moved our event online.
Over a hundred SmallBiz100 showed up to our virtual event, rocking their blue tie and enjoying delicious cocktails from Bows n’ Toes
, delivered in advance by post. We were also treated to some truly amazing online entertainment by the Phoenix Arts Club, Jo Porter’s ‘Kitchen Dancing
’ and magician David Deanie, creator of Around the Box
We were also delighted to announce Yvonne Gorman, owner of Essential Print Services
in Derby as winner of the Francesca Kemp Award for Small Business.
Fran’s business, Crafty Revolution was one of our SmallBiz100 in 2014, and after Fran sadly passed away from cancer in 2015, the award was created in her memory to honour a small business that demonstrates an outstanding contribution both to their local area and to the UK small business community. Traditionally announced at the annual Blue Tie Ball, the award is always a huge celebration – exactly as Fran would have wanted.
Essential Print Services actually supplied the Blue Tie t-shirts worn by many of the guests – just one way in which Yvonne has supported the small business community in Derby and further afield. Yvonne was selected as a SmallBiz100 all the way back in 2013, following which she was nominated for Small Business Saturday UK Champion, which saw her visiting Downing Street not once but twice. Last year she was named as one of our 12 Small Business Heroes, making her one of the public faces of the campaign.
To add to the excitement of the evening, fellow Derby small businessman Owen Conti from Code56
hid outside Yvonne’s house throughout the ceremony so that he could surprise her with the award presentation, which was live streamed to the rest of the attendees.
Michelle Ovens MBE, Director of Small Business Saturday UK said: “Yvonne is an absolute superstar, who does so much to support small businesses both in her local area of Derby and across the country. She is always generous with her time and goes above and beyond in supporting Small Business Saturday and getting others involved each year. She is a special person who really embraces the community spirit that we see running through small businesses across the UK. Congratulations to Yvonne for her fantastic achievement in winning this award.”
We were delighted that so many SmallBiz100 past and present were able to join us, despite the unusual circumstances surrounding this year’s event: their resilience and good humour in the face of adversity reflects the strengths of the hundreds of brilliant small businesses all across the UK. And many thanks as ever to everyone who worked so hard to make the event such a resounding success.
Free leadership training for SME leaders delivered by leading Business Schools
Thursday, August 13 at 13:21
Anne Kiem from the Small Business Charter talks about the new government training programme for small business leaders. She outlines some of the benefits of registering for the programme.
The Small Business Leadership Programme is something we are incredibly proud to deliver. The scheme will support senior leaders to enhance their business’s resilience, aid recovery from the impact of COVID-19, and develop potential for future growth and productivity. Through our Small Business Charter network of 20 leading business schools we are able to bring this programme to life to help small businesses survive this awful pandemic and enable them to thrive. From business survival to growth in 90 minutes per week The programme is a ten-week course delivered online and government-funded to be free for business leaders of companies of 5-249 people. It’s designed to run alongside your work schedule, with one 90-minute webinar per week on a key practical topic plus online group work with like-minded business leaders in your area. The programme was launched by the government’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy last week. It’s already proving very popular, so if you’re interested you should register now. Places are limited and we don’t want supporters of Small Business Saturday to miss out. If you participate in the programme you will be supported to: Recover from the impact of COVID-19 and plan for the future of your business Develop your strategic capability to plan for the future of your business, to increase resilience and ensure that your business is in a great position to recover from the impact of COVID-19. Learn techniques for successful business planning with guidance from the experts. Boost your business performance and growth. Improve risk management and efficiency
The course will show how innovation can impact productivity, helping you to respond and recover from challenges, leaving you better equipped to cope with the unexpected. Build a strategic approach to operations management including the use of digital technologies.
Build lasting relationships with small business leaders Meet and work with other small business leaders in your area on the course. Network with like-minded business leaders and bounce ideas off each other. Forge business friendships and support each other for mutual benefit. Build leadership confidence and effectiveness and create an innovative and agile organisation Reflect on your leadership style and improve your business’s performance. Learn how to think creatively, grow in confidence to drive your business forward. England is a nation of small business and entrepreneurship and you will learn vital skills and grow confidence to be able to shape your business in a post-COVID world. How do I get involved? Sign up now! For more details on this exciting programme see here and to register click here. Good luck everybody!
Six things you can do in your business right now
Thursday, June 18 at 23:30
Here are six things you can do right now to support your business during the current situation.
1. Focus on your product
Even during economic downturns, people do spend. People right now are buying for three main reasons: to protect (themselves, their health and their family); to connect (lots of gifting going on at the moment while people can’t see their loved ones in person); and to distract (whether themselves, by taking on a new hobby, or by keeping their kids occupied).
There's even something called the "lipstick effect", after researchers noticed an upturn in lipstick sales during a recession because it is a cheap way to cheer yourself up. Small luxuries are selling better than ever.
Selling products is always about seduction. It's always about finding the products that your customer really, really wants to buy. But during tough times, it’s more important than ever.
Start by taking a look at your data. What are your best sellers? Then think about your products. Are you moving them on? Are you offering your customer something new? This is now the time for you to be really critical and honest about your products - is there anything you can do better?
And think about the main motivators that people have right now for buying. Can you combine connect and distract, for example, by offering gift kits that people can send to loved ones to keep them busy?
2. Manage your stock
You want to make yourself as nimble as possible with only the stock you need.
If you've had something in your business for a while and it's finally sold, you don't have to replace it. You should only be re-buying in best sellers.
Ideally, every business should have cash reserves - money to see them through difficult times, and that is really hard to do if you put all your money into stock. If stock management was critical before, it is absolutely vital now.
This is also the perfect time to go through your inventory and check your stock records are accurate, as well as review what stock you think you will realistically sell for the rest of the year. Are there any seasonal items that won’t sell and could be put away for next spring? Do you have the stock you need going into the summer and autumn selling periods?
3. Avoid knee-jerk promotions
If your sales are lower than they've been, it’s because we're in very uncertain times and nothing is worse for sales than uncertainty.
If you knee-jerk and start running discounts to get sales going again, there is a danger that you will come out of this (hopefully temporary) situation having taught your customer that you are a promotion-driven brand.
In the future, they would be trained to wait until you go on promotion rather than buying at full price. You want to avoid this at any cost.
4. Have a really honest look at your numbers
It’s time to have a really honest look at your sales forecast.
If you don't have the sales forecast, now is a great time for you to get one, because you need to understand how your cash flow will look over the next few months.
Knowledge is power. If you can map out the next few months based on a realistic and a worst case scenario, then that’s going to be a lot less uncomfortable than ignoring the problem and hoping it goes away.
5. Be proactive
Think about what you can do to improve your business. Consider all of those areas of development that you've thought about previously but never had time to put into action.
Think about using this time to get yourself fit for the future. Things like your sales forecasting and your stock control are basic business management principles that you can work on and improve, but also look at your business and be proactive about what else you can improve.
6. Stay close to your customers
It's going to be bumpy. You're going to feel demoralised - but don't retreat.
Think of selling as service. How could you help your customers? How can you meet them where they are right now? So if they're uncertain, or they're stressed, talk to them. The people who go out there and really connect with people and meet them where they are will be the ones who continue to make sales.
In summary: don't panic, focus on your products. Manage your stock. Avoid knee jerk promotions. Have a really honest look at your numbers. Have a really good look at your business and identify areas that you could work on to get ready to come out of this stronger than ever, and stay close to your customers.
If you are proactive and action focused, if you stay positive and you keep showing up, then the outcome will be so much better for you and for your business.
Catherine Erdly is the founder of Future Retail Consulting, and is on a mission to help people create the life they want by growing successful product-based businesses. She helps them make money by developing a clear strategy focused on their product offering, their pricing, and their sales channels. Head over to Future Retail Consulting for your FREE road map for business success.
How can my employees return to work safely and legally after Covid-19?
Friday, June 12 at 06:00
With recent updates from the Government stipulating that a phased return to work for some businesses will now begin, many questions will be raised.
- How can I return my employees back to work safely?
- What legal obligations do I have for their health and safety?
- What if my employees refuse to return to work?
While information from the Government is released daily, we know that it can be challenging to get clear answers.
We’ve put together some of the key points to support you, highlighting considerations you must make as an employer when preparing to return your staff to the workplace.
As an employer, you have both a moral and legal obligation to your employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSAW), which includes providing adequate protection for infectious diseases. Regardless of this unprecedented situation, this law still stands and, if employers do not adhere, they could find themselves facing employment tribunals and criminal charges.
Your employee's rights
Employees have the right under HSAW to:
Employers could face not only employment claims against them for mismanagement of H&S, but could also face criminal charges including negligence and manslaughter if reasonable action to protect employees is not taken.
- Leave work if they have reasonable belief there is an imminent or immediate danger to them, including encouraging others to do the same;
- Report Health and Safety breaches through whistle blowing;
- Claim for compensation through potential employment tribunals and/or civil court.
Your obligations as an employer
As an employer, the things you will need to consider when returning your employees to work are:
- The current government guidelines and guidance;
- Changes, whether temporary or permanent, that need to be made to internal policies, including absence reporting, flexible working, travel/expenses, working from home;
- The decisions on employee returns must be made with consideration to individual circumstances such as discriminatory decisions, unnecessary stress and psychological harm;
- Just issuing a policy or minor training is not enough to satisfy employers' liability allegations in tribunal cases: communication must be documented and the policies evolve over time;
- Just because everyone is affected by Coronavirus does not mean that claims will be unlikely, especially under H&S: it is actually the opposite, as tribunals are more likely to see negligence being claimed as information regarding employers' requirements are unchanged in law;
- Records should be kept regarding temporary business changes, communication and individual agreements;
- Risk assessments must be completed as part of employers' obligations through both the Employment Rights Act and HSAW;
- Provisions such as Occupational Health and reasonable adjustments may have a cost associated to them, and therefore businesses should be aware of their obligations and the cost implications they may have.
The most important thing you can do is to keep the channels of communication with your employees open. If they feel they are being listened to and that you are taking their concerns on board, this will help you to get your employees back to work in a way to meet both their contractual obligations and your obligations as an employer. If in doubt, please seek professional support and get in touch to book a free 30-minute consultation here. Would you like to know more? Sign up for the replay of Altum HR's 60-minute webinar "Getting Your Employees Back to Work Safely" here. Altum HR is a high quality HR outsourcing solutions consultancy based in Cheshire that specialises in all aspects of HR, employee development, employment law and payroll, all with a refined legal focus.
What is it really like being a #SmallBiz100? – Stamptastic spill the beans
Thursday, June 04 at 22:36
What’s it really like being a #SmallBiz100 and what kind of opportunities can you expect to enjoy? We caught up with Fran and Emma of former #SmallBiz100 Stamptastic, who make and sell personalised rubber stamps for school uniform, sports kit and more, to find out.
Meeting Vince Cable MP
In October 2019, Stamptastic ventured out of their base in Richmond to neighbouring Twickenham to meet up with Vince Cable MP. As well as being a former Secretary of State for Business, Vince is also a huge supporter of Small Business Saturday and was instrumental in getting it off the ground.
Vince said, “It is the small business community which keeps the British economy going, contributing most in job creation and taxation. And Richmond is exceptionally important for the wealth of entrepreneurial talent, of which Stamptastic is such a good example. That is why I am again supporting Small Business Saturday.”
Vince even had a go at stamping some kit with a personalised stamp that Fran and Emma brought along with them!
Mentoring other small businesses on the Small Business Saturday Bus Tour
The Small Business Saturday Bus Tour usually makes its way across the length and breadth of the UK throughout November each year, stopping off at 27 cities along the way and meeting up with hundreds of small businesses nationwide for networking, mentoring, education, support and a good old chinwag. All of the current #SmallBiz100 are invited to add their logo to the map on the side of the bus, reaching thousands of potential new customers as it tours the country. At the time of writing, we're not sure what form this year's bus tour will take, but we'll be sharing more details nearer the time, so stay tuned!
Fran spoke to several small business owners during the bus stop in Walthamstow, sharing tips and advice she’d picked up during her time as a small business owner and getting to know her small business neighbours. She says “Although I was a bit apprehensive if I could be of any assistance (imposter syndrome, anyone else suffer from this?) to the mentees, I really enjoyed being a mentor for the Small Business Saturday Bus Tour. I have since looked into undertaking official training so that I can be a better mentor so watch this space!”
Visiting the House of Lords
In early December 2019, shortly before Small Business Saturday itself, the #SmallBiz100 were invited to an incredible reception at the House of Lords.
The #SmallBiz100 enjoyed a speech by Zoe Hardman, television and radio broadcaster, podcast host and mother, about her passion for her small business and Small Business Saturday, as well as getting to meet current and former #SmallBiz100 – and enjoying some wine and canapés too of course.
In summary …
What did Fran and Emma make of their experience, and would they recommend applying to be a #SmallBiz100? Fran says, “Thank you SO SO much to everyone at Small Business Saturday! Ever since our paths crossed, good things have come our way and Emma and I are eternally grateful for the all the hard work you do. If you own a Small Business we would really REALLY recommend applying for Small Business Saturday 2020!”
Why apply to be a #SmallBiz100 2020?
Thursday, May 28 at 22:08
This year has been a difficult one for everyone, and small businesses are no exception – and that’s why 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 2020 will open on Monday, 1st June. If you've been wondering whether it's for you, read on to find out more.
First things first – what is the SmallBiz100?
In a nutshell, we choose 100 brilliant small businesses and promote one every day in the run up to Small Business Saturday, which takes place in 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. At the current time, with online sales increasingly taking a front seat, it can give you a huge boost and take your business to the next level.
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 – we’re always thrilled to share good news from our former SmallBiz100 businesses.
Why apply to take part?
When we speak to our previous SmallBiz100 participants, the one benefit which comes up time and time again is the support network which it provides. Running your own small business can be lonely at times, and it can be hard to know where to turn for help and advice from those who really know what you’re experiencing – especially at times as unprecedented as these. 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.
Whatever your experience has been in 2020 – whether you’ve had to reimagine your business to fit the new world we find ourselves in, whether you’ve had to shut up shop temporarily to protect your staff and yourselves, or whether you’ve tapped into a whole new market – it provides a unique opportunity to drive your business forward.
What if I’ve had to close my business temporarily due to Covid-19? Can I still apply?
Absolutely YES! We recognise that 2020 has come with a huge range of challenges, most of which none of us have ever had to face before, and we’re doing our best to support small businesses through these uncharted waters.
When it comes to the #SmallBiz100, what we’re interested in is the story of your small business: what makes it tick? How does it fit in to your local community? What makes it special?
Even if you feel that your business is not yet ready for SmallBiz100 or you’re not selected as part of the 100, there are still numerous benefits to getting involved. Simply registering with Small Business Saturday can improve your business’s visibility, making you searchable via the Small Business Saturday app and via the business finder on the Small Business Saturday website, which is regularly promoted across social media. It’s also a great place to promote special offers, and to pick up tips and advice from other small businesses via our blog.
We can’t wait to present the SmallBiz100 2020! Make 2020 the year that you take your small business to the next level and take part in something amazing: apply now for SmallBiz100 2020.
Why embracing technology should be your New Year resolution
Thursday, January 09 at 00:10
What are your business goals for 2020? Or even for the decade to come?
As small businesses up and down the country take stock of the last year and look ahead to the future, there will undoubtedly be lots of New Year resolutions aimed at saving time and money and driving growth.
Embracing technology is definitely something that should be at the top of the to-do list for any small business with these aims.
The pace of technological advances means that small firms who embrace innovation today will be tomorrow’s success stories.
It is estimated that improving SME digital skills would lead to the biggest productivity gain in the UK, at around £18.8 billion
Whether it is the powerful insight offered from data analytics, or the efficiencies delivered by marketing automation, and accounting software, many technologies can really benefit small business.
These types of innovations can sound complicated to adopt, but they are surprisingly simple and cost-effective. With the right strategy they can have a big impact.
Overcoming ‘tech overwhelm’
Despite this, many business owners can feel understandably overwhelmed by the technology out there, not knowing where to start and worried about the time it will take to set up and train staff, along with the cost to run.
This is why the Small Business Charter
(SBC) has just launched a new government-funded programme, Leading to Grow
, to help microbusiness owners to engage with and implement digital and new technologies that could support their businesses to grow.
The SBC brings business schools, small business and entrepreneurs together to exchange knowledge and drive local economic growth.
We are focusing on microbusinesses (which employ 1-9 people) with this programme, because they are particularly well placed to scale-up.
Going for Growth
The Leading to Grow programme will combine workshops and one-to-one advice on how to adopt new technology, including reviewing new technologies that can help you to grow your business. Tailored support will be provided, along with the opportunity to learn from and connect with a network of small businesses and business leaders based in your region.
Starting from the end of January the programme will be free for microbusinesses and available through fifteen business schools across England. It has been made possible through funding from the Business Basics Programme run by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Innovate UK.
With so many areas being covered across England – including the North, Midlands, London and the South East - it is hoped that this programme will help a large number of microbusinesses and support economic growth across many regions.
to find a business school in your area and apply for a new year business boost.
Anne Kiem is Executive Director of the Small Business Charter and Chief Executive of the Chartered Association of Business Schools.
Starting a new business: financial tips for start ups
Tuesday, December 17 at 00:30
Starting a business is an exciting prospect. It gives you freedom, a sense of purpose and the chance to follow your passion. You might even make some money along the way. But giving up the safety and security of a 9 to 5 job isn’t always easy and there will be many challenges to overcome.
As Managing Director of Start Up Loans, I have the privilege of meeting entrepreneurs up and down the country who have taken the plunge and used the funding and mentoring we provide to set up their own business. While they’re all unique, they’re united in their determination, self-belief and ambition.
Here are my top tips for success:
A solid business plan
This may seem obvious, but it’s important to have a clear, realistic and sensible business plan that provides all the relevant information that a potential lender needs to gauge the prospects of the business. The plan should include business objectives, a strategy for reaching these objectives, potential roadblocks and market opportunities.
Through our network of Delivery Partners, Start Up Loans provides support with your loan application to help you to get your business plan and cash-flow forecasts into good shape. If you’re unsure how to structure your plan, Start Up Loans can help. You’ll find downloadable business plan templates and other helpful documents on our website
Raising or sourcing affordable finance is often a challenge when starting a business. Commercial lenders generally consider start-ups to be too risky and, as a result, don’t serve this part of the market well. Aspiring business owners often use their own resources and savings – or those of family, friends or close associates – in order to get their business up and running.
But don’t be deterred. There are alternative sources of funding specifically designed for people wanting to start their own business – such as Start Up Loans, which is part of the British Business Bank. The Government-backed programme exists to support and empower small business owners across the UK, by providing fixed-interest loans of £500 to £25,000. Since 2012, it has lent over £542 million through 67,862 loans.
Mentoring: getting the right advice
A mentor is key, whether it’s a family friend who has started a business, or a professional adviser introduced through a third party. Mentors can provide insight and perspective that a business owner may not be able to see themselves. Start Up Loans places great emphasis on mentoring and support, and once an applicant has received a Start Up Loan, they have access to a free expert business mentor for 12 months. More than seven in 10 of our loan recipients have told us that the mentoring they have received from Start Up Loans had a positive impact on their business.