Small Business Saturday Blog

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.
Boosting productivity
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.
Click here 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.
Affordable funding
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.
Richard Bearman is Managing Director of Start Up Loans.

Top 10 security tips for small businesses storing personal data

Thursday, December 12 at 00:30

As Small Business Saturday puts small businesses and enterprises in the spotlight, it’s an ideal opportunity to shine a light on some of the ICO’s guidance to help make sure you are handling personal data safely and securely.
In celebration of Small Business Saturday 2019, the ICO launched a new SME website hub, developed to make it easy for sole traders, small businesses and SMEs to find the essential guidance they need to understand their GDPR obligations.
Almost every small business handles personal information and your customers share data online every time they visit your website, search for or buy something, or send you an email.
This information belongs to them. You should only use it in ways they would reasonably expect and it should be kept safe.
Since the advent of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is the new data protection law that came into force last year, more people are aware of their privacy rights in relation to personal data and how it’s being used and looked after.
Good information handling makes good business sense. When personal information is accurate, relevant and safe it can save you time and money which, in turn, builds trust and confidence with your customers and staff.
The key to achieving this is making sure the personal data you hold is secure. We’ve set out our top 10 tips for businesses that store personal information on a network:
1. Know your data – start with an inventory – understand what personal data you have, make sure you know where it is, how it is stored and who has access to it.
2. Make sure you have a data security policy – or ensure your existing data security policies and procedures are up to date and reflect the needs of your business.
3. Train your staff – put your policies and procedures into action. One of the main causes of data breaches is human error. Make sure you provide regular and adequate training for your staff.
4. Change default passwords – any new devices you buy come with default passwords, which are well-known by attackers. Using your own passwords and limiting the number of failed login attempts can deter attacks on your systems.
5. Limit access - each user must have, and use, their own username and password. Their account should have permissions appropriate to the job they are carrying out at the time. Access should be cancelled immediately if a staff member leaves the organisation or is absent for long periods.
6. Secure your wi-fi - allowing untrusted devices to connect to your network or using work devices on untrusted networks outside your office can put personal data at risk.
7. Install a firewall – if you store personal data on a network your first line of defence should be a well‐configured firewall. It can stop breaches happening before they get deep into your network.
8. Update your malware protection - you should have up‐to‐date anti‐virus or anti‐malware products regularly scanning your network to prevent or detect threats.
9. Regularly back-up your data - back‐ups should not be permanently visible to the rest of the network and at least one of your back‐ups should be off‐site. Don’t leave back-up drives unattended and lock them away when not in use. If you store data in the cloud, make sure you know what data is there.
10. Think about encryption - ensure that personal data can only be accessed by authorised users by encrypting it.
What to do when there’s a personal data breach:
A personal data breach is broadly a security incident that has affected the confidentiality, integrity or availability of personal data.
If your business experiences a breach, your first priority should be to mitigate any risks to those affected, for example by resetting passwords.
If the breach is likely to be a high risk to people, you need to quickly notify those affected and advise how they can protect themselves.
You must also let us know within 72 hours of becoming aware of it. We will take details and advise you of any further steps you can take to mitigate the risks and prevent similar breaches in the future.
If you think the breach is unlikely to pose a risk to people, you don’t need to report it to us, but you must still document the details and your rationale for not reporting.
If you want to report a breach, or you’re unsure about any aspect of managing a breach, you can ring our helpline on 0303 123 1113.
We also have a self-assessment form you can use when deciding whether to report a breach to us.
There is much more information on reporting personal data breaches on our website. We have also created a webinar which you can watch.
Our resources
There is a wealth of guidance and resources on our website for small businesses.
If you are unsure if you need to follow data protection law you might want take our short quiz first.
You will also find a self-assessment checklist which you can use to improve your understanding of data protection. It will also suggest some practical actions you can take to make sure you are keeping people’s personal data secure.
By meeting your obligations, you'll enhance your business's reputation and increase customer and employee confidence. It shows you mean business.
Faye Spencer is Head of Customer Contact, Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

From architect to artisan at the Dumfries Larder

Monday, December 02 at 22:33

When Louise Matheson and her partner moved to Dumfries in 2013, she was disappointed that such a large, historic market town had no delicatessen in its town centre. Although an architect by trade, Louse was passionate about good quality food and drink and found herself longing to run her own deli. In late 2016, she decided to pursue her dream, raising capital and leasing a suitable property on Dumfries High Street. The Dumfries Larder finally opened its doors in May 2018.
Within the first year of trading, the Dumfries Larder was a finalist in the Guild of Fine Food's Shop of the Year Awards, and was specially commended in Dumfries & Galloway Life Magazine's Awards (Retailer category).
Today, the shop stocks a huge range of speciality and fine foods. They specialise in cheese, stocking over 50 local, Scottish, British and European cheeses at any one time alongside accompaniments such as oatcakes, biscuits, chutneys, wines and beers. They also have a selection of hand-picked British gins and rums, plus teas, coffees, biscuits, cakes, pasta, rice, curry kits, sauces, chocolate, and gourmet gadgets and gifts.
Louise has met several local food producers through business networking events and farmers' markets, and is always on the lookout for delicious new local foods. Local cheeses come from The Ethical Dairy, Loch Arthur and Kedar & Galloway Cheeses, and they also sell locally-made beef jerky, beers, ciders, gins, chocolates, jams, chutneys, pates and eggs. As well as tagging local producers on social media, the shop also runs tasting events which have included local "Meet the Maker" tastings.
Louise says "Here at The Dumfries Larder, we always love to give a warm welcome to our customers, and are doubly delighted to be part of the American Express campaign which incentivises Cardmembers to Shop Small. It feels great to be one of this year's #SmallBiz100, an important campaign which American Express was instrumental in founding, and in which they continue to be such a vital supporter of independent businesses such as ours."
Visit The Dumfries Larder at 170-172 High St, Dumfries DG1 2BA or online here. The Dumfries Larder 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.

Putting down new Roots in Abergele

Wednesday, November 27 at 22:43

Roots Café, in the small market town of Abergele, has been around for as long as locals can remember.
Originally part of the Gwrych Castle estate and gardens, it’s been passed between just three different families since the 1950s, before ending up in the care of Kieren Brownhill’s family for around 17 years. Little had changed at the cafe over the years until Kieren returned from four years of living abroad in South East Asia and decided to shake things up with a total rebrand, starting with the menu.
Kieren says: “It was such a big change for us when we tried to go healthy. We had always been a greasy spoon café, so we actually lost our entire customer base at the start and we basically got boycotted by most of the town, even though we were going to be more environmentally friendly and would be making healthy food. We had to go through a three to four-month period of that, but we just kept advertising and slowly but surely it took off and we’ve been busier than ever.”
He adds: “Our philosophy is pretty simple: we love good food and love to share those great experiences with people. We source produce that’s organic, in season and always fresh. There’s something for everyone and we want everyone to enjoy it here.”
It’s an approach which has won them rave reviews and the Best of North Wales award at the Welsh Cafe Awards 2019.
The rebrand went on to include a new aesthetic, a new head chef, Simon Roberts, extended opening hours, more staff, and a brand new special evening menu.
Kieren also wanted a more modern payments system and when comparing a few different card machines came across Square. Kieren says: “The table mapping is a huge help, especially the colour coding. We’ve had quite a lot of new staff come in, and it’s really helped them to keep track of who’s in the restaurant and how long they’ve been there for and which tables are coming up free. To get all those features in a POS system has just been fantastic.”
One thing that won’t change, however, is the cafe’s commitment to a sustainable operation by supporting local British farmers and expanding their own home-grown offering: they already have an abundance of apple, pear, and cherry trees in the Roots Café garden, and are working on building their own polytunnel to grow even more fresh fruit and vegetables. Kieren says: “That’s the big thing for us, local suppliers. Sourcing our produce locally is fresher, healthier and keeps the money in the community.”
Visit Roots Café at 71 Market St, Abergele, LL22 7BP or see their website here. Square is proud to support Small Business Saturday. This article was first published on Square's blog: read the original here.

How Amazon is helping one woman tackle taboos and period poverty

Friday, November 22 at 00:30

Julie Colan of Secret Whispers is on a mission to reduce the number of women suffering from incontinence, tackling this embarrassing yet avoidable condition through the use of her unique Kegel exercise kit along with support and education on pelvic floor issues.
Julie says: “After giving birth to my second child, I was shocked by the lack of suitable products or information to help improve my pelvic floor. I was also horrified that women are led to believe it is ‘normal’ to cross their legs when they laugh or sneeze. Further research showed that (at least) 50% of women have weak pelvic floor issues, and urine incontinence after childbirth is almost expected.”
She adds: “I also found that this was a totally taboo subject. Women were not talking about it. When I asked other mums at school about their pelvic floors, they were hesitant at first, but I learned that most wore pads and believed that this was normal after childbirth. After more research it became very apparent that there was a total lack of information and support available to women regarding their pelvic floors.”
Julie now aims to change this, and has launched her own company, Secret Whispers, one of the top 100 trail-blazing businesses in the UK this year.
In January 2018, after failing to find a suitable product that could help strengthen her pelvic floor, Julie decided to design her own, creating a Kegel exercise kit with a six step programme that challenges the pelvic floor by gradually and safely increasing the weights being used. As her first ever product, this was a huge undertaking and everything was learned by doing it herself and researching what was necessary. Julie talks of months spent speaking to manufacturers, graphic designers, photographers, shipping companies and more all over the world, often into the small hours of the morning, all while juggling the responsibilities of caring for two small children.
Finally, seven months after Julie decided to design her own kit, the finished product arrived in the UK. Julie says: “The response was amazing. Women loved that I was talking about this taboo issue and delighted to learn that there now was a product available to help them improve the strength of their pelvic floor.”
Julie arranged for a distribution warehouse in Blackpool to take her shipments, inspect them and then send them to Amazon’s warehouse.
She says: “Being able to sell on Amazon has been instrumental in me reaching such a huge geographical area. The reach is tens of millions! You don’t even need a website. With a seller account, I can sell in the UK and the EU, and now plan to expand into Australia, Canada and India, as there has been such demand from these countries.”
Julie adds: “Amazon makes the whole process extremely easy. My warehouse sends the shipment in to Amazon. Amazon then stores in their warehouse and distributes various quantities to their other warehouse locations, enabling prime next day delivery for customers. Once an order has been placed Amazon picks, packs and ships to the customer. They literally do the heavy lifting for me.”
“Not having to worry about warehouse space, picking, packing and shipping to customers enables me to concentrate on the other aspects of my business. Similarly, when a customer orders on my website, Amazon has the feature of ‘Create a fulfilment order’. Through the Amazons seller central web interface we can place this order and Amazon fulfils it, picking, packing and shipping to the customer.”
“Launching on Amazon was instrumental to my brand awareness. This year we have won many awards and this in turn has gone a long way to raising our visibility and reaching more women.”
Julie is now about to launch her second product, the Secret Whispers CupIT Kit, which will also tackle period poverty by donating a cup for every box sold.
Visit Secret Whispers on Amazon here.

Creating a community: What it means to be a small business

Thursday, November 14 at 23:00

Wool for Ewe is a family-run bricks and mortar yarn shop that promises “Yarns for every budget and patterns for every style”. Located in the Rosemount area of Aberdeen, they specialise in yarns and accessories for knitters and crocheters, and have just won the prestigious Best Independent Yarn Store for Scotland award for an incredible fifth time.
The shop was created in 2007 by Kathleen Fraser, who had always wanted to open a wool shop, with the dream of knitting all day. She says that after 13 years, she is still trying to catch up on her knitting!
When Kathy had the opportunity to open a shop locally, she grabbed her chance and created Wool for Ewe: a space full of creativity and inspiration for seasoned knitters and beginners alike.
Kathy has since been joined by her daughter, Faye, and together they have moved to bigger premises (still within Rosemount), won multiple awards and established one of the top wool shops to visit in the UK. They pride themselves on the level of customer service they provide to each and every one of their customers, and have earned themselves a loyal customer base as a result.
Kathy says: “We read weekly of the health benefits of wool crafts and its effect on mindfulness. Many of our customers will come in on a 'down day' because they want to be in their happy place, and that is what Wool for Ewe is for so many. We have created a welcoming space where our customers are our family. As we near our 13th year in business, we are now seeing new knitters in those that we helped dress as babies, and it really does make the struggles of owning a small business worth it.”
The mother-daughter duo are keen to promote other local small businesses where they can: for example, when launching a new range of Scottish wool recently, they chose to use Scottish produce for their event, with cheese from local cheesemonger, the Gourmet Cheese Company, and drinks from Fierce Beer Co, a local brewery specialising in craft beer. They also try to support the British wool industry and local dyers whenever possible.
Kathy says: “We are delighted to be part of the #SmallBiz100, as we are passionate about supporting local business. We have taken part in Small Business Saturday for a few years now and promoted it within our community, which is full of small specialist businesses like ours. The support of campaigns like Small Business Saturday and Yarn Shop Day allow small businesses to continue to provide excellent customer service as well as keeping communities thriving.”
The small family owned businesses in the Rosemount area work together as a group called 'Rosemount Rocks', and have organised events such as Easter Egg hunts and Hallloween trails. Their current project is organising a Rosemount Rocks hamper full of donations from local shops as a means of promoting all the businesses in the area.
Kathy says: “You already know that by shopping local you are supporting your community. If you use your high streets, they will flourish. Support small businesses so that we have the time and dedication to make our shops a place where we love to work and you love to visit.”
Wool for Ewe is taking part in American Express’ Shop Small campaign. Visit them at 83-85 Rosemount Place, Aberdeen AB25 2YE or click here to find them on the on the Shop Small Map. Click here to visit the Wool for Ewe website, and click here to find out more about the AMEX Shop Small campaign.

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.
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.

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