Small Business Saturday Blog

Zero to hero in Nottingham

Wednesday, November 30 at 07:00

Sarah Maloy is passionate about empowering people to live life more sustainably. She set up her business, Shop Zero, a zero waste store based in Nottingham, because she was concerned about plastic pollution and waste and wanted to do something proactive to help.
Shop Zero has a brick and mortar store that offers plenty of eco-friendly alternatives for household goods, personal care items and even gifts, helping customers to reduce their plastic footprint. Local people can come to do their weekly shop, reusing their own containers to refill food, household and personal care detergents. Those further afield are welcome to shop online: Sarah ships orders nationwide using plastic-free packaging.
Sarah told us that her business is an extension of her life and her strong connection with nature: she grew up learning about the habitats of nearby Sherwood Forest. She originally started out managing sustainability projects, before working as a primary teacher after having children. However, the plastic pollution crisis shocked her into action. She started to research zero waste and soon realised that weren't any local options for plastic-free shopping. She set up a plastic-free food pop-up in early 2019.
Sarah thoroughly investigates the supply chain of her products to minimise waste and plastic wherever possible, and where possible, she works with closed loop suppliers such as SESI, Miniml and Fill, who take back their bulk containers for refill. She chooses suppliers who pay their employees a fair wage and guarantee good working conditions. She offers affordable organic options wherever possible, as they are better for the environment and for the people growing and consuming the products. She told us, “My ethos is to think like nature does and only have items in store that are truly biodegradable. All the packaging is recyclable or home compostable.” The store is mainly plant-based and completely cruelty-free. All products are eco-friendly and there are minimal petrochemical products.
She also enjoys opportunities to collaborate with other local sustainable businesses, and to stock products created by local sustainable makers. She regularly runs workshops and pop-ups in collaboration with local businesses, telling us, “Having been a teacher, community education and advocacy is embedded in my business. My business is customer-led and my aim is to inform and introduce ideas that will empower my community to further investigate options for change that suit them and families.”
Sarah is proud to be part of the Nottingham Independent scene, taking part in local markets like this Spring's Ay Up Market and linking in with local campaigns through the BID. She is also part of the inc.everyday movement in Nottingham, which champions shopping local.
She told us, “Shop Small run by Amex is brilliant for a small business like Shop Zero. We just love being part of this great initiative to showcase local independents and get people’s attention in such a positive way.”
What next for Shop Zero? Sarah told us that coming out of the pandemic and immediatelyt into a cost of living crisis has been hard for her business. Her ambition is to get bigger and better, to offer more sustainable choices, to collaborate further, to develop more community education and to offer more opportunities for makers to run pop-ups in her store.
Ultimately, her outlook is positive and she looks forward to serving the local community for years to come. “Shop Zero is about the community that surrounds it. It wouldn't be there if it wasn't for the people that choose to shop here.”
Visit Shop Zero at 42a Friar Lane, Nottingham, NG1 6DQ or shop online here. Click here to find out more about the American Express Shop Small campaign.

Monday Seller Success with eBay: That Vintage Football Shirt

Monday, November 28 at 14:23

That Vintage Football Shirt (TVFS) sells genuine vintage football shirts online through both their own website and ecommerce platforms including eBay.
TVFS buys the shirts in bulk, by the ton, and the top 15-20% of those are then processed, authenticated, listed and sold online by their dedicated team. Their shirts sell for prices starting at around £19.99 and going all the way up to £400-500 depending on the item.
The company’s football mad owners sold shirts in bulk through the wholesale market for ten years before launching as That Vintage Football Shirt in 2015 in order to supply the retail sector.
Their relationship with eBay started in 2020. They listed 40 shirts on the platform in January 2020, followed by another 80 in February. By April or May of 2020, they were selling 400 shirts.
TVFS’s director, Michael Wheatley, told us that they process a lot of numbers, and their margins are good because they buy in huge amounts. He told us, “The good thing about putting the shirts on eBay is that you’ve got such a huge audience, so as long as you get your key words right in your description, your customers will find you pretty quickly.”
Michael told us that the selling process on eBay is really simple: you just need a photo and a description and then you’re ready to sell.
His top tip is to communicate with your buyers. He told us that one way in which eBay stands out from other platforms is that you have far more communication with your customers than on any other site. He told us, “They message you and they ask questions, and that’s a positive thing because it means that they want to buy.”
In terms of growing the company, Michael says that they need to increase their input, whether that’s buying more stock or employing more staff: the bottom line though is how many shirts they can make available for sale. They are constantly adding new stock to their listings for their loyal customers to enjoy.
Michael told us, “As a company we have a great work ethic. We utilise ecommerce with eBay and our own website, we utilise the wholesale sector, and we just try to bring as much revenue in as possible. That way, if one stream is slowing then another will cover it.”
Visit That Vintage Football Shirt on their website here and find their eBay shop here.

Rock on in Southend on Sea

Wednesday, November 23 at 09:47

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.
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 managed to raise 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.
A strong community has already built up around Indirock. During the pandemic, Emily and Gordon organised lift shares to the nearest bouldering walls while they waited for Indirock to open, which helped to create a supportive community of customers who are already friends with one another and who are committed to Indirock’s aims.
They have given work to a variety of local artists too, 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.
Their future plans are to grow their coffee shop to make it as much of a community space as the climbing areas already are, attracting people to use and enjoy the space even if they're not going to climb.
Emily told us, “We are also looking forward to taking part in Shop Small for the first time this year. It’s great to know that big corporations such as American Express are flying the flag for small, local businesses like Indirock. We are a family run not-for-profit doing everything we can to support our local community, so having the support of Amex to let people know we’re here feels like a friendly arm around our shoulder.”
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.

Monday Seller Success with eBay: Purrfect Cat Gifts

Monday, November 21 at 09:25

Purrfect Cat Gifts supply and deliver premium cat-themed gifts, homeware, accessories and cards for cat owners alongside cat toys, cat collars and cat-related accessories for cats, and enjoy sourcing new and unique cat-themed products from around the world. Based in Halstead in Essex, they have a loyal base of customers all around the globe, including in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, and Canada.
The business started when Luan Hockley and her husband, Neil, tried selling a small selection of Christmas ornaments on eBay. The sales went remarkably well and they decided that they wanted to reinvest the money and sell more, but they wanted to find something less seasonal that they could sell throughout the year.
They began by visiting the NEC Spring Fair in Birmingham. Luan tells us that it was huge, and they walked for hours without really knowing what they were looking for. Eventually they sat down for a break and realised that the answer was obvious: cats!
They did some research on the way home, and found there was a market and not much competition. They came up with the name and registered it there and then. Purrfect Cat Gifts was launched in early 2016 with a handful of cat-themed ornaments – initially with a stock of just three or four of each item – but they sold well and the business has grown gradually from there.
Eventually, they approached manufacturers in China and India directly about creating their own bespoke range of products, which they sell under the Fabulous Felines brand. This means that they can now buy in larger quantities and there’s no danger of the product being discontinued.
The business has become a family affair: Neil is both Luan’s business partner and the company’s website and marketing guru, and Luan’s sister, Amber, helps with picking, packing and posting. But arguably the most important members of the team are their four cats, Charlie, T.J., Funny Face and Funny Nose, who are always on hand to test out any new cat toys.
They still sell their products on eBay as well as through their own website. Luan told us, “We wouldn’t be here today without eBay: it’s how we started our business and it continues to be our biggest selling platform.”
Luan continues, “I just love eBay. They look after their sellers. I can pick the phone up and talk to someone if I need to, they’ve made my business’s eBay shop look awesome, and, perhaps because of the way that eBay started, it’s all about community. We definitely wouldn’t be trading today without them.”
Her top tip for other small businesses this winter is free postage, which they offer on everything: she says, “Just work your postage prices into the items, and make sure that your profit margin is big enough to include it.”Luan told us, “My aim is simple: to provide my customers with the best selection of unique and unusual cat-related gifts, toys and accessories that are all high quality but also excellent value for money. If you can find something you truly are passionate about, you’ll make it work; and as long as I continue to be passionate about it, it will continue to grow.”
Visit Purrfect Cat Gifts online here.

One love, one heart on Ipswich’s high street

Tuesday, November 15 at 18:30

Small indie gift shop Loveone is a one stop shop for gifts and greetings cards that celebrates 15 years on the high street this autumn.
Loveone began as a pop up and market stall for three years before opening the doors on its brick and mortar store in 2007, but its roots go much further back than that.
In 1996, owner Cathy Frost left her job as an Environmental Health Officer to become a full-time mum, but she used any spare time she could find to start planning her own business. As her two children grew, she followed her passion for interior design and enrolled on a part-time interior design course, going on to found Cathy Frost Interior Design. Eventually, a freelance role sourcing products for kitchen displays for a local kitchen company developed into a much broader idea for opening the shop.
These days, they sell less homeware and more gifts, and their ability to adapt to changing fashions and circumstances has been a key part of their success. In the last recession, for example, they adapted to a changing market by working with local artists and designers and setting up the St Peters Street Markets, which are still going strong 12 years later. In response to the pandemic, Loveone moved online: they have also embraced social media and can be found on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Cathy told us, “I very much welcome the support American Express gives to Small Business Saturday with initiatives like the Shop Small campaign. At this challenging time for small businesses and the high street, it is reassuring to have a global brand alongside us.”
Loveone also works with local designers and collaborates with other local businesses, as well as becoming an active member of the local Ipswich community. For example, Cathy is the founder and co-director of the Saints Community Interest Company, which delivers two street markets, manages The Saints Ipswich and advocates for the local community.
She also sits on two panels which are actively looking at measures to make the town greener and more attractive for cyclists/walkers, in order to encourage and support more trips into town by foot, bike or public transport, and to improve air quality and the visitor experience.
With Cathy’s passion for advocating for shop local and protecting the high street, it’s no wonder that Loveone plans to celebrate Small Business Saturday this year. Cathy told us, “Small Business Saturday is very much part of our build up to Christmas and is a positive event to celebrate small business in all its myriad forms.”
Future plans include developing Loveone’s house plant range, which was introduced during lockdown, running plant care workshops, expanding their website and developing their mentoring scheme, which advises start-ups on the route to market and marketing. With their ability to adapt and their strong community ties, here’s to their next 15 years.
Visit Loveone at 21 St Peters Street, Ipswich IP1 1XF, shop online here and follow them on Instagram and Twitter. Click here to find out more about the American Express Shop Small campaign.

Monday Seller Success with eBay: Hampers by Lauren

Monday, November 14 at 10:17

Hampers by Lauren sells a huge range of bespoke hampers that cover everything from new baby and mum to be gifts to hobbies such as gardening or golf to cancer care packages – or even personalised hampers if you can’t find anything you like.
Based in Banstead in Surrey, they’ve shipped packages all over the world: Lauren told us, “Being digital and having access to platforms such as eBay allows you to reach different people. I’ve sent packages all over the UK, to America, to Australia, all over the world.”
She set up her business during the first lockdown in the UK, when her contract came to an end and everything shut down. In the circumstances, Lauren wasn’t optimistic about finding work. She’d been thinking about starting her own business for a while, but in June 2020 she decided to take the plunge, and hasn’t looked back.
As a new mum herself, Lauren wanted to create hampers that would make it as simple as possible for other new parents, with different packages to reflect a growing child’s different developmental stages.
All of her baby, toy and mum hampers are based on personal experience. Often she was gifted toys that she wouldn't have thought to buy herself but ended up loving, and has carefully sourced the same or similar high quality products for her hampers.
The other bespoke packages followed after careful market research, and are designed to be as useful as possible while adding an extra touch of luxury. Every hamper is made to order and put together personally by Lauren, and can be tailored to the specific needs and budget of any individual or company.
She also tries to think about her impact on the environment as much as possible, for example reusing boxes and packaging, and trying to source her products from businesses that are based in the UK.
Lauren has worked in customer service roles for many years and prides herself on providing a high quality personalised service for every customer. She told us, “Platforms like eBay make it so easy to rate you, so you’ve got that inbuilt trust. People know if anything goes wrong, you’ve got eBay there to help out.”
She attributes her success so far to hard work and persistence, excellent customer service, and being as visible as possible across social media and digital platforms such as eBay, which help her find new customers.
In the run up to Christmas, Laurent’s advice for other small businesses is to be prepared: she told us, “If I order something, I’m excited about it and I want it now!” In her own business, Lauren aims to despatch items as fast as possible so customers have them as soon as they can.
For the 10th anniversary of Small Business Saturday UK, Hampers by Lauren will be taking part in a Christmas market surrounded by lots of other small local businesses – and maybe doing a little bit of Christmas shopping of her own.
Visit Hampers by Lauren online here.

Good graces in Bristol and Bath

Tuesday, November 08 at 17:50

Grace & Mabel is an independent boutique in the heart of Clifton Village, Bristol. Sisters Daniela, Shelley and Kirstie, who share a love for fashion, opened the shop in 2007, with a second branch opening in Bath in 2010. Over the past 15 years, the business has gone from strength to strength, and both stores have relocated to new, more desirable locations.
Grace & Mabel are one of the handful of retailers in Bristol and Bath who make shopping truly special. The business prides itself on offering beautiful items and superb customer service. Since taking on a web manager recently, they have also branched out into selling online both through their own website and on sites such as Trouva, Atterley, and lyst, all while delivering the friendly, passionate and efficient customer service that characterises their brick-and-mortar stores.
Conscious of the significant impact that the fashion industry has on the environment, Grace & Mabel endeavours to stock brands that align with their values around embracing sustainability. For example, many of the brands that Grace & Mabel stock now use recycled materials to produce their clothes. And the business makes it clear to customers that it is not a fast fashion business, believing instead that the clothes they sell are timeless investments that will last for a lifetime.
Grace & Mabel also tell us they feel passionately about the role that independent retailers play in the retail ecosystem, which is at the heart of investing in the local economy and local communities.
“Grace & Mabel are so grateful for the support American Express brings to independent businesses through its Shop Small initiative. It’s something we will always take part in as brings back returning customers every year with the many benefits it has to offer for both our customers and our business. We can’t wait to take part in Shop Small this winter.”
They also give back to charity, making regular donations to Macmillan Cancer Support over the years. They have completed numerous mighty hikes, generating over £11,000 through fundraising, with plans for more in the future.
Right now, the business is focused on creating a marketing strategy that will help grow while still holding on to the values of a family run independent business.
“This year we celebrated 15 years in business. Over those years, we’ve tackled many obstacles, from opening our business during the credit crunch, to floods in the shop, and a pandemic, and it still feels like we are just getting started."
Here’s to another 15 years more!
Visit Grace & Mabel at 3 George Street, Bath BA1 2EH or at 32 The Mall, Clifton Village, Bristol BS8 4DS, or shop online here. Click here to find out more about the American Express Shop Small campaign.

Monday Seller Success with eBay: Top Dog

Monday, November 07 at 09:37

As you might guess from the name, Poo-ches®, based in Maidenhead in Berkshire, sells quality products for man’s (and woman’s) best friend.

The business was founded by Steve Taylor and his partner, Michelle. Steve originally set up the business as a side hustle while he was working full-time to try to create a second income, with a plan to build the business up and then leave his full-time job. They spent two months researching the marketplace, sourcing potential suppliers and choosing a strong brand name before launching their first product.

However, when the pandemic struck, Steve was made redundant and now runs the business full-time, with the hope that Michelle will eventually be able to join him. Steve told us, “It was actually a blessing in disguise because it pushed me to set the business up, and I’m so pleased because it’s going from strength to strength.”

Poo-ches started out with a single product: dog poo bags. They deliberately chose a good quality consumable product so that consumers would come back again and again, and their strategy has paid off. They have now added more products under the brand name, including fully compostable bags, which are more sustainable for the planet, alongside super quality harnesses and matching leads, which have proved to be a great success. Steve told us, “Being able to add to our range is important to us to continue to build our brand.”

Steve started out selling exclusively on eBay, although they have recently set up their own website as well. Steve told us, “We have found eBay to be a fantastic partner since joining the platform – always on the end of the phone if there are any queries and they really understand the issues small businesses face. Although we are working for ourselves, we never feel we are by ourselves.”

He ascribes the secret of his success to sheer hard work and being stubborn enough never to give up! Poo-ches provide top quality products that customers love, combined with great customer service. Steve told us, “We believe top quality customer service is the key to success. We try and go the extra mile for our customers – for example when a customer orders one of our dog harnesses, we always pop in a few free bags too. From the feedback we receive this does not go unnoticed and often they will come back to us and order one of our other products and become long term customers.”

Their top tip is prior planning and being prepared, whatever happens. What are you going to do if you have a bad spell of weather or a postal strike? Have you planned properly so the service you offer is still what the customer wants and deserves? Steve suggests planning now to ensure you have enough stock for what is usually the busiest and most profitable quarter for many businesses: he says to stack the cards in your favour by being prepared for any eventuality.

Weigh to go in Northwich

Tuesday, November 01 at 13:00

Kirsty Wernham runs Weigh of the World in Northwich, a sustainable-living shop that specialises in food and liquids refills, alongside plastic-free gifts and everyday items. The business helps people to shop in a way that reduces food waste and unnecessary packaging, and allows them to buy more ethically. Customers are encouraged to bring their own containers, which they can refill from the containers around the shop.
Kirsty was inspired to start her own business when she realised that her long commute to work was unsatisfying, and having visited some zero-waste shops, she knew it was something she could do. She found premises, secured the full Government Start-Up loan based on her business plan, and opened her doors in just three months, at the end of November 2019. By May 2021, she had expanded into the shop next door and taken on staff.
The main ethos of the business is about helping consumers to live a more sustainable life. It’s important to Kirsty that shoppers feel comfortable trying new things, and that they know that, for example, they don't have to become vegan or start campaigning about the environment in order to make a few changes and move towards more sustainable living. She told us, “We appreciate that our customers are all at different stages of the journey to reducing their footprint on the Earth, but they're all accepted.”
While the business hopes to support a healthier and less wasteful lifestyle, it’s also a relaxed place to come for conversation. Kirsty says, “We're interested in our customers and I've worked hard to make sure people know they can ask for help if they're struggling that day.”
She tries to ensure that food is fairly priced, and is honest about the products that they sell, sharing the pros and cons and how easy it is to change to things like shampoo bars or wax wraps. She also researches her suppliers to ensure that they have at least some understanding of reducing waste.
The shop has also actively worked with local environmentalist group, Transition Northwich. Last year, for example, they had excess apples and herb plants which Kirsty offered to customers for free so they wouldn't be wasted.
Kirsty has recently been trying some new ideas, such as baking cakes to sell in the shop and selling good quality pre-loved clothes, with plans to sell freshly made coffees and smoothies with a small seating area inside and a few seats outside the shop. She told us, “We don’t sell online, so rely on customers coming into the store. The Shop Small campaign run by American Express really helps incentivise Cardmembers to take advantage of it and look for small businesses local to them – like us!”
The shop also hosts weekly pop-ups for other local businesses, which encourages new customers for Weigh of the World but also helps to promote other small businesses with similar ethics. It’s win-win for everyone involved: the business doing the pop-up keeps all their sales revenue, and Kirsty’s customers benefit from additional choice in their ethical spending. Kirsty told us, “If we don't sell something that a customer wants, we'll always try to direct them to a local business that can help.”
Visit Weigh of the World at 90-92 Witton Street, Northwich CW9 5AE or online here. Click here to find out more about the American Express Shop Small campaign.

Monday Seller Success with eBay: Handpicked Penrith

Monday, October 31 at 06:00

Handpicked Penrith is a second-hand clothing shop based in Penrith, Cumbria selling designer & high-end women’s clothing. As well as selling second-hand clothing, we also offer a selling service to help customers sell clothing they no longer wear.
The impact fast fashion is having on not only the environment but also on the workers within the industry is now out of control. It is so important that we find ways to shop for clothing in a more sustainable way, and it is true that the only sustainable item of clothing is the one you already own. At Handpicked Penrith, we wanted to help people find a way in which they could shop sustainably, selling on clothing they already owned but no longer wear, and buy quality ‘new to you’ items which are going to last. Updating your wardrobe is important, shopping for clothing is fun, and many people enjoy it as a social activity as well. That is why we wanted to create a space that is familiar and just as fun as shopping for new. You should never have to consider or worry about the condition of an item of clothing as all our items are thoroughly checked, freshly washed and pressed to ensure exceptional quality every time. And we offer a space where you can shop in comfort, try on and take your time deciding on your purchase.
Before Handpicked Penrith opened as a shop on the high street, we offered the same excellent service online. We chose to use eBay as our selling platform when we started out. They offer many tools to help you build and grow your business and a shop front so you can showcase your brand. We also loved how easy and safe they make selling online, with the seller protection in place should you have any issues and their friendly support team to help and advise you.
eBay allowed us to sell to customers not only here in the UK but right across the world using their global shipping plan. We still sell using eBay, but we also have a website and Facebook and Instagram shop that runs alongside our in-store shopping.
In the last three years, we have grown from an online shop to a shop on the high street and we have only been able to do this by remaining true to our values. It is so important that we ensure we offer the same excellent service to each and every customer and that all the items we stock are of exceptional quality that are going to wear well and last.
The community here in Penrith has been amazing, and through listening and growing in a way that meets our customers' needs we have been able to continue to go from strength to strength with our business. The selling service was introduced to help people create more circular and sustainable wardrobes and also help people get money back for items they no longer wear. The service has grown so much this year and we are always trying to find ways to make it easier and more convenient for people to use. We also moved into a larger shop space in August to give customers a better shopping experience. Now with three changing rooms and more space for stock, we are able to give customers a more comfortable and familiar space that feels just like it would if you were shopping for new.
As we move into winter this year we are going to see the impact increasing living costs are having in the way people spend and budget. It is important for small businesses to listen and work with customers to support them and ourselves. At Handpicked Penrith, we are increasing the range of items we stock to suit all budgets to help people spend within their budgets. It is also so important never to underestimate the value we can give for free by just offering excellent customer service and making sure customers feel welcomed, valued and heard.
Handpicked Penrith is so excited to be part of the Small Business Saturday this year. We will be taking time to show our support online using our social media platforms, shouting about other small businesses within the area and those also taking part in Small Business Saturday across the UK.

Holy cow in Westmorland

Tuesday, October 25 at 13:00

Based in Appleby in Westmorland, Cumbria, Lauren's Cows is a mother/daughter partnership that was created to market Lauren Terry’s original artwork. Lauren paints cows – yes, only cows! She paints portraits of actual cows, who she has usually met in person. Lauren aims to capture the personality of each individual animal, then introduces a lot of colour, which makes each painting vibrant and guaranteed to raise a smile.
The business started entirely by accident when Lauren, living in London and working as an actress, painted a picture of a cow for her flat. The framer who framed the painting was very impressed and asked to be introduced. She returned from the meeting full of excitement: the framer told her that if she painted 15 more cows, he would stage an exhibition for her. The exhibition went well, so Lauren and her mum, Jude, set up a very basic website, and the business was born.
They now both work full time at Lauren's Cows, and also sell fine art prints, greetings cards and a range of homeware alongside the original artwork, all featuring Lauren's colourful, characterful cows. While they currently sell mainly on-line through their own website and Etsy, they have an increasing number of trade customers, mostly independent gift shops, and Lauren also works to commission.
Lauren and Jude are avid supporters of fellow small businesses. They only work with carefully chosen British manufacturers, and Jude told us, “Most of our suppliers are also small businesses, and all in the UK. Our prints are produced by three different businesses, all of which are one-man bands, and most of our shipping boxes are made by a chap in a village 30 minutes from me.”
Jude added, “We are so impressed with the way in which a global organisation like American Express take so much time and trouble to support small businesses. I think people are beginning to realise that small businesses are great to do business with. They are different, they care and we love the way in which American Express help us to do that with initiatives like Shop Small.”
As well as supplying to trade customers, most of which are independent shops, Lauren’s Cows also loan artwork to local establishments, which enhances their premises and gives Lauren’s artwork more exposure. Currently, some of Lauren’s Cows are enjoying life at two independently owned pubs, a deli in Appleby and a conference centre for disadvantaged people in Carlisle.
They also donate redundant art materials to their local primary school, support the Cash for Kids charity in both Cumbria and York by donating both goods and money to their various appeals, and have an ongoing tree planting policy in the local area.
Visit Lauren’s Cows online here. Click here to find out more about the American Express Shop Small campaign.

Monday Seller Success with eBay: The game is afoot

Sunday, October 23 at 19:44

Red Herring Games is a murder mystery entertainment company that stocks a huge range of small group dinner party games and the widest selection of large group murder mystery games you will find anywhere on the internet. Their services cover the full spectrum from conception through to completion, providing custom writing, manufacturing, retail and wholesale of games, scripts, subscription boxes and event services both nationally and internationally.
The business started quite by accident. Founder Jo Smedley wanted to set up a coffee shop, but the bank refused her the start-up loan. Some friends suggested that she try to sell the murder mysteries she had been writing for friends and her church in order to raise some capital (Jo’s first novel, The Missing Witness, is available on Amazon), and Red Herring Games was born. Jo told us, “Needless to say, I never got to run that coffee shop, but it’s lovely to be able to take something like writing that I never thought would pay and turn it into a business!”
Red Herring sell their games through a wide variety of outlets, including their own website, ecommerce platforms such as eBay, social media, and distributors, as well as at trade fairs and markets. They told us, “It’s really important to be available and visible in the same places your customers are looking for you, so we sell through as many digital channels as possible. Every now and again, we even get a walk in sale – and when that happens we all run around squawking like chickens, because it just isn’t the norm!”
They’re grateful for the support of other small businesses, whose support, encouragement and advice has helped them go from strength to strength. A local business networking group helped Jo learn the business basics and also gave her the confidence to take the little steps, which in turn gave her the confidence to take bigger steps. Being able to get free and informal advice allowed the business to take flight.
Jo told us that after attending the eBay Business Roadshow, they signed up to the eBay 12 week training package to get some 1-2-1 support. They weren’t expecting much and thought it might just be a series of videos. However, they were delighted to have their very own marketplace advisor, Laura, who talked through everything step by step. Jo said, “There is no other market place site out there that offers this kind of 1-2-1 support from a real person and honestly it’s been invaluable, not just with what it’s taught us about selling on eBay, but also because we can apply some of the same information to other areas of our business to improve sales there.”
What’s the secret to their success? In part, it’s being exceptionally good at what they do, and because they provide such great customer service that people have turned into repeat customers and have been happy to spread the word.
However, Jo is always aware that half of everything is luck. She told us, “I’ve always believed you make your own luck. There are hundreds of businesses out there doing something very similar and sometimes it really is just luck that lands you where you need to be, right place right time. However making sure you are the person in the right place at the right time to take advantage of the luck when it comes your way – that is the secret. Treating customers like royalty, responding really quickly, giving them your best 100% of the time, and then going the extra mile – that is what puts you in the right place to get lucky.”
Unsurprisingly, one of Jo’s top tips in the current market is to work together with other small local businesses: she suggests finding businesses with the same customer base and working together on joint marketing. “We all have customers who aren’t feeling the pinch quite so much, so we just need to pool resources and work with other businesses who have similar clients and introduce them to each other.”
Red Herring are hoping to release a new escape game to celebrate the UK’s tenth Small Business Saturday, which will be free to play on the day. Watch this space!
Final word goes to Jo: “If you had told me 15 years ago I would be holding my own in the international market and be the first name big brands thought of for their office parties, I would never have believed you!” We can believe it – there’s nothing fishy about that.

All fired up and ready to go in Gerrards Cross

Tuesday, October 18 at 13:00

Marie Cavanagh is the founder and owner of Fired Works, a fused-glass art gallery and studio where she creates beautiful glass artwork alongside functional items.
Marie makes glass to commission, which are often sentimental and personal items, for example fusing a loved one’s ashes into glass landscapes or jewellery. She also runs workshops for children, adults and family groups to make their own glass work, for which she has received several Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards. She has taught clients with dementia and children with autism, all of whom have had a very positive experience and made beautiful items to treasure.
Marie hasn’t always worked with glass, spending almost 20 years working in the IT industry. However, she has always had a creative streak, and eventually decided it was now or never to do something that she loved. She found a rundown property in the beautiful village of Chalfont St Peter in Buckinghamshire and made an offer. Fired Works opened 18 months later, in November 2014.
The shop is on the high street, with the studio at the back and the gallery at the front, so passers-by can see her working on her latest projects or commissions and often come in to see what she’s working on. The window display is always a talking point, matching the seasons or local or national events. Marie also says that her Amex signage also attracts customers to the store: she says, “I have gained many new customers by displaying my Shop Small campaign signs and existing customers are always delighted that I take part."
"I always look forward to Shop Small. It’s such a great offer for Cardmembers, but also a huge support for me as a small business, encouraging people to shop small and locally.”
She has also immersed herself in the local community. She is an active member of the Chamber of Commerce, holding the role of president for four years, which has included setting up business seminars for local businesses to showcase what they do, setting up a local business directory, and ensuring local businesses were aware of any grants available to them during lockdown and helping many apply. She also takes part in the Amex Shop Small campaign, telling us, "I always look forward to Shop Small by American Express. It’s such a great offer for cardholders, but also a huge support for me as a small business, encouraging people to shop small and locally.”
Marie received Runner Up for Chiltern District Council's Business in the Community Award in 2018, and has raised over £1k for the NHS making glass rainbows and over £1.5k for Ukraine making glass sunflowers and Ukrainian flags.
Caring for the environment is also important to Marie. The business has now been a climate positive workforce for 11 months, and she has planted over 700 trees during this time, as well as offsetting over 21 tonnes of carbon emissions. She also plants an extra tree for every online order. Not one scrap of glass is wasted: even the finest specks are saved for local ceramicists to use in their creations.
Visit Fired Works at 28b Market Place, Chalfont St Peter, Gerrards Cross, Bucks SL9 9DU or shop online here. Click here to find out more about the American Express Shop Small campaign.

Monday Seller Success with eBay: Meteorite Man

Monday, October 17 at 12:52

Martin Goff tells us how an interest in fossils sparked a passion for rocks from space which segued into a business selling meteorites online, how selling online has helped him grow his customer base, and why knowing your customer is key.  

Tell us a little about your business. 

My business is based in Rossendale, Lancashire and is called Msg-Meteorites. I sell rocks from space, known as meteorites, and also associated items including books, jewellery, cards, and space-themed gifts. 

Around 40 tons of extra-terrestrial material lands on earth every day. It’s blasted off the parent body, such as a large asteroid or planetary body, and occasionally it intersects with the earth’s atmosphere and lands here as meteorites. 

I enjoy the history and cultural impact on people and places that these rocks from space leave behind, as well as the science involved. It’s the interweaving of all these different aspects that makes collecting meteorites such a fascinating and engrossing hobby for me. They certainly provide a strong sense of place in this world we live in and show us how insignificant we really are in the scheme of things. 

I do tradeshows and also sell to museums and institutions, as well as private collectors and the general public. 

 

How on earth (no pun intended) did you get started with your business? 

I started out collecting fossils. Back in 2007, one of the dealers that I bought fossils from had a few small meteorites for sale. I was astounded that you could buy a meteorite! so I bought a small Campo del Cielo crystal (which of course I still have) and that was the seed that started me off.

I am in awe of these rocks from space: just being able to hold something in your hand that is older than the Earth that we live on still blows me away every time. The feeling of wonderment and sense of perspective that this gives you never goes away and in fact only deepens as your knowledge increases. 

The transition from collector to dealer was very fluid. I used to exhibit at shows where I would put items out on display and visitors were constantly asking if they could buy them from me. I knew that the interest was there and saw an opportunity to develop it into a business. I started the business in 2015. 

I made my very first ad hoc sales of meteorites directly to other collectors through online forums and mailing lists. But my first regular sales were made through eBay. I had used eBay to sell a few things before and I found it easy to set up to sell in more volume. From there I also then sold on other online marketplaces and also set up a web shop on my website. 

I scaled my business relatively slowly but surely. I still work full time as a Police CSI so fit the business in around that and my family. However, my plan is definitely to move to run the business full time as I do not have the time at the moment that I need to grow it further. 

What channels do you sell your products on? 

I sell online via my own website and shop, along with eBay and other online marketplaces. I also sell via social media (FacebookInstagram and Twitter) and at various astronomy and science shows and fairs in the UK and abroad. 

I developed my store and business by using social media and using different sales channels. I started with eBay for example but now also sell on ETSY and directly via Facebook and Instagram and other social media. I was well known as a collector within the meteorite community, but those varied sales channels and social media are helping to spread the word further. I am passionate about meteorites and really do enjoy talking to people to spread the word. I find children especially are often fascinated by space and meteorites. So, the science and Astronomy shows that I attend in person really help to showcase my business and I really do enjoy attending them too.

What has helped you grow as a business?

Selling online has been really important for me. It’s been far easier for me to reach a greater number of people through platforms such as eBay than I would have been able to through my own marketing. As I’ve become better known, I will get repeat customers directly through my website, but those customers originally found me via online markets such as eBay. 

Having a variety of different avenues for selling also means that when they differ in their sales volumes, I can get through any lulls more easily. 

Dorset's Ice Cream Appreciation Society

Tuesday, October 11 at 13:05

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.
The overriding ethos of the business is buying local. Their milk is organic, from a farm just 10 miles away, and is delivered daily. Sam says, “Happy cows grazing on rich Somerset meadows is a great start, and Eastfield Farm has the best animal welfare standards we’ve ever seen.”
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. As Sam says, “The first step to sustainability is to stop sourcing stuff globally when you’ve got a fruit farm at the end of your lane.” 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.
Their 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.”
They give back to their local and international community too. Their ‘all proceeds to’ days have this year included Ukraine, as well as local water polo and youth football teams. The team is looking forward to working with other #SmallBiz100 businesses too: Sam told us, “We’re also excited to be brought together with other energetic and successful small businesses from across the UK, as there are so many ideas to be shared.”
The stainless steel containers used in Baboo Gelato’s kiosks are endlessly reused: each one will be used over 100 times a year, for many years, saving over two tonnes of plastic per outlet. They use Vegware or other compostable packaging suppliers for their tubs and cups and allow no plastic water or soft drink bottles in their kiosks.
As to the future, they are currently building a new manufacturing site that will enable them to grow geographically; and are grateful to companies such as American Express that help them find new customers. Sam told us, “After two years of pandemic and now a cost of living crisis, it is so important that people support small, local businesses. We’re so grateful for American Express’ support of Small Business Saturday, and their Shop Small map as part of its annual campaign. We are quite well known in our local community, but tourists have no idea about us, so having American Express put us on the map really makes a difference.”
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.

Monday Seller Success Story with eBay: Giddy Goats Toys

Saturday, October 08 at 20:58

Each week we will be celebrating an amazing small business in the run up to 10 years of Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday & eBay have visited the small & wonderful businesses of the UK to hear how they started, scaled their business and share their success.

This week we would like to introduce you to Giddy Goats Toys based in Manchester, founded by Amanda Alexander:

Giddy Goat Toys is a traditional independent children’s toy shop and we’re based in Didsbury, south Manchester. We have an array of toys, books and games for kids of all ages, and, like Small Business Saturday, we are also celebrating our 10th birthday this year which is quite a milestone.

Like many people I fell into running my own business having worked initially as a Customer Services Manager and then General Manager in the watercooler industry for 10 years, but then children came along, and I didn’t want to work long hours. I did a variety of low-level boring admin jobs before going to work for a friend who had an online toy business helping her pack orders. She then took on first one shop then another and eventually I bought one of these shops off her. I learned a lot from my friend about running a business and about the toy industry and will always be grateful to her for starting me on the path to where I am now at the helm of my own toy shop – a job which I absolutely love.

In the early days most of the takings were ploughed back into stock. I had a few part time members of staff but paid myself a pittance of a wage so that I could invest in the business and so took on another job doing data entry part- time to make ends meet whilst I built up my stock. (The irony is not lost on me that in trying to reduce my hours post children I was working two jobs but that said it was still hours to suit me and not the crucial tea-time/bath-time/story-time/bed-time shift).

Five years on and I had paid off the bank loan I had taken out to set up Giddy Goat, given up the extra job and started to pay myself something nearer approaching the minimum wage and we had a good loyal local following of customers. However, at this point I was also struggling with health issues and I had a few years of battling chronic fatigue - which anyone with chronic fatigue, ME or long covid will know is both debilitating and depressing. Not only did I lack energy, but I lost my Tigger bounce and became more of an Eeyore. I could get through the day but then would flake out when I got home. I never once had to close the shop but there were a few occasions where between customers I had to go lie down in the stockroom, scrambling to my feet when I heard the door opening. This dragged on for a few years but happily I did make a full recovery and by 2020 I was ready to do Couch to 5k and I’m now fully recovered and as my kids don’t need my time anymore (just my money!!) I can now not only run the shop but consider other challenges as well – both personal and professional - and I’ve a cracking bunch of friends in the same boat with almost grown-up kids who are up for nights out and weekends away.

So here we are celebrating 10 years. We’ve survived covid (so so grateful that I’d already started selling on some marketplace platforms when lockdown happened and was moving us onto a big girl epos system rather than our 1960’s push button fisher price style till) so we were able to move to being an online retailer, which essentially kept us going through the long long covid lockdowns (and bear in mind Manchester was closed down and in Tier 3 for months on end – remember the mind boggling tier systems on top of everything else we had to figure out). So, despite everything the last few years have, business wise, been good years. The downside was the isolation which came from having to furlough all the staff and work alone in my closed shop, so it was really lovely to be chosen as one of the 2021 Small Business Saturday’s SmallBiz100 and feel a sense of connection and community. I’ve enjoyed engaging with other small businesses on Facebook and at the networking events at the House of Lords and the recent Blue Tie event plus it was just lovely to get that recognition and support from such an amazing organisation. The information provided from the Small Business Saturday & Small Business Britain team via emails and webinars is fantastic and after attending the eBay Business Roadshow in Salford I joined eBay and we’re on their new seller programme where they work with you to develop your online shop and already seeing steady sales coming in.

The new seller programme is perfect for helping you move onto eBay as you are assigned an account manager to talk you through the process of uploading and then optimising your products. Our account manage was incredibly attentive & patient with us, there is a lot to navigate when setting up on eBay, so having someone on hand was invaluable. Our eBay sales started almost from day one of uploading our products and have grown steadily since. As a small business it’s really hard to get found online and this is where a platform like eBay comes into the fore as they are putting your products in the front of customers.

I think the two main differences in selling online vs offline are that you don’t have the same rapport with your customers. I have had some customers who have been coming into my shop for years, I know them by name and I can order products in especially for them and you have a relationship with them and that creates customer loyalty. It’s difficult to get that with online customers. I genuinely feel the customer service we give to our online customers is as good as to our shop customers, in as much as it can be with limited contact, but it’s simply not possible to engender the same relationship when it’s a digital transaction.

I think that’s one of the key things of running your own business. You can’t ever sit back and think ‘right that’s us, we’re doing well’. You can’t ever take your customers for granted, you can’t take anything for granted. The last few years have demonstrated that only too clearly. You have to be actively seeking new sales channels, new customers, new ways of selling, new ways of engaging with potential customers or new business opportunities. But the good news is there are lots of people, organisations and communities who are able to help and who want to see you succeed and Small Business Saturday is definitely one of them.

SmallBiz100 celebrated at the Blue Tie Event

Friday, October 07 at 16:58

A fantastic business owner from London, who runs a cooking school helping people to cook, eat and live well, has been given a very special award at this year's Small Business Saturday Blue Tie Event.

Lara Omoloja, owner of Greenwich Pantry, was awarded the Francesca Kemp Award for Small Business at the annual event celebrating SmallBiz100, past and present.

Lara received the award out of recognition for the inspiring way she runs her business and her boundless enthusiasm and community spirit. Selected as a SmallBiz100 in 2021, Greenwich Pantry offers cookery classes for kids and adults, running workshops on healthy eating and other topics.

The Francesca Kemp Award is awarded each year to a small business that demonstrates an outstanding contribution to its local area and to the UK small business community. It was created in memory of Fran Kemp, founder of Crafty Revolution, who was one of the very first members of the SmallBiz100 in 2014 and who sadly passed away from cancer in 2015.

The award is announced each year at the annual Blue Tie Event, which is always a huge celebration – exactly as Fran would have wanted. Around 200 businesses from across the country joined this year’s event, which was held at the beautiful St Andrew’s church in London, for a night of fabulous food and drink. Guests were also treated to a surprise performance by Phoenix Arts Club to celebrate Small Business Saturday’s ten years in the UK.   

I’m so stunned and delighted to have won this award,” said Lara. “It means a lot to me because Francesca Kemp clearly exemplified the small business spirit and I know how much she was loved and respected - what an honour to walk in her footsteps!”

“The Blue tie event was a wonderful occasion to celebrate being part of the SmallBiz100 and meet other amazing small businesses. Undoubtedly being a part of the SmallBiz100 community is a game changer for any small business particularly in 2022, especially as we have felt the force of the pandemic one way or the other!”

“The support we get from the Small Business Saturday Team has kept us all pressing on with more enthusiasm about what’s around the corner.

Michelle Ovens CBE, Director of Small Business Saturday UK said: “Congratulations to Lara – she is a truly incredible entrepreneur whose business is so inspiring and makes such a phenomenal impact. It was brilliant to celebrate with her and other fantastic small businesses from across the SmallBiz100 as we look forward to another fabulous Small Business Saturday this year.”

Why apply to be a #SmallBiz100 2022?

Tuesday, May 31 at 23:30

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 2022 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, 3rd 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 in to your local community? What makes it special?
This year we’re 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.
We also want to know what are you doing to make your small business more sustainable. If you haven’t started this journey yet then don’t worry: Small Business Planet can provide plenty of advice and support.

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 2022 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 2022! Make 2022 the year that you take your small business to the next level and take part in something amazing: apply now for SmallBiz100 2022.

From field to fork – making the most of Cheshire’s local produce

Thursday, December 09 at 17:41

The Chester Fields is an award-winning country pub, restaurant, and licensed wedding venue, set amongst the beautiful Cheshire landscape in Bridge Trafford on the outskirts of the city of Chester.
 
Set in a gorgeous, converted barn, with a large beer garden that boasts incredible views over the stunning Cheshire countryside, the Chester Fields is rustic yet refined, offering something for everyone. It even partners with a local alpaca farm, making it a firm favourite with families, (and with the wedding parties that have been escorted down the aisle by alpacas - not many venues can say that!)
This innovative and entrepreneurial approach to attracting customers has been a core foundation for the business throughout the pandemic, as it moved quickly to adapt to lockdown and the new restrictions on hospitality.
During the first UK lockdown, The Chester Fields was transformed into a food delivery business, helping out members of the community who struggled to get a supermarket slot, or needed takeaway food, as well as supporting local suppliers. The Chester Fields has strong links with the local producers, with the restaurant winning the Taste Cheshire Best Use of Local Produce in a Menu award every year since 2016.
Managing Director, Mark Jarvis, said: “Being a small, local business is central to what we do. We pride ourselves on making the most of the incredible local produce that Cheshire has to offer, and the fact that our food comes from just around the corner is a massive part of our ethos.”
The past 20 months has seen big changes for The Chester Fields, as with so many other small businesses. After re-opening following lockdown, it increased its outside dining area and installed a professional woodfire pizza oven, launching a new sister business, Oak & Smoke.
Weddings and its famous Sunday roasts have also continued to be a large part of the offering, and the business is currently looking forward to a busy and celebratory Christmas and New Year period.
Mark Jarvis adds: “Our location in the gorgeous Cheshire countryside is one of our strengths. It means we have our beautiful garden, we can support other local businesses like Rack & Ruin Alpacas - who are based here at The Chester Fields – and people can escape out here from the city, and it makes us a superb country wedding venue.
“Having the support of a company like American Express to remind everyone to shop small and local all year round is hugely beneficial and aligns perfectly with our values. Being outside of Chester can sometimes mean we’re overlooked, so being discoverable on the American Express Shop Small map is really helpful in terms of finding new customers.”
“The past year and a half have been so difficult for the restaurant industry. We couldn’t have done it without our brilliant team, who have truly rolled with the punches, and our wonderful customers, who have stood by us and supported us through lockdown and beyond. We’re delighted to take part in Shop Small, which reminds people both of the importance of shopping locally and rewards our fabulous customers – it’s win-win.”
Visit The Chester Fields at Sandfield Farm, Chester Rd, Chester CH2 4JR or online here, and find out more about the American Express Shop Small campaign here.

Sustainable living with BLANC

Monday, November 29 at 09:46

Ludovic Blanc tells us why cleaning is in his genes, how the pandemic has been a reminder of the importance of community, and why the most sustainable clothes are the ones you already own.
Sustainable aftercare specialist BLANC offers a non-toxic alternative to conventional dry cleaning, alongside tailoring and laundry services. Committed to a fully sustainable approach to clothing and wardrobe care, BLANC is founded on the belief that the most sustainable clothes are the ones you already own.
BLANC was founded by Ludovic Blanc in 2011. He wanted to build a business that mattered, and to improve people’s health and the environment by ‘cleaning up’ an industry that was toxic and rather set in its ways. Plus, his great-grandmother worked as a launderer, so cleaning was clearly in his genes!
Ludovic discovered a tried and tested dry cleaning technology which was slowly gaining popularity in other countries but had not yet taken off in the UK. The first BLANC opened in Marylebone, with a second store 18 months later in Notting Hill.
Since then, multiple other stores have followed, and Ludovic's co-founder and partner, Mathilde, has ensured that BLANC's commitment to eco-friendly, natural cleaning and homes did not end with dry cleaning.
Mathilde has carefully curated BLANC Home, a range of environmentally friendly and natural products including natural detergents, organic soaps, and decorative items from House Doctor, Common Good, Tangent Garment Care and Marius Fabre.
The company also partnered with American Express to support their growth: Ludovic says, “BLANC has been working with American Express for many years and appreciates the brand’s understanding and support of small businesses.”
As for all businesses, adapting to the evolving situation over this past year and a half, has been quite a challenge for BLANC, with their entire business closing temporarily in March 2020 during the first lockdown.
However, the pandemic has given them an opportunity to dig further into the needs of their customers and has brought many great ideas along with it.
For example, they adapted their cleaning processes by adding a biodegradable virucidal additive to their usual detergents, and they also implemented a contactless pick-up and delivery service so that customers could continue using the services safely.
They also developed a new online app with enhanced features, making it easier for their customers to track their order status, record user preferences and manage recurring bookings.
Ludovic told us: “Navigating this period of high pressure and uncertainty was a great reminder of how important it is to support one another and our local community. Shopping small both on and offline, leaving good reviews about your favourite stores, spreading the word to your friends and family, are all great ways to help small businesses through this challenging period and beyond. BLANC are very grateful to their community of loyal customers for their support.”
Ludovic adds: “We are excited to be celebrating Small Business Saturday again and proud to take part in the Shop Small campaign this year. Check out the American Express Shop Small interactive map to find the closest BLANC store or visit our website to book a home pick-up and delivery online.”
Find your nearest BLANC on the American Express Shop Small map here, find out more about the American Express Shop Small campaign here, and visit BLANC online here.

Pizza power

Wednesday, November 24 at 06:00

Husband and wife team Sweet and Maurizio D'Apollonio tell us about their recipe for success in food and business.
Maurizio Dining & Co is a neighbourhood, independent Italian restaurant and wine bar in Cambridge that invites customers to relax and taste the ‘real Italy’, with gourmet pizzas and homemade pasta sauces, along with wine from small Italian vineyards.
The restaurant was opened by husband-and-wife team Sweet and Maurizio D'Apollonio in 2017. New to the hospitality industry, but full of passion for the impact that good food can have on people and communities, they describe the experience as a huge learning curve.
However, a core approach has guided them to success. They have a ‘three E philosophy’: ‘enhancing’ customer dining experience, ‘encouraging’ working and socialising in a collaborative way, and ‘empowering’ their team to be the best they can be.
It’s working. The couple were named one of Small Business Saturday’s inspirational SmallBiz100 for 2021, as well as gaining high praise from local customers and celebrity fans.
This includes former Dragon Theo Paphitis, who described their homemade tomato sauce - cooked ‘just like mamma makes’ using just five ingredients (Italian tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, passata and salt) - as “smelling and tasting amazing”.
The restaurant is very much embedded in the community. Where possible, they source produce locally and are involved in a campaign to make Cambridge even more engaging and accessible, with less traffic and more pavement culture, to enhance the local high street. They have also commissioned local artists to paint bespoke artwork to display in the restaurant.
Sweet told us: “It's all about making our customers' experience the best it can be. This means serving delicious Italian food and drink, delivering exceptional service, and engaging within our local area.”
In the year the restaurant was launched, The Centre for Cities 2017 report identified Cambridge as one of the most unequal cities in the UK, with local food poverty on the rise, even before the pandemic began. So Maurizio Dining & Co. has been on a mission to help tackle this, working with local organisation Cambridge Sustainable Food (CSF), which aims to facilitate a more environmentally and socially equitable food system that is good for people and the planet.
Maurizio Dining & Co. can be found giving out pizzas and pastas on a regular basis at various Community Food Hubs. And Maurizio himself recently ran the Cambridge Half Marathon to raise just over £1,000 for CSF’s work, as well as fundraising for its work on the restaurant’s website.
The team is also working towards a Sustainable Food Business Award with support from CSF. This includes making their packaging as environmentally friendly as possible, using less plastic, recycling glass bottles, and collecting all their corks to make ‘cork curtains’. One of their delivery partners is a new business called Foodstuff, which offers car-free delivery using only bicycles.
Maurizio Dining & Co is one of the local businesses taking part in the American Express Shop Small campaign and its offer which incentivises Cardmembers to support their local small shops and restaurants from 4-15 December.
This follows additional Shop Small Offers that American Express ran in Summer 2020 and Spring 2021, as well as December 2020 to help support small business to recover following COVID-19 lockdowns.
“When big global brands such as American Express reach out to support small local businesses through initiatives such as Small Business Saturday, it means we are all working together to make a contribution to our community,” says Sweet.
“It’s been a difficult 12 months, but we believe that we have the stamina, vision and people power to stay strong and succeed.”
Maurizio Dining & Co. is currently open five evenings a week for eating in, collection and delivery. Visit them at 44 Mill Road, Cambridge, CB1 2AS or online here. See Maurizio & Co. Dining on the American Express Shop Small map here.

In the good books

Friday, November 19 at 11:36

Sarah Dennis of Mostly Books shares her story of how bringing her love of books to town has had a positive ripple effect locally.
Mostly Books is an award-winning, independent bookshop located in the heart of Abingdon, just outside Oxford. They sell a wide array of books that cater for all ages and interests, alongside handpicked cards, small gifts, and children’s toys.
Sarah Dennis bought the business in 2017, and since then it has gone from strength to strength, with a full refurb, extensive events calendar and increased local engagement.
Their hard work has been widely recognised. As well as being a Small Business Saturday SmallBiz100 this year, the business was named as Bertram’s Bookshop of the Year in 2019, and they have also won a Pan Macmillan Independent Bookshop Innovation Award, as well as being shortlisted for the Independent Bookshop of the Year at the British Book Awards for the last four years.
Manned by a small team of passionate booksellers, Mostly Books is heavily involved in the local community. They aim to be an inclusive, safe space for all customers (and their pets!). For some customers, a visit to the bookshop is a highlight of their day, and children love visiting their ‘book nook’ and colouring whilst their parents browse.
They also run a book group and offer discounts for other local book clubs, provide an innovative book subscription service, donate books to charities, produce and present a podcast (for which they have been lucky enough to speak to many fantastic authors), run a stall at Pride, and organise a variety of events.
The business is passionate about helping younger people engage with books and reading. They have strong links with many schools, sourcing books as well as running events and fairs. They have also recently launched a Youth Ambassador scheme, sending out copies of unpublished books for children to review, mentoring them in their writing skills and providing references for university and work applications.
Sustainability is also a vital part of Mostly Books’ business. In 2019, they achieved the Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Free Champion award by removing all avoidable single-use plastic from the business. The boxes and packaging they use for shipping books are all recyclable, and they try to reuse packaging materials sent from suppliers.
During the pandemic the business adapted with a new website and a renewed focus on social media and digital events. When the UK went into lockdown, they offered free delivery to customers within five miles, and intend to continue the service in order to support customers who cannot get to them.
Mostly Books has enjoyed taking part in Shop Small and told us: “American Express is a great brand to work in partnership with. They are clear supporters of small businesses and their initiatives, such as the Shop Small offer, are a great way to show that support.”
You can visit Mostly Books at 36 Stert Street, Abingdon OX14 3JP and online here. Find out more about the American Express Shop Small offer here.

From babygrows to beer kits

Friday, November 05 at 05:00

Bev and Andy Toogood tell us how the Brexit referendum result caused them to pivot their business and how selling on Amazon has allowed them to find new customers and keep going throughout the turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic.
Bev and Andy have been selling on Amazon for 14 years. Their original business, Little Sunflowers, was an award-winning independent children's clothing and gift shop, which rated the UK's top childrenswear and gift shop according to Trustpilot and won the prestigious Online Retail Awards – twice!
Bev told us: “We started selling on Amazon about a year after we opened our childrenswear shop, so around 2005. We started selling on Amazon initially to simply reach a wider audience as we were only small: at this stage, online shopping hadn't really taken off. When Amazon started their fulfilment service (Amazon FBA) in 2008, they offered us some amazing deals to get started, so we had a lot of stock in their warehouses from quite early on. This meant that not only were we reaching a wider audience, we were now able to use Amazon to pick, pack and send our orders, which meant we effectively had another shop without needing to recruit more staff or take on other premises.”
Little Sunflowers had a large European customer base, and in 2016, after the Brexit referendum result, Bev and Andy took the difficult decision to close down the business, as they foresaw that there would be too many issues for them to continue to sell in Europe.
They decided to start selling homebrew kits and ingredients locally: they have an interest in home brewing themselves, and are based in Horam in East Sussex, the original home of the Merrydown Cider Factory, where a lot of local residents used to work at the factory and brew at home. As the home brew business took off, they closed down their children’s clothing business, although there was a brief cross over period: Bev told us “For a while we were selling beer kits and babygrows, which was interesting!”
Bev and Andy now run Almost Off Grid, an independent business that sells home brewing supplies plus gifts, kitchenware and equipment and ingredients for cheese making, sourdough, kombucha, kefir and more. They told us: “We set up our homebrew business on Amazon, both FBA and marketplace, from day 1 and continue to sell both ways, which enables us to sell more with just the two of us. Nowadays the Amazon FBA set-up is much bigger, and we hold a great deal of stock there. We also sell on Amazon as a marketplace seller which has always worked well for us. It works equally well for our current business as it did for our old one.”
Bev explained how they run their business with Amazon. “As an Amazon seller, you can sell on Amazon in two ways and we do both: we fulfil our stock to Amazon, plus we sell ourselves on Amazon as a marketplace seller.”
She explains: “When you fulfil through Amazon (known as Amazon FBA), you send your stock to the Amazon Warehouse and they pick, pack and ship to the customer on your behalf. For example, this is one of our Amazon FBA listings: you’ll see that the wording says dispatches by Amazon, sold by Almost Off Grid, which means the seller is sending their stock to Amazon, who are sending it on their behalf. As a small business with only two of us, fulfilling to Amazon allows us almost to clone ourselves. We can send hundreds of packets of, say, yeast to Amazon to sell on our behalf in one box, rather than posting out to multiple customers.”
Bev continues: “We also send direct to customers as a marketplace seller. This means that you sell your product on Amazon, but you ship it from your own premises rather than Amazon fulfilling it for you. For example, this is one of our marketplace listings: here, the wording says dispatches by Almost Off Grid, sold by Almost Off Grid, which means it is a marketplace seller.”
Would they recommend selling on Amazon to other small businesses? Bev told us: “Absolutely! We have worked with other small shops helping them to get started on Amazon, because we're passionate about the benefits. Amazon gets a very bad press in the media on the basis that they are killing small businesses. But were it not for Amazon, many small businesses we know would not still be here – particularly over the past 18 months when shops couldn't open. We have learned an awful lot about ecommerce from Amazon without having to make the investment ourselves, and we are able to use their infrastructure to our advantage. Our latest venture is self publishing homebrewing books and journals through Amazon too on a print-on-demand basis, which fits perfectly with what we do.”
Bev adds: “My advice to small businesses is: open an Amazon selling account and get going. No matter how good you are with Google Adwords, no matter how much you spend on advertising, no matter how many local customers you have, you can grow your sales far more easily through Amazon. The FBA business is, in effect, another revenue stream which means you don't need as many sales in your main business to keep cash flowing. The benefits far, far outweigh the problems we've had over the 14 years we have worked with them. I would go so far as to say that our little shop owes Amazon a great deal. Embrace the opportunity!”
Visit Almost Off Grid at their shop at Lyndhurst House, High Street, Horam TN21 0EZ (an address that has been continuously occupied by businesses since it was built at the turn of last century) or online here, or visit their Amazon shop here.

Smile and say cheese

Friday, October 22 at 05:00

From humble beginnings, selling cheese from the family farm at local events, to a number of brick and mortar stores and beyond, Emma and Stuart Colclough tell us how selling with Amazon has helped them to reach new customers, streamline their processes, and reach ever-higher heights.
Emma and Stuart started the Chuckling Cheese Company in 2012, selling Emma’s family’s award-winning cheeses at events all over the UK. Their reputation quickly grew as they shared the passion of a small family farm with a nationwide cheese-loving community.
The first Chuckling Cheese Company shop opened back in 2016, offering a wide selection of cheese, craft beers and ciders, spirits, sweet treats, extravagant hampers and celebration cheese cakes, alongside their range of cheese such as their famous Charcoal Cheddar and Botanist Gin and Tonic.
More Chuckling Cheese shops opened in the years that followed, and they now have locations around the country, including Middlesbrough, Brierley Hill, Doncaster and Gateshead Metrocentre, with more to come. They are also in the process of expanding their warehouse, which will grow the company nationwide.
Where to next? Online of course! They started their Amazon journey three years ago, selling a range of products online through their own Amazon store. They told us that not only has this enabled them to reach new customers and increase their volume of sales, but it has also encouraged them further to improve their capabilities and service across all of their orders, allowing them to expand their product range as well as growing their customer base.
According to Chuckling Cheese, Amazon has helped to refine and streamline the way they sell, market and progress their product range. Marketing Executive Maisie told us: “The more variety in products we upload and sell, the stronger our market research is. We learn what our audience is searching for, what they notice and what they purchase. For example, when we uploaded our rainbow box, it had little traffic and no sales. But once we amended the description and improved the images so they were more suited to Amazon's layout, with white backgrounds and minimal lifestyle product photography, the product became a bestseller overnight.”
Maisie adds: “The sooner a product is live on Amazon, the better chance it has of selling and becoming a top seller. Once a new product has had its first sale, the product is dominoed into a Top Products category and becomes a feature of the store, thus creating more sales, which increases its visibility across store front.”
As well as selling their own products, Chuckling Cheese also celebrate and support other small businesses by regularly sharing their products with their customer base. For example, they have regular sampling sessions with their suppliers which allow new products to be tried by the public through their stores. They have also created truckles and hampers with a portion of the profit going to local charities and campaigns. They told us: “We love bringing communities together for a strong shared platform, and Amazon, alongside our brick and mortar shops and our online sales, is one of the tools that lets us do that.”
Visit The Chuckling Cheese Company online here, find your nearest store here, or visit the Chuckling Cheese Amazon Store here.

The perfect planner for when you didn’t plan for this

Friday, September 24 at 06:00

Shelly Shulman of former #SB100 La Belle Cake Company tells us how publishing with Amazon allowed her to add an additional income stream to her business, leading to her company pivoting completely and becoming a six figure business during a global pandemic.
I started my first business, La Belle Cake Company, back in 2006, making bespoke wedding and celebration cakes. It started off slowly, but after investing in some business training and with the support of great campaigns like Small Business Saturday, it grew exponentially leading to wealth of celebrity clients, including world-renowned chef Gordon Ramsey and Her Majesty the Queen of England. I even made the very first Love Island wedding cake!Due to my success, I started to coach other cake makers, giving them help and advice to grow their own profitable cake businesses. I eventually grew a community of over 3000 amazing cake makers and everything was going brilliantly.
And then coronavirus happened. Being a cake maker who makes cakes for events during a global pandemic is not great from a business point of view. Orders were being cancelled and postponed from all directions. However, at the same time, the demand for my coaching services grew as people took the time to revisit the foundations of their business whilst they had the opportunity to work on their business rather than in it.
From the conversations I was having, time management and organisation were two of the biggest issues that people struggled with, so I started to think what I could do to help with that. My solution was a planner for cake makers.
I looked at various publishing options but using Kindle Direct Publishing from Amazon looked the best for me: it was easy to set up, and I didn’t have to worry about printing or delivery or ordering copies, as everything was printed to order.
I launched the planner on 31st August 2020, and it quickly became a best seller in its categories. And not only did it add another income stream to my business, it also served as part of a marketing funnel, as people would find the planner, then find me on social media and join my groups and purchase other services.
At the same time, I was also being approached by other business owner who weren’t cake makers, asking for advice as they had seen the results I had been getting. In October 2020, I opened my services to business owners in general rather than specifically just cake makers.
In January of this year, due to demand, I released a 2022 version of my cake business planner, again through Amazon. This time I was also able to offer the planner as a hardback: this was one of the most requested options I got through customer feedback, so it was great to be able to offer that option.
I also wanted to do something similar for my new client base and create a planner for business owners to help them get more organised, set and achieve goals and ultimately get the results they wanted. I used lots of tools in my business to help me do that, but they weren’t all in the same place.
And so, I created the Ultimate Business Planner, featuring all the tools I use in my own business. Again, I used Amazon because the whole process is so easy.
Selling on Amazon has been instrumental for me in becoming a six figure business during a global pandemic, by giving me an additional income stream and allowing me to reach my audience in another space. I even have people coming to me now asking for help and advice on selling on Amazon! It will certainly continue to be a big part of my strategy going forward.
You can find Shelly’s full range of 2022 planners here.

Why apply to be a #SmallBiz100 2021?

Tuesday, June 01 at 11:48

 The past 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 2021 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 promote one every day in the run up to Small Business Saturday, which takes place on 4th December 2021. 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 small businesses’ increasing digital presence, 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 – 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 – 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 2021 – 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! The campaign recognises that 2021 has come with a huge range of challenges, most of which none of us have ever had to face before, and would still like to hear from all small businesses including those that have had to change direction or close temporarily.
When it comes to the #SmallBiz100, tell us the story of your small business: what makes it tick? How does it fit in to your local community? What makes it special?
This year we will also be asking what are you doing to make your small business more sustainable, if you have not started the journey yet don’t worry there is plenty of advice and support from Small Business Planet at hand.
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.

All this and taking part is completely free! Sounds good? Applying to take part in SmallBiz100 2020 is quick and easy – just click here to register and start your journey. Already registered? Click here to apply to SmallBiz100.
We can’t wait to present the SmallBiz100 2021! Make 2021 the year that you take your small business to the next level and take part in something amazing: apply now for SmallBiz100 2021.

Feeling lighter than air at The Float Spa

Thursday, December 17 at 07:30

#SmallBiz100 The Float Spa share how they created a new business from scratch, how they rolled with the punches during the coronavirus lockdown, and how they’ve been giving back to the NHS and essential workers who need it most.
The Float Spa was founded by Camille Pierson in 2015 after she discovered the benefits of floatation for herself in alleviating the symptoms of PTSD following a trauma.
The Float Spa now offers a full range of therapies including floatation therapy, infrared sauna sessions, yoga classes, massage, acupuncture, and homeopathy. These therapies can be used to alleviate stress, to treat mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, to ease physical aches and pains caused by postural problems, injuries or chronic conditions, or simply to optimise wellbeing or enhance sporting performance.
As they were starting out, the Float Spa faced an interesting double-edged challenge: on one hand, it was the first float centre in the Brighton and Hove area, with no established market; and on the other, it also offered massage and yoga classes, both of which were overrepresented in the area. This meant that they needed to raise awareness of the benefits of float therapy, while simultaneous proving the worth of their yoga classes and other therapies.
They tackled this by ensuring outstanding levels of customer care and hiring excellent yoga teachers and therapists, which ensured positive reviews. They were gradually able to build up their client base through extensive social media campaigns, networking and a huge number of word-of-mouth recommendations.
Appearing on the American Express Shop Small campaign interactive map enabled the Float Spa to find new customers and increase its footfall as it established itself as a new business in the area. This campaign underpins Float Spa’s belief that small businesses are at the core of every successful community, and offers a cashback offer for Cardmembers who shop small.
When the Float Spa was forced to close its doors in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, they kept their business going by running yoga classes online, creating a schedule of live classes alongside a member area on the website through which members could access hundreds of yoga classes whenever it was convenient for them. With the help of a small local grant, they also kick started a bath bomb making business using Epsom salts and natural ingredients.
During lockdown, the Float Spa worked alongside a group of local acupuncturists who were treating NHS workers for anxiety, depression and stress, offering lockdown-compliant free use of their facilities. They also ran a pay it forward campaign during lockdown: for every float purchased during lockdown for use after restrictions ended, they donated a voucher for a float session to an essential worker – 150 free float sessions were offered in total.
The Float Spa also supports the work of the Brighton Yoga Foundation, of which Camille is a trustee, to bring the benefits of yoga to the community for free: this is something that has continued throughout lockdown, providing valuable stress relief to the local community during these difficult times.
The Float Spa also has a strict environmental policy of avoiding single use plastics and offering a refill service for toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner and Epsom salts to customers, which has saved roughly 500 five litre plastic bottles, 50 15 litre plastic bottles and 500 1kg plastic bags since it was implemented.
Visit The Float Spa at 8 Third Ave, Hove, BN3 2PX or online here. The Float Spa 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.

At the cutting edge of local community

Monday, December 14 at 10:00

When Simon Webster and his wife Sophie established an independent hair salon in Brighton’s fashionable North Laine, their aim was to provide an inclusive space for clients to visit and build a support network for other local creatives and traders. As strong champions of small businesses and active members of the local community, the couple share their thoughts on life through lockdown and how the survival of our High Streets relies on co-operation.
Founded in 2012 by ultra-creative husband and wife team Simon and Sophie Webster, Simon Webster Hair prides itself as family-run hair salon with a client-centred approach, that gives inventive stylists freedom to work on their own terms. 
Its talented team split their time between working in-salon and for fashion publications and designers, previously having taken part in Fashion Weeks across Europe and being featured in Vogue, Tatler, and Men's Health to name a few.
Establishing the salon as a vital part of the local community was integral to the project. Simon Webster Hair soon earned a reputation as a trailblazing, welcoming local independent that combines the professionalism, quality and creativity of a high-end brand. This winning formula helped it secure both the UK Ultimate Salon Award and Best Newcomer Award.
Passionate about using their platform to demonstrate the importance of inclusivity, Simon Webster Hair is a community space where the team, as well as their clients, contribute to the company’s policies, procedures, and brand. This ethos runs through all aspects of the business, from fair employment terms to the services they offer, and using their own clients as models in collections. The team works with all hair types, textures and wigs, and were pioneers of innovative, gender-free pricing where appointments are charged by time.
As a close-contact business, Simon Webster Hair had to close its doors when lockdown hit the country in March. Using the time as an opportunity for growth, the team concentrated on building relationships by personally calling clients, arranging bespoke product-drops to their homes, and using social media to share ideas on home-styling.
The community ethos doesn’t just stop with the salon’s clients: during lockdown, the team worked with product suppliers and charities to create over 500 care packages which were distributed to vulnerable families and the homeless across Brighton, as well as providing pamper packs for the local hospital’s midwives.
Social media and video have also proved crucial in keeping clients updated on the work going on behind the scenes to make the space COVID-secure and to assure customers that their safety is paramount.
 
“It’s always been about people over profit for us and we were determined not to lose sight of that despite the challenges of lockdown,” say Simon. “That sense of being stronger together has always been our ethos and it was prevalent during the peak of Coronavirus cases.”
Whether it's contributing to the safety of Brighton Pride, sponsoring arts events at Brighton Festival, fundraising for Brighton Women’s Centre, offering thank-you rewards for shopping at small businesses, or providing free haircuts to the homeless and vulnerable, it's clear that supporting the local community is at the very heart of this small business.
The salon took part in the American Express Shop Small campaign when they reopened after the first national lockdown at the start of July. Due to the unprecedented circumstances this year, American Express extended its ‘Spend £10 get £5 back’ Shop Small offer, which normally kicks off on Small Business Saturday, to run for 12 weeks through to September.
Sophie says: “It’s wonderful to have American Express’ support at such a difficult time.”
In the future, Simon Webster Hair aims to build their clientele and provide further opportunities for its tight-knit team to expand their skills and nurture their talents. Meanwhile, the business continues to promote the shared benefits of progressive business approaches and practices to other companies through industry events and networking.
“The importance of keeping our high street thriving depends on co-operation rather than competition, so our motivator is to encourage local spending and reinvestment in our communities because we know we're stronger together,” says Simon. “We mustn’t forget the lessons we learned when we all paused and took stock of what really matters.”
Visit Simon Webster Hair at 16 Gardner St, Brighton BN1 1UP, or online here. Click here to find out more about the American Express Shop Small campaign.

Sewing the seeds of success in Scotland

Thursday, December 10 at 07:30

Lianne Garven has always had a passion for crafting and studied textiles at Heriot Watt university. So when the opportunity arrived to purchase I Sew 2, a fabric, yarn and haberdashery shop on the outskirts of Glasgow, she didn’t think twice – and says she has never looked back.
I Sew 2 prides itself on being a unique place which will inspire and delight anyone who knits, crochets, or sews. The shop is filled with colourful displays of yarn and fabric, and it also runs workshops, often taught by local craftspeople, where customers can learn new skills and create something unique in a relaxed and fun environment.
Business at I Sew 2 has grown steadily, but the current pandemic had an immediate effect and, like so many other businesses, the shop has had to adapt. 
During the initial lockdown, Lianne would personally deliver orders to five different areas on rotation – a real boon to people looking to do something creative with their time during lockdown. Gradually she introduced customer collections, a take-away counter and a restricted access opening.
Campaigns like Shop Small, which encourages people to shop at small businesses by offering cashback to American Express cardholders, is something that gave Lianne’s business a boost over the summer, when the initiative was introduced to support small businesses during the pandemic.
Lianne says: “The summer campaign this year was great. To have the support of such a large organisation is tremendous.” She adds that the business has taken part in Small Business Saturday for the past two years and is thrilled to be one of the campaign’s SmallBiz100 in 2020.
This recognition reflects how much I Sew 2 is at the heart of the community. For example, Lianne and her team coordinated the stunning refurbishment of a local disused telephone box on the main street of Kirkintilloch. With the help of the community council, each panel inside the telephone box was made by local residents, businesses, or the regional embroiderer’s guild, creating a unique craft-display representing the local area. 
Lianne’s future plans include using a new, bigger workshop area, borne of necessity during the pandemic, for community-based activities. She has free ‘knit and natter’ sessions, workshops for sewing face-covering and an upcycle challenge in the works.
“This year has been difficult for so many businesses, but our future success lies in continuing to adapt to the changing circumstances”, says Lianne. This attitude and support from her loyal customers will no doubt help to sew success.
Visit I Sew 2 at 117 Townhead, Kirkintilloch, Glasgow G66 1NX or online here. I Sew 2 is taking part in American Express’ Shop Small campaign: click here to find out more about the campaign.

Joco's leap of faith pays off

Tuesday, December 08 at 07:30

Joco Interiors is now Nuneaton's largest dedicated gift shop – but this wasn’t always the case. Jo Williams tells us how taking a chance has helped her business grow to be a community hub and a valuable asset for local creatives, and how she’s managed to thrive during lockdown.
Joco opened in April 2015, based in a tiny shop on the outskirts of Nuneaton in Warwickshire. After two years though, with a low footfall and an equally low turnover, owner 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, who went on to win awards including local awards for Apprentice of the Year and STAR Student of the Year as the most improved student.
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. Jo now has a team of six part-time staff, and plans to increase the shop’s online business.
During the first coronavirus lockdown, all of Jo’s staff were furloughed, but after a couple of weeks she returned to the shop and began running Facebook live sales, which has increased their following, maintained sales during the lockdown period and created a new online community of customers. Jo says that without the live sales during the initial months of lockdown, Joco could very well have been another business lost to the restrictions. Now that restrictions have been eased, she has continued to offer live streaming of sales to increase footfall to the shop, together with a delivery service for customers who can’t or don’t wish to visit in person.
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.
Jo says, “Nuneaton is socially deprived and so we have to help our customers in any way we can.” 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 says “We have taken part in the shop small campaign and customers have been using their American Express cards to claim back their £5 when shopping with small independent businesses in the town. Our customers have been pleased to see that we accept the card and this often leads to them spending more than anticipated.”
Having previously won two national gift retailer awards, FSB Finalists and winner of the Telegraph Business Award, Jo tells us “The shop’s tagline is ‘The place to treat yourself and others’ – and it couldn’t be more appropriate.”
Visit Joco Interiors at Unit 5, Ropewalk Shopping Centre, Chapel St, Nuneaton CV11 5TZ 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.

No messing around! How Tom Foolery Coffee Company pivoted during the pandemic

Friday, December 04 at 07:30

Like many small businesses, the challenges of 2020 took Tom Foolery by surprise, but they bounced back fast with the support of their community in Shoreham-by-Sea.
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 the Shoreham Light Show and family event 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 a proud sponsor of the Shoreham and Adur Under 13 Girls Football League.
Of course, the impact of Covid-19 pandemic has brought challenges for these wonderful community initiatives, along with Tom Foolery itself.
After closing in the first lockdown – and reeling at the unprecedented situation – they knuckled down to create a plan, building a whole new counter at the front of the shop in the style of a food truck, and reopening with a fun summer festival style service and a new takeaway menu. Their customers have been really supportive and appreciated the efforts that Tom Foolery made as they pivoted their business model in these changing times.
While this worked brilliantly in the summer, the team has had to innovate for the winter weather.  Social distancing rules will mean a 30% reduction in revenue, so, to counter this, they have been developing a new retail element under the header #TakeTomHome. 
The shop is offering a branded range of t-shirts, aprons, and tea towels; a home cooked range including tomato ketchup, hot sauce, jams and fudges; and a range of equipment for coffee making, such as AeroPress and recyclable coffee pods.  They aim for this new range to complement what they currently do, close the 30% gap, and provide a springboard for the future. 
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 initiatives, such as Shop Small with its ‘spend £10 get £5 back’ offer, which has proven popular with customers. 
Whether you’re popping by for coffee or cake, or a working lunch (when restrictions ease), Tom and Vanessa always aim to make a big impression for a small business. This has led to invaluable support from their community in 2020: 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.

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 is a fan of American Express’ Shop Small campaign, which she thinks is a wonderful initiative to encourage people across the UK to support their local independents.
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!
Anne Kiem is Executive Director of the Small Business Charter and Chief Executive of the Chartered Association of Business Schools.

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:
  • 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. 
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.
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!”
Want in? Applications to join #SmallBiz100 2020 are now OPEN! Taking part is completely free and open to all small businesses across the UK, even if you’ve had to close temporarily due to Covid-19. Read more about why you should apply here, or if you’re ready to go, simply register your small business here, and then complete your application here. Good luck – we can’t wait to meet this year’s #SmallBiz100!

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.
All this and taking part is completely free! Sounds good? Applying to take part in SmallBiz100 2020 is quick and easy – just click here to register and start your journey. Already registered? Click here to apply to SmallBiz100.
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.
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.
How?
Make it personal. It is a nice feeling to receive an invitation, so send personal emails to people you know inviting them to your event. Include your LinkedIn connections too. Remember to include local MPs and dignitaries.
Be resourceful. Utilising our resources, I design and print flyers to hand out at meetings and to include in our delivery packs. I even walk around local business parks and the city centre pushing them through letterboxes. Remember to give a supply of printed literature to everyone who has agreed to help you and ask them to distribute them amongst their contacts. Many local organisations will agree to display the flyers in their reception areas, including the local tourism office.
Get social. I schedule regular social media posts on all our business platforms and identify online business groups who will agree to include it in their event listings. In 2016 I created a Facebook Group for Derby's small business community, which has now over 550 members. Any events I host, I let the Facebook group know. I use Eventbrite to ‘sell’ the free tickets.
Remember to include Small Business Saturday UK in your social media posts – they will help you spread the word to their vast number of followers.
On many occasions, I struggle to conjure up social media content for my own business, but the Small Business Saturday events gives my business something to shout, and it also showcases our corporate social responsibility.
And last of all, any opportunity I have to talk about the event, I do!
There are other ways to promote your event.
Local Media Channels: Back in 2014, I used one of the Small Business Saturday press releases as a template to distribute an article to the local press. I included business organisations such as our local Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses and the Council’s own communications team. At this point, I had only been in business for two years and to see my company name on my Council’s website was a real thrill. I loved the thought of a big organisation supporting a small business. Another proud moment was in 2016 when I hosted the event in the council chambers and I sat in the Mayor’s chair in front of 80 people.
Flash Mob: To generate some anticipation in the run up to an event and for a bit of fun, I organised a flash mob on one of Derby’s historic streets, Sadler Gate. It is an area with many small, independent retailers – the perfect place. I called upon my network of business buddies and invited the local retailers to join me at a specific time with a print out of their company logo for a photograph. I incentivised the idea by agreeing to use the photo for all the publicity in the run-up to the event. I knew the image had to be perfect - I needed a professional! Looking at our client base and contacts, who did I think would be willing to take the photographs and what could I offer them in exchange? Simon from JAKT Photography agreed without hesitation- he simply wanted to help. This happened in 2014, and the image is still in use today*.
During the flash mob, a local restaurateur; Holly from The Wonky Table, saw what was happening and opened up just for us. She offered the ‘flash mob’ free drinks and a chance to network. Those who took up the offer made new contacts, which created new business opportunities. Not only that but The Wonky Table made some new, repeat customers, me being one of them.
What can you do during the event to create a positive atmosphere and make your day memorable?
Everybody conga! During our event in the Market Hall, we had a small business exhibition, popup traders, networking, talks and two workshops but the climax of the day was when we did the conga around the stalls. At this point the local newspaper arrived and captured our antics, which led to publicity online and in the newspaper not just for the event, or the campaign, or even my business for that matter, but for other delegates and stall holders too. Win, win!
Razzle dazzle them! Find a local band or music students to provide some live music. What about a flash mob-style rock choir?
Last year we implemented a ‘Golden Ticket’. We put all the delegate names in a hat and picked out ten to present their ‘elevator pitch’ to the entire room of over 80 people. We gave them physical golden tickets and asked people to wave them in the air, which provided some theatre as well as an excellent opportunity to promote their business.
I have enjoyed hosting and curating these events over the years. One crucial factor for me is that everything remains free: free to exhibit and free to attend. I believe it is essential to make it inclusive to everyone and to remove the hurdle of cost. These free events can only remain free with the generosity and support of my local business community, and for that, I would like to say a public ‘thank you’.
In summary:
+ Contact your local Council. Can they sponsor a venue? Small Business Saturday UK is an excellent way of them showing support for their local businesses.
+ Use your tribe – who do you know? Sometimes the best people are right in front of you.
+ What are you doing it for? It is great to help others in your community but remember to accept and create opportunities to publicise your own business too.
+ “What’s in it for me?” Quite often, you won’t feel the benefit of your efforts until months or years to come. Be patient.
+ What does success look like? Set a goal: what would a successful event look like to you?
+ Quality, not quantity. Don’t be disheartened if delegate numbers are low. Many of my best meetings have been with fewer people because it allows you to have meaningful conversations.
+ Add some razzle dazzle!
+ Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
+ Know your strengths – use your superpower.
+ If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Be cheeky – you’ll be surprised how many people are willing to volunteer their time, skills and resources. When asking for freebies and help, be clear with your reasons why others should attend and get involved.
Yvonne Gorman owns Essential Print Services in Derby, which was one of the #SmallBiz100 in 2013.
*I would recommend you ask people to sign a Model Release Form or at the very least ensure people understand you will be using their photograph. This applies to photography for any commercial event.

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

Wednesday, October 09 at 22:28

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

Celebrating the North East’s cycle stars

Thursday, September 12 at 00:30

Today’s #SmallBiz100, Inspiral Cycles, run by husband and wife team Gary and Fiona Ewing, talked to Small Business Saturday about the journey they’ve been on over the past five years, and why their attitude to customer service means they’re on the ascendant.
In 2014, husband and wife Gary and Fiona Ewing both left their ‘safe’, salaried jobs to open Inspiral Cycles: a good, honest, proper local bike shop for servicing and fixing all range of cycles, alongside sales of new bikes, plus parts, accessories and clothing.
The couple had a business vision which would serve the Durham Dales community. Away from the cities of the North East, this area has significant unemployment and deprivation, yet it also has stunning landscapes and amazing cycle routes. Gary says, “We wanted to help locals get out to enjoy and explore the countryside on their doorstep. We’re not simply a shop: we are primarily a service. Inspiral Cycles has very quickly established itself in our local community as a trusted, family-run local business where we help our customers get out and ride bikes, not try to sell them things regardless.”
Gary and Fiona told Small Business Saturday that customer engagement is why they exist in the first place: it is the free expert and personal advice, the quick tweaks to someone’s cycle to make it safe, the options given in suggesting fixes rather than just replacements, that their customers most value.
While it is Gary’s life-long cycling skill, knowledge and enthusiasm which pedals the bicycle side of the business, it is Fiona’s passionate community engagement which has firmly fixed Inspiral Cycles into the local consciousness. They are always happy to support local independent businesses, such as carrying out puncture repairs for their local pram shop or recommending local cycle-friendly cafes to their customers, and have engaged with local events such as Easter Egg hunts and allowing local schools to decorate the shop as part of the Advent Windows Event. They have also worked with local charities including the Hamsterley Trailblazers and taken part in events such as The Hamsterley Beast mountain bike challenge, raising money for Great North Air Ambulance Service.
In the past five years, the shop has gone from strength to strength, now boasting five members of staff in their close-knit team, with over 130 combined years of cycling expertise. Fiona adds: “This is an especially exciting time for us as Inspiral Cycles has grown to capacity in four years, thanks to our customer support. We are now looking forward to extending our current shop space, with more room for extra staff in a new workshop and therefore a quicker turnaround time on cycle repairs.”
Overall, they say, their long-term goal is to deliver the best service for customers, rather than what delivers the highest profit for the shop – and their 5-star Facebook and Google reviews confirm that they are currently hitting their target.
Inspiral Cycles are taking part in American Express’ Shop Small campaign: find them here on the Shop Small Map.
Click here to visit Inspiral Cycles’ website, and click here to find out more about the AMEX Shop Small campaign.

Don’t know what to write about? 9 ideas for your next business newsletter, blog or social media post

Wednesday, September 04 at 21:59

Staying in touch regularly with potential clients is crucial if you want to get more sales. Emails are a particularly useful marketing tool to drive more traffic to your website, to build your relationship with potential and existing clients, and to build your credibility and profile with them. Blog posts are great for publishing relevant content on your website and are a good starting point to increase your ranking with the search engines.
But if you’re feeling a bit stuck, here are nine ideas for what to write about to keep your audience interested and engaged.
1. Why did you start your business?
Was there a special reason you became your own boss? Who or what inspired you? Is there a bigger purpose behind your business? Readers like to know more about your personal motivations, and writing about the origin of your business is a great starting point.
2. Where do you live and work?
Are you in the middle of Shoreditch or in the middle of Wales? How does your location influence your work? Write about your location, and how that specifically impacts on your work and business.
3. Review an exhibition, event or book
Share your inspirations, passions and values. Write a book review or create a photo-based blog post about an exhibition that you loved. Share pictures of a city visit or quiet walk. People buy from people. Show your personality. Dare to be a little different and stand out!
4. Show designs and products in process
Show how you get inspired. How you sketch out your ideas. How you create prototypes or select the right materials. Create a series of emails or blog posts that reveal a new collection step-by-step – from the initial ideas to the final pieces.
5. Share in-depth case studies
Collect case studies from clients. Talk your reader through all the different stages: your meetings, the changes you made, the challenges. Show the end result and some quotes from your client - not just about the final piece, but about the process and what they liked about working with you.
6. What is special or different about you?
It’s a pretty competitive market out there. What makes you different or special? Niche is good!
Write about what is special about you, your team, your business, your products? Do you use only ethical materials? Are you one of a very few in your sector?
7. Share useful tips and recommendations
Sharing practical tips or resources that are useful to your audience will make them value you. For example, if you sell wedding rings, recommend other small businesses, such as letterpress designers, a makeup artist, local photographers, and florists. If you are a printmaker, write about how to hang pictures on the walls for best effect.
8. Do a timely post or email
Make your communications more relevant and newsworthy. Be aware of WHEN your readers are most likely to buy. When are their key gift giving moments? Christmas? Mother’s Day? Valentine’s Day?
9. Invite others to write for you!
Invite guest contributors to your blog. Interview someone you know your readers would love to hear about. Or create a so called ‘wrap up blog post’ where you ask three to five contributors to respond to the same questions.
This is from more in depth post by Patricia van den Akker of The Design Trust.

Take a butcher’s at the first of the #SmallBiz100 2019

Friday, August 30 at 00:01

Our incredible journey through one hundred of the UK’s most exceptional small businesses, the #SmallBiz100, starts today, and to celebrate we’re showcasing our very first #SmallBiz100, of the year The Butchers Social, an independent bar and restaurant in Henley-in-Arden.
The Butchers Social started life as a pop-up in a disused butcher’s shop in Harborne before moving to its Henley home in 2016 (followed by a huge refurbishment project completed by a local construction firm in just two weeks!). The ethos of the restaurant is all about fine dining without the façade: the finest seasonal produce is served up in the pub’s relaxed atmosphere, showing that they can remove the formalities of traditional dining without compromising on incredible quality food.
Head chef Mike Bullard has invested a huge amount of time into the local community, building relationships that gained the trust of the local trade, and championing other independents. This year also sees him join forces with a number of Michelin Star chefs in various collaborations to profile what small independents can do.
He says, "Being situated in a small village, The Butchers Social had to earn the respect of the locals. It tries as much as possible to use only local suppliers, really showing its authenticity and dedication to making sure the local high street is thriving. It has a partnership with Purity, stocking their craft beers and visiting their brewery three miles down the road, we enlist a local florist for bouquets and order stationery from a neighbouring store; even our eggs are laid minutes from our door, our milk and cream are from an independent dairy and our meat from the Midlands.”
He adds, "Surviving against the marketing moguls, huge budgets and ubiquitous presence of the food franchises dominating UK high street is tough, but incentives like SmallBiz100 provide an amazing platform to profile businesses like The Butchers Social. Being an independent restaurant means consistently competing against chain restaurants, with small businesses under increasing pressure to go above and beyond to offer amazing customer experience and a completely unique offering.”
Mike also highlights AMEX’s work through its Shop Small offer and as principal supporter of Small Business Saturday as particularly important in ensuring small businesses like The Butchers Social succeed on the high street.
He is an ardent advocate for encouraging and growing talent and passing on his passion for food and cookery to others through training and mentoring. As a self-taught chef who worked his way up through the ranks from pot-washing to Chef Director of his own restaurant, Mike is determined to share the knowledge he has gained over 20 years in the industry and empower and support others to do the same.
One of the prime examples of this teaching is his apprentice, Olly, a local Henley resident with learning difficulties. Olly had made it known that he was desperate to become a chef, but no-one would take a chance on him and train him up. When Mike learned of Olly’s passion, he took him on as a chef apprentice through the HIT Training scheme, and never looked back. Olly has now been with The Butchers Social for nine months full-time, and Mike has made it clear that he intends to continue providing the professional development he needs to become a chef, no matter how long it takes.
Having overcome initial challenges, The Butchers Social has now become one of Warwickshire’s leading restaurants, loved by locals and destination foodies alike. In the two years since opening its doors, Mike has grown The Butchers Social into a welcoming, unpretentious venue, where everyone is welcome. Whether you’re looking for a relaxed country pub to enjoy a pint and some nibbles; a chance to try the renowned chicken wings by the kilo; a destination for a business meeting or a date night; or an opportunity to experience a nine-course tasting menu where flavour is king: The Butchers Social has it all, without compromising the outstanding food and brilliant seasonal ingredients.
Click here to visit The Butchers Social’s website, and click here to find out more about the AMEX Shop Small campaign.

7 essential growth tips that small businesses need to know

Thursday, August 22 at 09:27

Image credit: Pixabay
It’s one thing to start a business, but it’s another entirely to turn it into a major success. After all, the road to growth is riddled with potholes and challenges, fully prepared to arrest your development (or even send you hurrying back to square one) if you’re not careful. Because of this, if you’ve started taking your first steps down that road, you should stop to think.
What should you think about? For a start, how prepared you really are for the route you’re taking. If you’re feeling anything less than 90% confident (some doubts are unavoidable), then I strongly suggest you do some more research before continuing. To help you move in the right direction, here are 7 growth tips that every small business owner should follow:
Learn from comparable companies
You’re not running your business in a vacuum, and while it’s somewhat commendable to want to discover everything for yourself, it’s simply a bad way to operate when history is littered with incredible examples of everything from absolute success to miserable failure. By identifying some companies already active in the business world that are similar to yours (not direct competitors, but useful points of comparison), you can learn from their paths.
Keep loyal customers happy
It’s true that you might well outgrow your first set of customers, but you should hold onto them for as long as you can. Why? Because their loyalty and support are invaluable and will prove critical for convincing new customers that you’re truly worthy of their attention (referral schemes are very impactful, and an ecommerce growth tool like Girafi can help you implement them). Churn is a dangerous enemy indeed, and you need a solid foundation upon which to build. Even as you expand, then, you musn’t forget where you started.
Get your finances in order
Money isn’t everything, but not having enough of it is. Growth demands investment (not just personally, but also financially), and you can’t get where you want to go unless you figure out how to balance investment in your future with the needs of today. Above everything else, get your accounts sorted: Wave has free accounting software designed for small business, so you can try that, or just set up a spreadsheet and log everything (this will take longer, though).
Assemble a great team ASAP
You can start out as a solo entrepreneur. You can even create a business and run it yourself fairly successfully, particularly if you’re operating as a freelancer — but you can’t indefinitely run a rapidly-expanding business with no assistance. Sooner or later (probably sooner), you’ll find yourself exhausted and frustrated, having lost all energy for your project. To stop that from happening, you need to build a great team (the earlier, the better) to lighten your load.
Delegate anything you can
Speaking of not doing everything yourself, you need to learn how to delegate. This is something that plenty of business owners struggle with (even experienced ones). They’re so used to controlling everything that they don’t know how to stop themselves from micromanaging tasks or simply handling them directly. But if you’ve hired a great team, that team deserves your trust and respect — so trust them to do things correctly, then step back and focus on sales.
Document all your procedures
If you’re extremely fortunate, your team will stick around while you grow, but you’ll need to hire new people eventually. When that happens, you may need them to take over the handling of various existing tasks. Doing this efficiently is all about having your procedures fully documented — even something as simple as updating the company calendar could be given a walkthrough. (Tallyfly is a program designed to digitise manual processes, and you can try it for free.) Then, in the event that a vital employee does leave, they won’t take all their knowledge with them and leave you in the dark, because much of it will have been added to the documentation.
Don’t try to rush anything
Perhaps most importantly, don’t feel the need to grow at a rapid pace. You’re running a marathon, not a sprint, and you needn’t be thinking too much about where your business will be in a year. Instead, think about where you want it to be in two years, five years, or even ten years. Growing too quickly can lead to huge practical issues, such as being unable to fulfil orders, which can ultimately make your business smaller. Wait until you’ve clearly demonstrated that your business is ready to grow, then step on the accelerator.
It’s great to be proud of the business you’ve built, and to aspire to more, but don’t let that ambition send you in the wrong direction. If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Be smart, follow these growth tips, and you’ll minimise the risk.
Kayleigh Toyra is a content marketer and writer based in Bristol and Finland. Find out more at www.kayleightoyra.com or contact her at [email protected] or on 07954421522.

Making a great first impression: photography & small business

Wednesday, August 14 at 21:56

Being a small business can seem overwhelming at times, especially when you’re juggling the finances and weighing up where your money is best spent to maximise return.
Photography can appear to be a luxury, but if you’re in the business of selling something, whether it be a service or product, quality photography could be one of the best investments you could make. Of course, there are areas where professional photographs can be supplemented with your own photography to really tell the story of your brand.
Engaging with your customers should be a top priority, and photography, as we’ve explained before, is the visual aid to help sell your products or services. Whether it be professional or not, you can instantly gain interest by using an image that captures the imagination, gets people thinking or simply tells a story. It can also work the other way, and poor imagery may result in potential buyers switching off as they are not reassured by the brand and its value.
Getting the mix right:
You may opt to reach for the smartphone and take those selfies, provide insight into the company or interact with your followers at an event. But be wise as to what images you take.
Think about the framing, the message and ultimately your brand before uploading and hitting that ‘send’ or ‘publish’ button. Here are some top tips to help you when covering a business or social event:
  • Familiarise yourself with the camera or smartphone. Figure out how to use the flash, make recordings and know the device’s limitations. Zoom features on smartphones for example are not great and can destroy the quality of the image.
  • Visit the venue beforehand to get a feel of what is where, best angles for shooting from and try out the equipment.
  • Ask permission to take photographs and be relaxed. Guests will be happier to smile if you do!
  • Avoid taking photos of people eating!
  • Make sure you note down any names of people you have snapped and capture a wide variety of images including logos and branding, especially of any sponsors of the event. Try where you can to capture the vibrancy of the event by being creative.
Another temptation is to use stock images. It might seem a cost-effective route to go down, but it’s a tricky one to navigate. While these images are great for showcasing a generalised idea, they don’t show YOU or YOUR business off to its best advantage. People want to know who they are buying from, what they are purchasing and want to build a rapport with you. Stock images won’t give you that personable approach and can make you appear too ‘general’ or ‘similar’ to others. You are unique, so shout it from the rooftops!
Equally, think about the overall look of your business and whether it’s worth investing in some professional photography to help build your brand. Headshots, corporate setting shoots and product photography are often best left to the professionals. A great photographer will work with you to reflect your brand values and can make you stand out above the competition.
Search engine optimisation is also imperative in garnering interest and visits to your website or social media and one of the main elements of this is through images. If you get it right and people go to your site because they like what they see, your hit rate goes up and you will feature more highly in searches carried out online.
Your business is yours for the making and I appreciate entirely the need to evaluate carefully where to allocate funds. But if you choose wisely and do your homework, it need not be a huge expense and it’ll be one you will reap the rewards from in the long term.
David Wellbelove runs a small commercial photography studio in Bletchley, Milton Keynes. Find out more here.

Strength in numbers

Thursday, July 11 at 00:32

Andrew Goodacre,CEO of the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira), shares the work the association is doing to support thousands of independent retail businesses.
It isn’t easy being a small business owner. That’s why it is good to know you have someone on your side. Our membership organisation supports thousands of independent retail businesses up and down the UK, representing everyone from pet shops to cafes, from department stores to health food shops. Our collective strength means we get discounts and offers with a number of key business services and suppliers that help save shop owners time and money.
As well as savings, we are also heavily involved in lobbying the Government on a number of issues facing the High Street. Business rates are currently a very hot topic with our members, with many small businesses being unable to afford them, resulting in closures. The Government announced a 30% reduction in the last Budget for those businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 but we need to keep the pressure on to make sure that the Government continues to offer support for small businesses.
Our Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, made up of members, have been working very hard to lobby Government in this area. We’ve been to the Houses of Parliament to debate the issue, we’ve met with the Treasury at Downing Street and we’ve even got the Treasury Committee, who are doing an inquiry into business rates, coming to our offices in Birmingham this month to meet with our members. We are lucky that because we represent so many independent retail businesses it means the Government listen to us and have been exploring our ideas for reform.
Of course, business rates are not the only burden for retailers. Town parking, or the lack of it, ever increasing paperwork and costs (e.g. Making Tax Digital, auto-enrolment pensions, National Living Wage), retail crime, increasing legislation on things like knife sales, as well as decreasing footfall - all mount up to make retailing more difficult. We will continue to work on a number of initiatives to ensure small businesses are considered when new legislation is introduced and that the playing field is levelled between online and bricks and mortar retailing.
Bira would love to hear from independent retail businesses to hear what issues you are facing and how they can continue to support you. They are determined to keep independent retail businesses at the heart of our communities, and are looking forward to this year's Small Business Saturday and highlighting all of the work being done to showcase the amazing retailers we have in the UK.
If you want to know more, you can keep up to date with their policy work here.

How to choose the right pricing strategy for your business

Tuesday, June 18 at 11:52

Researching how to price a product might feel like an endless black hole, but, as we’ll explain, the compact size and flexibility of your small business put you in a good position to make it work. To begin with, there’s no one strategy that should be used at any one time, and no demand for you to stick to the one you choose.
Getting started with pricing strategies
Getting your pricing strategy right is important for your business’s sustainability. If your prices are too high, you’ll struggle to sell; too low, you won’t be able to cover your costs. Setting your pricing is one of the first things to do when starting a new business. It forms an important chapter in your business plan, and arms you with the knowledge to sway investors. And when it’s time to scale, your pricing strategy will heavily influence how that happens.
The factors that influence and affect the pricing of your products include:
  • Their value — be that how much it costs to make them or (in the case of services) the time and expertise they demand
  • The fixed and variable business costs you need to cover
  • The spending power of your target market
  • How your competitors price their products and services
Common pricing strategies for small businesses
Pricing strategies can be overlaid, used at strategic points throughout the year, implemented as a reaction and more. It’s unlikely you’ll ever need to use just one strategy, and likely that the strategies you choose today will get tweaked in the future as you grow and develop.
Full cost pricing
With the full cost pricing strategy, the production costs of a product (material, manufacturing and labour costs) are added to the selling & admin costs (accounting, legal, marketing, facilities, sales and corporate costs), before a markup is added to create a profit margin. This number is then divided by the number of units the business expects to sell.
(Total production costs + selling and administration costs + markup) ÷ Number of units expected to sell
Benefits
  • Simplicity: the formula is simple to understand and use.
  • Profit-focused: the formula is designed with profits in mind, so if your predicted costs and sales aren’t too far wrong, a profit isn’t far away.
  • Easy to justify: your prices can easily be explained.
Disadvantages
  • Budgeting basis: the formula is based on predictions, which will probably lead to some inaccuracy.
  • Uncompetitive: the formula doesn’t take into account competitor pricing or consumer spending power, which may lead to under- or over-pricing.
  • Hard to scale: the more products you add to your offering, the more tricky it is to allocate their individual costs.
Price creaming
Creaming (also known as “skimming”) is where a business initially sets a high price for its product, before gradually reducing it over time. Price creaming works best if you’re bringing a new concept to the market where very few or no other competitors are present: your business brings an original and desirable product to market, as there is high demand, customers are happy to pay a premium price. You then gradually reduce prices as both demand decreases and competitors begin to emerge, known as “riding down the demand curve”.
Benefits
  • Captures a surplus: you can capture the majority of the market at a high price point, giving you the monopoly.
  • Recoups startup costs: it quickly captures the market at a high price point, giving you high returns early on in your business’s lifetime.
Disadvantages
  • Demand for absolute originality: this strategy is limited to businesses who are bringing something entirely new to the market.
  • You have to move fast: lower-priced competitors can enter the market and snatch the surplus away from you if your marketing and sales efforts don’t prompt sales quickly enough.
Freemium
Freemium pricing is used a lot by digital companies, like software providers and game developers. It works by drawing customers in with a basic, free product, then charging a premium price for add-ons, like more storage or additional tools.
Benefits
  • Good for growth: by welcoming in customers for free, you can quickly grow your user base.
  • Good for testing: it’s an easy way to get more people to test your product without high marketing costs.
Disadvantages
  • It’s free: it’s harder to break even when you rely solely on people buying add-ons, or making money through other means such as advertising.
  • Except it isn’t really free: “nothing in life is free” goes the saying, and as more companies use the freemium model, customers are getting savvy with what they sign up for.
Loss leader
A loss leader pricing strategy uses a product sold at a low price (often below the cost it took to make it) to encourage profitable sales of other products. The psychology behind this is that if you can draw a customer in to buy “bargain” items, you can then upsell higher-priced items. Businesses with physical stores often place loss leader products far from the entrance, so that customers are exposed to higher-value products en route.
Benefits
  • Increases footfall and loyalty: customers know where to go for a bargain, and they keep coming back.
  • Inventory cleansing: items that are hard to shift can be paired with high-value products when you’re clearing out inventory.
Disadvantages
  • Questionable profitability: because the loss leader itself is at or below cost, you absolutely rely on the appeal of your high-value items.
  • Research is needed: you need to be spot-on when choosing your loss leaders, so that they and the high-value items shift.
Pay what you want
As you’d expect, the pay what you want pricing strategy asks the customer to choose their purchase price, sometimes with a minimum price in place. This strategy is best used only occasionally, for example when you’re testing a new product or running a promotion.
Benefits
  • Promotion: it’s a great way to showcase new products and get customers hooked so they pay in future.
  • A temporary tool: unlike a lot of the other pricing strategies we’ve mentioned, it can be used in short bursts to instantly drive certain customer behaviours.
Disadvantages
  • It takes thought: too many pay what you want incentives will desensitise your customers.
  • Non-returning customers: many customers will try the product and never come back.
Penetration pricing
A penetration pricing strategy sets product prices low to gain market share through customer volume. The price is gradually raised over time as you make that gain. Done right, it can discourage new competitors who simply don’t think it’s worth their time to contend with such good value being offered.
Benefits
  • Great for new businesses: this is a solid strategy for new businesses building their niche and carving out a safe place among their competitors.
  • Long-term impact: the theory is that by creating demand with a bargain product, you create higher demand and higher price potential for the future.
Disadvantages
  • Maintaining quality: if the quality of the product remains unchanged, or if you fail to create a positive brand experience, customers may buy from competitors when you raise prices.
  • Perceived value: if you decrease the price too much, any future increases might be met with resistance from customers.
Premium pricing
A premium pricing strategy keeps the price of a product or service high to encourage sales. It’s a method that uses the psychology of “you get what you pay for” — from the luxurious connotations of certain watch brands, to the perceived ethics of organic food products. New trends, social consciousness and social aspiration are three big drivers of premium pricing.
Benefits
  • Great for many small businesses: many small businesses have built their brand around a social, environmental and welfare-based awareness — perfect for premium pricing.
  • Entry barrier: if you get your branding right, competitors may be put off by the marketing investment required to justify their own version of a product.
Disadvantages
  • Branding cost: a premium pricing strategy is driven by a strong brand and proposition — something that takes time, skill and money to build.
  • Market limitation: the high price point of your products will only attract certain customers, this means your overall market penetration may be limited.
How to price a product
To price your products so that they drive cash flow, you need to be clear on these things:
  • The cost of producing your product, or
  • The value of your services to your clients
  • How much your customers have and want to spend
  • The overall running costs of your business
  • What critical costs need to be covered short-term (e.g. loan repayments)
  • How your competitors price their products
Your pricing should take all of these into consideration with the ultimate goal of making your business profitable. What that looks like is different for everyone, and could require any number of pricing strategies. You may even uncover a need to tweak your business model through the process of setting your pricing strategy. This includes things like cost-cutting, restructuring your team or developing your brand.
Pricing strategies aren’t for life. All businesses test and change over time, and your compact size and management structure make it far easier to make changes quickly. Your sales are a good source of proof when deciding if and when those changes need to be made. So it pays to have an integrated payments system that tells you how much your selling, when and to who.
Square is proud to support Small Business Saturday. This article was first published on Square's blog: read the original here.

How taking matters into her own hands led to huge success for Revival Retro

Saturday, June 08 at 23:43

A passion for retro events plus frustration at not being able to find the right clothes and shoes to compliment this look led to Rowena Howie opening Revival Retro boutique in 2011. 
Since its opening as both a gorgeous store in the heart of London and an online boutique, Revival Retro has gone from strength to strength, thanks to its beautiful design, bespoke variety of clothing and shoes, impeccable customer service, and offering a definite point of difference in the market place. Rowena has found her business has also received a great boost from being an ambassador for the Small Business Saturday campaign and being included in the Amex Shop Small offer for a number of years now.
“One of my qualms was how to find a stunning retro outfit that looks great, has a definite 30s/40s style, but won’t fall apart when you wear it or try to clean it?” explains Rowena Howie. “Why was all gorgeous vintage clothing too small for me? How do I avoid yet another unsuccessful foray into moth-balled cupboards, sifting through endless eighties sequined jumpsuits labelled as ‘vintage’? This is why I decided to take matters into my own hands.”
And what hands! Not only has Revival Retro stacked up awards since its incarnation seven years ago, but it has built a huge digital presence and following all around the world, and currently has nearly 33k followers on Instagram.
Rowena herself is prolific in banging the drum for small business owners and is a huge part of the Soho community, supporting fellow business owners and being at the forefront of issues impacting small business owners in the area and nationwide. Before opening her boutique, she did a lot of research about the viability of opening a brick and mortar store in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
“From the very beginning I used workshops at the British Library to further my knowledge about running my own business. Long before I ever opened the bricks and mortar store, I was examining the viability, profitability and likelihood of scale for the venture. I started the business because I was thirty-something and couldn’t envisage ever owning my own home on the salary I was earning. The drive for me to learn and grow was fundamental to commercial success of the business, helping me achieve my personal goals.”
The award-winning team at Revival Retro’s success lies in not only offering a beautiful range of clothing, footwear and accessories but being passionate about helping women feel good, and they do this by offering second-to-none customer service and really listening to and understanding their customers' needs.
“There is nothing worse and soul destroying that being shoehorned into an outfit that you feel hideous in – we’ve all been there! We want our customers to love our clothes as I believe there is the perfect outfit here for every woman, and we pride ourselves on our knowledge and expertise to find it and leave our customers feeling wonderful. Clothes are such a powerful thing used well.”
Rowena continues to be an ambassador for this year’s Small Business Saturday UK campaign, and an AMEX Shop Small Merchant, and will be sharing her success story, insight and experience with fellow business owners in the lead up and inspiring like-minded business owners all over the UK. Watch this space!
Click here to visit the Revival Retro online store, and click here to find out more about the Amex Shop Small campaign.

5 content ideas every small business needs

Wednesday, May 22 at 22:14

Your content strategy is an effective channel for growing your small business. It’s good for SEO, builds your customer community, and keeps customers returning to your business for more than sales.
But a good content strategy is a diverse one. Read on for five content ideas that every small business needs in their strategy in 2019.

Provide product guides that get your business noticed

The research stage of the buyer’s journey is a vital one — this is where they explore their options to find the right product for them. And while the research stage might seem out of your hands, it’s actually the perfect time to get your foot in the door and push ahead of the competition.
By producing product guides that inform potential customers about their options, you can push your product to the fore. Create a guide that provides comprehensive overviews of the various options on offer, while ensuring yours comes out on top as the obvious choice for the customer.
You can achieve this in a variety of ways, but video is perhaps the most popular. As a content form, video is popular and engaging — plus, it’s easy to create and cascade across social too.
Takeaway tip: product guides let you join the research stage of the buyer’s journey on your own terms. Use your guide to identify potential issues your customers might have with your product and head them off early, overcoming objections before they arise.

Be a brand with a heart with a strong charitable commitment

More and more consumers demand that the businesses they shop with have clear, charitable commitments. Brands with dedicated ethical, charitable, or sustainable practices increase customer loyalty by showing themselves as more than just businesses — they are brands with a heart.
Even the smallest of businesses can (and should) implement such an initiative into their strategy. It doesn’t need to be on the scale of big brand charity commitments — just donating a percentage of your profits to a small or local cause is enough to show your customers your charitable side.
Publicise your efforts through your content. Charity Q&A sessions, founder profiles, original videos of the work your chosen cause does — these all make for great content that engages your customers with your business on a deeper level, enhancing your branding as a result.
Takeaway tip: if you are a brick-and-mortar business, choose a local cause as your supported charity. This helps engage local customers, building an offline community as well as your online one. Partner with your charity for a content exchange, promoting each other on your email and social channels for a beneficial relationship that works for each party.

Embrace UGC for customer-focused content

User-generated content (UGC) is a content quick-fix that virtually every business can take advantage of in 2019. With so many social platforms at your fingertips abundant with fresh, unique content, it’s an idea you need in your small business content strategy.
UGC isn’t just a quick, low-cost way of sourcing content to fill your editorial calendar. It’s also a great way of building your customer community by showing them some appreciation, and that’s money in the bank for small businesses.
A strong customer community is a loyal one, with shoppers return to your business time and again. UGC reinforces this by showing them that you value their input, nurturing your community as a result. It also provides you with some powerful social proof into the bargain — very slick.
Takeaway tip: there are a number of UGC content ideas you can use, but competitions are the easiest and most popular. Launch a UGC competition and invite your customers to submit their unique snaps to your small business, using a branded hashtag to collate all the answers. Share the best ones to your own feed (with permission, of course), and celebrate your customers and the value they bring to your small business.

Create comprehensive guides that educate your customers

You know your customers inside-and-out, and you know the issues they care about and the problems they face. Your buyer personas provide an insight into how your customers tick — and inspiration for your own content too.
Create comprehensive guides that directly address these issues. In doing so, you position your small business as more than a commercial entity, but as a resource hub that your customers can turn to time and again.
For example, let’s say you’re a tech brand with a target market interested in gadgets and electronics. Your customers will naturally have concerns about a range of tech-related issues, such as how to hard reset an Android phone or how to sync a smartphone to a tablet.
Address these issues in your content, and create guides that are always relevant and regularly updated. These make for evergreen content that people will turn to when they need it and generate leads as a result.
Takeaway tip: conduct deep customer research to find out their desires and pain points, and create a series of detailed guides that resolve these issues. Update them regularly with new data, and use natural headings and an FAQ section to make it SEO-friendly. Click here for more evergreen pointers.

Play with interactive content to nurture a community

Interactive content is perfect for small businesses, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it strengthens your customer community, engaging them with your business. But it also encourages further sharing of content on social and adds diversity to the usual one-way content formats.
There are a number of interactive content ideas you can easily use for your small business’s strategy. Competitions are one of the most common and are simple to set up. The offer of a prize encourages customer participation, and it’s a great way of sourcing customer emails to build your subscriber lists.
Other great interactive content ideas include quizzes, polls, and surveys. Polls in particularly are ideal for sourcing customers’ thoughts on new products, providing quick-fix market research when you need it.
Takeaway tip: Twitter and Instagram both have useful poll features that you can use to serve a specific purpose, such as sourcing customer opinions on product development, or simply as a bit of fun. Take this further by turning your poll responses into blog content in its own right, e.g. “80% Of Our Customers Use Fabric Conditioner — Here’s Why”.
As a small business, your content strategy is vital in generating new leads, driving traffic to your store, and making your brand stand out against your competition. Follow the tips above and create a diverse content strategy that serves your business time and again.
Author bio
Kayleigh Toyra is a content marketer and writer based in Bristol and Finland. Find out more at www.kayleightoyra.com or contact her at [email protected] or on 07954421522.

The Flour Pot Bakery's secret to success

Wednesday, May 15 at 23:08

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

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

Friday, April 26 at 10:34

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

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

Wednesday, April 24 at 22:59

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

How we should champion success for International Women's Day

Saturday, March 02 at 14:54

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

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

Thursday, February 21 at 10:53

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

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

Wednesday, February 13 at 23:52

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

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

Thursday, January 17 at 09:00

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

Badge Your Brilliance with iDEA

Thursday, January 10 at 09:00

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

How to make your Christmas the most successful yet!

Saturday, November 24 at 17:00

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

Life in the fast Laine

Wednesday, November 21 at 15:34

Boutique gift shop, Present in the Laine hit the bohemian streets of North Laine, Brighton almost five years ago. A gift and accessory haven single-handedly created by Caroline Clifton, it is a great example of the unique charm small businesses bring to local communities. 
The reason for launching her own shop? “I had just had my first child and wanted to create my own work. Previously I’d been working as a gift buyer for a start-up, so with the experience of that combined with my fashion merchandising background, I felt equipped to face the challenges of running my own small business. It felt like the culmination of everything I’d done up to then and chance to do things my way .”
Doing this has provided Caroline with the flexibility that she’d craved, and Present in the Laine has provided the shopping district that is its namesake with a stylish and colourful gift shop.
It’s clear that the boutique has a special place in the hearts of the locals. Caroline only hires from the local community, and the long-term commitment of customers that began from the moment Present in the Laine opened its doors, is testament to locals’ affection for the shop: “From the day we opened there was a hugely positive response. All the visitors commented on the great atmosphere – and the amazing smell thanks to our candle range!
“I get complimented every day on what lovely products we have, and I love meeting lots of lovely, friendly customers who are enjoying their shopping experience in an independent store!”
Despite such early popularity, Caroline has had to adapt her strategy and introduce an e-commerce side to the business, working with an online marketplace for independent boutiques. This has resulted in Present in the Laine driving traffic to its website and growing its online sales.
Competing on the high street is often the biggest challenge a small business will face. But with a large numbers of tourists flocking to Brighton every week, tempted by the allure of streets teeming with shopping opportunities, and with the backing of the likes of AMEX and its Shop Small campaign, Caroline feels like small businesses always have the ability to keep up. “The collective charm of the many local shops, including ours, intrigues and draws them in.”
This collective has also showed spirit in the face of high street adversity. Brighton’s high street network has come together and on 6 December this year, over 100 shops in North Laine will open their doors for a late-night shopping event, offering customers promotions – and prosecco – as well as extra time to complete their all-important Christmas shopping, encouraging shoppers to do so with small businesses.
Of course, this isn’t the only time this December that North Laine’s shoppers will be encouraged to shop local, with Present in the Laine set to take part in Small Business Saturday on 1 December. A member of this year’s Small Biz 100, Caroline says that it was already being a part of such a great local small business network in Brighton that encouraged her to apply:
“I am heavily involved in the network of small businesses here and I am passionate about helping the independent traders of North Laine. The Small Biz 100 is a wonderful initiative which highlights the important role small businesses play in the local community.”
Small Business Saturday will hopefully kickstart Present in the Laine’s busiest period. Christmas brings a rush of visitors on the hunt for unique and thoughtful gifts – something which this small business is all too happy and equipped to provide.

Small businesses shine at launch of Silver iDEA Award St James's Palace

Thursday, November 15 at 00:57

Small Business Saturday is thrilled to partner with The Duke of York's Inspiring Digital Enterprise Awards (iDEA) to deliver free, expert online training to small businesses across the UK. Many small businesses have already achieved their Bronze award - huge congratulations to them for all their hard work and dedication - and the Silver Award was launched at St James's Palace earlier this week.
#SmallBiz100 James McBrearty, who has already completed both the Bronze and Silver awards, including achieving the Silver Star level for completing every optional module of the course, said "Many people worry about the time and cost of learning, iDEA helps people by both being free as well as being able to be taken on whatever device suits you – enabling you to make the best use of your time wherever you happen to be."
Nicola Case of Pink Spaghetti said "What a truly inspirational evening at St James's Palace for the launch of Silver iDEA. It was amazing to see how the awards are being adopted across all sectors and age groups."
The evening started with an opening speech from HRH The Duke of York, who talked about the how the awards have developed into the digital badges we earn today, and a viewing of the promotional video for the new Silver Award, highlighting how it will build on the foundation of the bronze badges to develop the learning into understanding and problem solving.
A panel session hosted by Maggie Philbin, CEO of TeenTech, shared the experiences of how organisations such as councils, schools and not for profits are utilising the iDEA awards to actively encourage students, volunteers and the wider community to learn new skills within technology. Small Business Saturday was represented by our Director Michelle Ovens MBE, who highlighted how the Small Business Saturday community has embraced the digital badges to enhance their own skillsets and offer a more diverse service to their clients. 
Three of the Small Business Saturday community who have already completed their Silver award were invited along to the evening - Rachel Gilbertson, James McBrearty and Nicola Case.
Nicola said, "It was wonderful to be able to talk with some of the organisations that are partnering with iDEA to offer the digital badges as part of an education program. I thoroughly enjoyed working through the badges and there was so much to learn, being able to share my experiences and thoughts with the other businesses in the room cemented just how much I got from these awards.”
Taking part in iDEA is completely free and you can work whenever you want, at a pace to suit you. Find out more and get involved here.

Local and sustainable is winning formula for SmallBiz100 Hays Hampers

Wednesday, November 07 at 23:30

Established in 1984, Lincolnshire wine merchants Jeremy and Rachel Marshall-Roberts wanted to add to the prestigious and fine wine they were selling and create gift sets – enter Hay Hampers.

After 30 years they left the company but were keen to ensure their close-knit family ethos remained. Luckily, eager to enter the entrepreneur life was Italian couple Elisabeth Och and her husband Gabriele Da Re. Ready to spend more time together and with a passion for food and wine, Hay Hampers was the perfect match.

Taking over in 2014, they have used their backgrounds in the financial and marketing industries to promote Hay Hampers in the competitive gourmet market and its turnover has more than tripled in the past four years.

The pair have remained true to the traditions of the company, even the majority of the employees remain from before they came to own the Bourne premises. The Marshall-Roberts themselves even work part-time as wine educators and consultants.

As a Small Business the company faces challenges in competing with the larger retailers who are also in the food and wine gifts business.

“There are many challenges, even as simple as our promotion on Google. The big businesses will always come up on the first page, whereas we struggle to do this,” says Elisabeth.

But like so many small businesses, the company manages to compete by keeping close to its values. Working in a family owned business means a lot of support, sharing and counting on one another during peak times, such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Elisabeth explains they have to be prepared:

“We have to be ready, so we set strategies for peak times and hire more staff, but seasonal business is difficult for any small business as people turn to better-known brands.”

To gain the upper hand, Elisabeth and Gabriele have placed more focus on community engagement, including supporting local charities by providing hampers as prizes at events.

“When we arrived, Hay Hampers wasn’t too well-known locally, and we really made an effort to engage with the community,” Elisabeth says. “We recruit locally, and when we are hiring more staff at Christmas, it is important we are known in the community to get the most talented people.”

Elisabeth also places a lot of emphasis on the importance of sustaining the local community. She and her husband always try to find local food artisans and help them become their suppliers. For example, if they don’t have the suitable packaging, Hay Hampers will help them to design and source.

Hay Hampers has taken part in Small Business Saturday for a number of years to further connect with the community, and this year decided to apply and was chosen for the SmallBiz100. The business has also been involved in the AMEX Shop Small campaign.

“We have always offered the opportunity to customers to pay with American Express, so it’s good to know they will be rewarded for spending with us via the Shop Small campaign. We were really delighted to be chosen as one of the SmallBiz100, representing our community.”

Red Herring Games – Case Study

Wednesday, October 24 at 23:12

I’m Jo Smedley, Managing Director of Red Herring Games. I launched the business 11 years ago now, while I was at home with two toddlers. I’m now operating from a high street based office with four staff and three office dogs (not all mine!).
When I moved into the area in 2000, I was helping with a church youth group who wanted to play a murder mystery for one of their evening meetings. There were no age appropriate scripts for them to use, so I wrote my own. I test ran it with the parents, who all loved it and wanted more. After four years doing this I went on maternity leave with my first child and decided I didn’t want to go back to the NHS to work.
I thought about running a coffee shop – and applied to the bank – but they turned me down as I had no start up funding available. Friends of ours who ran a website business suggested I try selling the murder mystery games I had written and within a year I had written enough plots to launch my own firm.
Eleven years down the line, I have over 100 titles to my name, 15 other authors writing scripts, and over 30,000 satisfied customers!
Money wasn’t so much a challenge as I was fortunate in that my friends helped me get started on-line creating the business for a share of the sales. This worked really well and gave me the start I needed. I had to juggle children and writing, customer care and nappies for the first few years, and meeting upfront costs would have been impossible. The hardest challenge for me in the early days was feeling legitimate. Was I really running my own business? Was I able to charge what I wanted for my products? Were they worth the money? etc. After that, it was all the legals … there was no start up advice to be had and I was trading a few years without realising I needed to be ICO registered or have certain legal things in place.
I was very fortunate to join a business networking group locally who helped me learn all the business basics and also give me confidence in myself. I had a great accountant who steered me over the vast accountancy issues, and was able to get free and informal advice from the other businesses in the networking group so that I found out about things as I went along. I had some great pricing and marketing advice in the early stages of my business and with regular contact from these informal business mentors my business took flight.
As an ecommerce business, I explored selling on marketplaces like Ebay and then Amazon within the first few years. Amazon didn’t take digital products – but that was all right as within three years of trading I’d moved from selling only digital products to physical ones. When I joined, Amazon sellers needed their own bar codes, so my first requirement was to register with GS1 for bar codes, and then print all my products so that the bar code became integral with the printing. We’ve had several versions of the games, as the product has improved in look and appearance as our business grew and gained small scale manufacturing equipment. Once I had the product up to a saleable physical level, then came the challenge of learning how to export using Amazon, a process we started with in 2013 and which has seen sales skyrocket, especially in our winter peak season.
More recently, we explored Kickstarter as a pre-order funding scheme to help us launch a brand new product to market, and already we’ve seen more and more USA based customers joining in with the subscription box.
I would suggest all small businesses explore export as soon as they can. Leveraging overseas sales will increase your income faster than just focusing on the UK alone. There are lots of advisors within the DIT who will help you export. Don’t think you can’t. You may need to modify your product or your approach for the overseas market, but there are very few businesses who can’t export in some way. We export both design services and physical products, providing writing mentoring and custom design work overseas. It’s not something we went into business expecting to do – but it’s something we did within the first week of launch. That’s export.
I would suggest businesses explore marketplaces like Amazon. The world of web is changing and people are lazy and tend to shop on marketplace sites now rather than hunting the entire web for what they want. You will increase your visibility and marketing if you can access well known market places. Yes, they cost money to join, and yes, they eat into your profit margin – but if you sell more, you still benefit. The trick is pitching your pricing correctly to absorb those extra costs.
I always suggest businesses get involved locally and nationally with small business groups and support. This could be on-line or face to face. You learn so much by hearing from others. Keep an open mind and apply anything you think could help your business.
Don’t forget to check out the competition – it’s healthy to see what works and what doesn’t. There’s nothing new under the sun, and the chances are someone else will be doing what you want to do, or something similar. Find out what they do that works. You can use this to help you with marketing, design concepts or develop your product in different ways. Obviously you don’t want to plagiarise or copy! But if you see something someone does that works well, why not try the same thing to boost your own product; and if you see a gap in the market your competitors have missed – exploit it!
When you just start out in business you need all the friends and support you can. It’s tough running your own business and the more people you can have around you for moral and emotional and business support the better. It’s not plain sailing and in all businesses there are peaks and troughs. You just have to make sure the troughs don’t sink your business, or ruin your health. The troughs are when you’ll find the benefits of having small business support around you.
What are we looking forward to in the future? We have got new product lines developing all the time. In 2019, we hope to launch our first ever board game, which we’re currently working on with the help of Ingenium Games. We’re also looking at developing unique software to our business that will open up new export markets. We have a head full of ideas and not enough time or resources to develop them all … every year holds a new challenge and excitement for us as a result. We had no idea our subscription box idea would take off as well as it has. As the customer base expands for this – our whole business sales dynamic will see massive changes and our usual seasonal cash flow issues will be a thing of the past enabling us to grow the business in new and exciting ways!Read more about Red Herring Games on their website.

Keeping Up With The Tylers: How To Move With The Times

Monday, October 08 at 18:21

A family business dating back almost 100 years, Tylers Department Store & Café is more than just one of Loughborough’s best local businesses. Its history is steeped into the town, but it is also a great example of how heritage businesses can move with the times.Helen Tyler manages the store’s social media, website and marketing – a position that would be alien to her grandfather and great uncle, who started the business in 1922.“It started out as a small hardware store and it wasn’t until the 1970s that the conversion into a shopping centre began. In 1922 the shop was one property, but it grew by purchasing neighbouring premises,” Helen says, adding that it is more than store size that has grown:“Our product range and services have evolved immensely through the years; from lawnmowers to furniture, fashion and fine jewellery; from opening our own Tylers Café to becoming a certified Pandora retailer.”Despite this growth, Helen stresses that Tylers very much remains a small business. Currently owned and operated by third generation Tylers; Mike, Steve and Mat, the family employs around 30 staff. Helen says that for so many who have walked through the doors in the last century, a job at Tylers has been a career.“A local sent us a picture of the shop in the 1970s and said his uncle had worked at Tylers from aged 15 until he was 65! We currently have a loyal employee who has been with us for 40 years! Tylers staff are like family.”
The affection Helen and the rest of the Tyler family hold for their employees and customers is reciprocated by the community. Helen says that as the winter months approach, it is often commented that it isn’t Christmas in Loughborough until Tylers’ decorations are up.This mutual respect has been vital in securing the company’s stability. “We can’t compete with large department stores or online retailers and we don’t try to,” Helen explains. “What we do is find unique products that larger stores would not have, which encourages people to shop with us.“We also ensure first class customer service – literally going the extra mile by delivering products to our customers if they can’t collect them themselves. This customer care is what separates small businesses from large and is so important for their survival.”The way small businesses go above and beyond for their customers is one of the criteria for nominees in the annual Small Biz 100, of which Tylers Department Store & Café is a part this year: “I discovered the amazing Small Business Saturday campaign and Amex’s Shop Small initiative to encourage people to support their local independents, when I lived for some time in the States,” Helen explains as to why Tylers applied. “The Small Biz 100 is another great opportunity that shines a spotlight on those businesses and show that despite its struggles, the British high street is still vibrant and thriving.”The limelight will be on one of the elders of the 2018 Small Biz 100 cohort on November 12th. Tylers will be offering a number of raffle prizes on the day, along with a 10 per cent storewide discount as part of the official countdown to Small Business Saturday on December 1st - supported by American Express.With not just the Small Biz 100, but a 100th birthday to celebrate in four years’ time, Tylers is a shining example of how a small business can adapt to the changing nature of the high street and re-invent itself. Here’s to the next 100 years!

Making our own kind of music at the Blue Tie Ball

Thursday, September 13 at 23:20

Last night Small Business Saturday celebrated this year's SmallBiz100 at our annual Blue Tie Ball, which took place in London at the Phoenix Arts Club, itself a previous SmallBiz100.
We were delighted to host nearly 250 SmallBiz100 attendees, who enjoyed blue cocktails and canapes as well as some truly amazing entertainment provided by the Phoenix Arts Club.
The Francesca Kemp Award for Small Business is awarded at the annual Blue Tie event in memory of Fran, whose business, Crafty Revolution, was one of our SmallBiz100 in 2014. Sadly Fran passed away from cancer in 2015, so we hold this event and give this award once a year in her memory. As she would have wanted, this is a big celebration.
Congratulations once again to Craig Beaumont, Director of External Affairs and Advocacy at the Federation of Small Businesses, who was the recipient of the award this year. Craig has worked with Small Business Saturday both in his role at FSB and in his spare time since the campaign launched in 2013. Craig has sat on the Small Business Saturday Advisory Board since 2015 and plays a key role in engaging the small business sector in the campaign across the UK. Craig has encouraged and supported many small businesses in applying for the SmallBiz100 and personally works on promoting FSB members and non members to get them the recognition he believes they deserve. Craig is a strong advocate for small business with government and in the press and is a leading voice in campaigning for diversity and support for mental health in small businesses.
The theme for this year's event was "Make Your Own Kind of Music" and of course there was plenty of blue in evidence as well as the fantastic cocktails!
We were delighted that so many SmallBiz100 past and present were able to join us. Many thanks to the Phoenix Art Club and everyone else who worked so hard to make the event such a resounding success.

How to guest blog (and look like you know what you’re doing)

Thursday, September 06 at 09:47

Guest blogging? It’s as easy as 123

The 4 simple steps to success in guest blogging

Guest blogging is simply writing blog posts that appear in other people’s blogs. Like so much in life, there are ways to guest blog successfully, and ways to get it wrong.

Why Should I Guest Blog?

Guest blogging helps you spread your word and expertise to a new audience; learning about what you have to offer will hopefully prompt a new audience to check you out. It also helps grow your recognition and reputation, connects you to worthy bloggers and increases opportunities for further guest blogging.
It’s a great way to push focus launches or products and add new members to your mailing list. It could otherwise take months to expand your coverage to the range you’ll achieve with guest blogging.
Some experts say guest blogging boosts your SEO performance by building links to your site; others disagree. In any case, linking back to your site makes good sense. Just direct your readers to relevant landing pages that respond to their interest.

How Can I Become a Guest Blogger?

There’s no mystery to becoming a successful guest blogger; just dedication, planning and a bit of hard work.
Step 1: Find suitable blogs to work with.
You could use a search engine to find strongly indexing blogs relevant to your topic or check out social media accounts in your niche to partner with. Digging around in the comments section of blogs you already follow could prove fruitful - are there subscribers there with blogs you could feature in?
Step 2: Choose your guest blog topic
The success of your post depends on your topic. Review the best-running articles from the recent past – using the volume of shares and comments as a guide. Use this selection to choose a topic that is interesting or relevant.
Step 3: Approach the blogger you want to work with.
It’s best to build a personal connection face to face, so use networking events, seminars and training sessions to your advantage. But as time and geography make real-life connections tricky you need a back-up!
First things first - before contacting a blogger, review their guest post guidelines. If they’re too restrictive for your liking, pass on and find someone else.
Contacting via email or website contact form works best. Because it’s a direct approach you’ll cut through direct to their inbox. I prefer to send a completed post to a blogger with my application. Not all guest posting guidelines suggest this – some just want a post outline.
If your potential host doesn’t think you’re the right fit, don’t worry. Either approach someone else (adapting your post to meet their guidelines) or simply publish the post on your own blog.
Step 4: Make the guest blog post work for you.
You may have finished your article, but the work isn’t over. Successful guest blogging depends on optimising the finer details.
  • Include a strong author bio with a clear call to action. Mention products or services you’re currently marketing and use the call to action to encourage people to get your freebie and sign up for your newsletter. 
  • Include your social media accounts to drive your follower count and social media growth. 
  • Post links back to your own content in a way that feels natural and fits the flow of the article. If your host doesn’t permit this (many don’t), limit links to your author bio.
  • Adapt your website to benefit from the guest blog. This might be setting up a dedicated landing page, creating a specific data capture form, or even just tweaking some your site’s content so it’s 100% relevant to your new visitors.
  • Join the conversation! Make sure you respond to comments on your article. This is your chance to connect with a new audience.

What does Successful Guest Blogging Look Like?

Success means different things to different people – so be clear on what you want to achieve. There are direct effects, and indirect effects.
The direct effects of guest blogging are easier to measure - the number of social shares, comments, number of sign-ups or sales or referral traffic. Indirectly, you may see your followers increase, improve your search engine ranking, and improve your brand awareness.
Are results below expectations? There may be several factors. Perhaps the blog had a smaller audience than expected or your topic didn’t resonate with the audience. Was your call to action strong enough? How well did your landing page convert? Take the time to review your post and consider improvements for future guest posts.
Guest blogging can help you expand your influence, attract new audiences and raise your profile. Who knows, in time perhaps your blog will attract guest bloggers of your own?
What are your secrets for successful guest blogging?
Jennifer Corcoran is the CEO and Founder of My Super Connector, a social media consultancy. A LinkedIn specialist, Jennifer helps entrepreneurs and professionals to polish up their LinkedIn profiles and connect with finesse. Jennifer is also the host of LinkedIn Local Croydon.

How to market your small business on a budget

Thursday, August 23 at 08:29

As a small business owner, you will have many draws on your purse strings. If you sell products, there are raw materials or wholesale products to buy. If you sell services, you may be investing in your training or outsourcing your invoicing and book keeping. One way of keeping your costs down, is learning how to market your business on a shoestring
We all need to market our businesses in order to make sales. 
One of the best ways to market your business on a low budget is to invest your time in learning how to use social media to market online. You CAN reach your audience on social media without spending on advertising, you just need to be strategic about it.
So where do you start with strategy?
Firstly you should identify who is your ideal client. We cannot market to everyone. If you try to market your business to everyone, you will connect with no one. Take photography as an example. If you are a wedding photographer, you will want to reach brides to be, so your marketing message will be aimed at a particular segment of the population (in fact, you may be using Meghan “Sparkle” in your marketing right now!). If you are a professional headshot photographer, your ideal clients will be those in corporate roles or small business owners who need images for their websites and LinkedIn profiles, so your marketing message will not be Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, but is more likely to be something to attract your corporate/small business clients. 
As your potential client, if I am looking for someone to take a new headshot for my website, and I am faced with three potential photographers locally – wedding photographer, corporate photographer or ‘general’ photographer – which one do you think I am most likely to get in touch with?
Choose your social media platforms
Once you have identified who your ideal client is, it becomes much easier to market to them. You can choose which social media platform your audience is hanging out online on. 
For example, are they corporates or professionals on LinkedIn? Maybe you want to reach B2B clients on Twitter. Your younger clients may be on Instagram or Snapchat. Decide which platforms you are going to focus on. Choose maximum of two to start with.
Be Engaging
Once you start using social media and using marketing material that is aimed at your ideal client, you want to get engaging with your audience. One way to do this is to ask them questions. Think of their pain points and turn those into a question.
For example: When was the last time you updated your profile pic for LinkedIn?
a) Never
b) I don’t have a profile pic
c) Every year
The idea is to bring people out to comment on your posts. People love to get asked their opinions, and every time someone comments on your social media posts, the ‘algorithm’ loves it, and shows your marketing material to more people. Win win!
This is just one idea for how you can increase engagement on your social media platforms. If you would like 30 more, sign up for my 30 Day Social Media challenge!About the author: Louise Brogan is founder of Social Be NIFor more info, see https://socialbeeni.com/

Top summer marketing tips!

Wednesday, August 15 at 17:02

Summer is now well and truly upon us — and what a summer it’s turning out to be! This season can bring booming sales or a challenging slump depending on the type of business you run. But whichever category you fall into, it offers a unique opportunity to approach your marketing with extra creativity. Here are some ideas from our friends at Square to help you use the great British summertime to the full.
Do something for the kids
The school summer holidays can be a testing time for parents, so they’ll be seeking out activities to keep the kids occupied. To lure them to your business, you could host kids’ entertainment like storytellers, a bouncy castle or a simple setup with pencils, paper and puzzles. As much as this entertainment is for the little people, you’re providing respite for mums and dads too, so use the opportunity to make them aware of your products — cafés can have summer mocktails on standby, salons can give discounted treatments and shops can simply offer the relaxation of being able to browse without distraction.
Collaborate with other businesses
All kinds of businesses experience a dip in footfall and sales through the summer, so why not club together and pool your marketing efforts with someone else? You could set up a product stand in each other’s stores, or run a joint social media campaign to highlight summertime offers.
Before you choose someone to partner with, ask yourself these questions:
Is there any risk of competition?
Do they share my company’s values?
How much exposure and extra business can they help me get?
If it’s a good fit, get the details down in writing to make sure everything happens fairly.
Create an ‘awareness day’ event
With businesses competing for attention through the summer, this is a time to avoid generic events and draw people in with something more imaginative. August and September are packed with awareness days that can be used to inspire an event fun and memorable, such as:
International Vulture Awareness Day - September 1
Roald Dahl Day - September 13
Whatever your theme, cater for the tastes of a sun-hungry summer crowd. Dress up your shop front with bright colours, theme your dishes and definitely use your outdoor space if you have one.
The added benefit of theming your event around an awareness day is that you can tap into the wider marketing activity taking place. This could be as simple as using relevant social media hashtags throughout your promotion.
Run flash discounts
Discounts are a tried and tested method of incentivising people to buy your products. During the summer lull, it’s time to think outside the box and use the power of the moment to drive business. As an example, the British summertime is notoriously unpredictable, and for a tea room that serves hearty, homely cuisine (not typically a summertime favourite), those unexpected rainy days are an opportunity to offer catchy discounts to drive footfall. To create a sense of urgency, post a tasty-looking photo on social media and let people know how little time they have left to catch the discount.
Change your opening hours
As the seasons change, so too do customers’ buying habits and the business approach you should adopt. You may find it better to open and close later in the summer as people spend more time outside and stay out longer in the evening. In other cases, an earlier start might be work best. Online tools like Square Analytics enable you to see what you’re selling when, on which days and whether new or existing customers create most of your sales. With this insight, you can make informed decisions about how to work with people’s changing schedules and tastes.
Open a pop-up
When the crowds don’t come to you, it’s time to go to them. Pop-up shops work really well for cafés, barbers and boutiques. And one that’s planned well could make up for the potential loss you’d otherwise make in your bricks-and-mortar location through the summer. It also gives you a chance to specialise your offering for the summertime crowd, or even try a new summer-themed idea that you’ve been mulling over. Start with some research before settling on a concept. Your idea needs to stand out from the competition out on the street, and you need to be familiar with the tastes of the audience who eat there.
Give out freebies
You can use the power of freebies to keep your brand front of mind through the summer lull. Invite passersby in from the heat to enjoy an ice-cold glass of coconut water whilst perusing your clothing lines. Or offer a refreshing facial spritz and sunscreen to sunbathers in the park, using that moment to tell them about your business. Keep your freebies themed around summer — what do people crave at this time of year that can be used to draw them in?
It’s important to have clear goals when you’re giving things away. Who are you targeting and what would you like them to do in return for their freebie? Don’t approach anyone and everyone. And if it’s not possible to make an instant sale, think of other goals such as getting them to sign up to your mailing list.
Take a break
There can be a temptation as a small business owner to sacrifice any time off, causing all kinds of setbacks in the short and long-term. If the summer period really is that bad for revenue, it’s probably the best time for you to recoup and plan ahead. Enjoy the opportunity to step back and get a bird’s-eye-view your company. You could use it to get your finances in order, start a company blog to increase awareness or plan a seasonal marketing campaign for your peak season. Achieving growth isn’t always about knuckling down and grafting — sometimes it’s about getting to know your business better, and ensuring you have everything you need for the future.
Check out Square  for more small business tips

Purposely: embedding purpose into the heart of your small business

Thursday, August 09 at 08:30

Purposely is a new online tool which helps businesses embed their purpose into their company articles.
The tool is a response to the government’s Mission-Led Business Review, which found that few companies realise they're legally able to do this. Purposely was designed and created by UnLtd, in partnership with law firm Bates Wells Braithwaite, and with strategic support from the government.
A fifth of small businesses operate with a social or environmental mission in mind
There are many entrepreneurs, ranging from café owners to manufacturers, who set up their business not only for profit but also to deliver wider benefits to society. They run their businesses with a strong sense of purpose. For example, this purpose might be to provide valuable products, services or jobs for local people; to be the most innovative company in its sector; or to provide affordable housing.
You might be one of them: 22% of UK small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) have a particular social or environmental goal – that means over 1.2 million enterprises. Purpose-driven businesses are estimated to represent over 4% of the economy, with a combined turnover of £165 billion.
It matters what’s in your company articles
Most start-ups are unaware that company law already allows them to put purpose into the DNA of their business – in their company articles. Embedding purpose in this way has a profound impact. It allows founders to fundamentally redefine success for their business.
You can put the interests of employees, beneficiaries or other stakeholders on a par with, or even ahead of, shareholders’ financial interests. Specifying a purpose alongside or beyond profit places a duty on directors to take decisions in line with that purpose. It represents an unambiguous commitment and underpins authenticity for internal and external stakeholders. It helps a company to encourage a set of cultures and behaviours that matter to you as the founder.
This is a brilliant, but so far underused, opportunity. Even the few founders who are aware of this flexibility in company law find it costly and time-consuming to create bespoke articles.
To make things simpler, we created Purposely: a free and simple-to-use online tool that helps you incorporate your purpose into your articles. You will be prompted to think about your company’s purpose and how you would like to build it into your business. Based on your responses, you will be presented with amended company articles suited to you. If you decide to adopt these, you can then submit them to Companies House.
Purposely helps you secure your legacy
Purposely caters for founders of private limited companies. You're likely to be at a relatively early stage – up to three years old – but might also be at the point of incorporation or more established.
Purposely is for you if you want to secure your legacy: if you are concerned about what would happen to the ethos of your small business if you stepped down. Or if you are thinking of scaling up and want to make sure you find the right kind of investors – those, who know what they are buying into and accept that your values are integral to your business.
Find out more about why and how to incorporate your company’s purpose at www.getpurpose.ly.

A ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ for Britain’s small businesses

Thursday, August 02 at 09:00

“How much is that doggie in the window?” asks the famous song. Well the answer could be worth up to almost £60 million.
Small business income across the UK has been boosted by as much as £59.7 million thanks to store owners keeping a dog on the premises, with 36 per cent of shoppers saying they’d be more likely to shop in a retailer with a pet.
Research from American Express found that eight million consumers would spend an average of 13 minutes extra in store and almost £7 more on average with a retailer if there was a pet present.
This overwhelmingly positive reaction lasts far beyond a single shopping trip, with two-thirds of customers saying that they would be more likely to return to a business that made them smile, and just over one in five saying they would mention a company on social media if they have a pet. Just under a third said they’d be more inclined to take the time to talk to the staff of a small shop that has a pet.
In the lead up to Small Business Saturday this December, the SmallBiz100 will be announced this month to celebrate the UK’s small business superstars, and one of the 2016 cohort - The Pet Shed in Brighton - provides not just pet care products, but an extra treat for store visitors: “We may not sell pets like some of the big chains, but our dog Bourbon is definitely one of the reasons people come back to us time and time again,” says owner Hannah James.
“From day one Bourbon drew people into the shop. She gets daily visitors and has a bit of a reputation in the area - particularly with the local school kids - who in turn bring their parents along to see her.”
There are demonstrable benefits for staff as well as consumers, with more than a third of dog owners saying that having a dog nearby at work increases their productivity, while almost half of respondents believe they are more efficient during working hours when they have taken their dog for a walk.
Alison Edgar, managing director of training consultant Sales Coaching Solutions, and another alum of the SmallBiz100, says that a dog is vital for her working environment: “We would not be without our office dog, Hovis. He is always happy and greets us with a wagging tail. Even when not everything in our small business is going to plan, he manages to cheer everyone up.”
Ahead of Small Business Saturday it’s vital for communities to support their local stores, regardless of what draws them in. But with the benefits for both staff and consumers that having a ‘doggie in the window’ brings, we say to all small business owners, you’d be barking mad to not consider it.

Five ways to make your business successful in five years!

Thursday, July 19 at 09:00

We are one of the original Small Business Saturday UK alumni, having been involved in the inaugural campaign back in December 2013, several months after taking our very first phone call on behalf of another business!
Being involved in the campaign brought us many opportunities and raised our profile at a time when we were newbies and needed some much needed promotion. Since then, we have participated each year in some shape or form, and are always promoting the benefits of the campaign to other small businesses. To this end, we wanted to share our successes and how we managed to achieve reaching this major milestone for a small business.
  1. Have the right idea – find something that you are good at and have knowledge of. Our Managing Director was offering a similar service in another venture and could see the real need for smaller businesses to have someone who could support them with their telephone calls, and answering them, but not as costly as a full-time employee, acting as a great intermediary.
  2. Research – thoroughly research your product/service, and check what your competitors are doing – can you find a niche? Ask people what they want from your idea/product/service, and gain valuable feedback. Is there anything you can do better? For example, we found a niche and offer all our customers the ability to listen to their calls, as quality assurance – we promise we get to know their business before we answer their calls, and this is how we prove we’re following up on that promise. 
  3. People – employ the right people to work with you, and look for those who are passionate and believe in your offering. Create your own set of values and don’t budge on the qualities you want in a person. We’ve built our service around the people who are actually ‘doing the job’ and believe that ‘Our PAs are the Difference’. 
  4. Proof – start collecting proof that your product/service works as soon as you can – get into the habit of collecting Google reviews, and Facebook/LinkedIn endorsements. Every bit of praise helps and don’t be shy about sharing this. Endorsements from your clients are the best form of proof. 
  5. Loyalty – reward your existing customers, build upon your relationships. Your customer can be your biggest advocate and referrer. As with endorsements, a referral from a customer says it all. 
Our five notable achievements:
  1. We were profiled as one of the very first #SmallBiz100 and were promoted in the 100 days in the lead up to the first ever Small Business Saturday event, as a result of which we were featured on The Guardian's website as well as being promoted locally.
  2. In 2016, we entered local council awards for our apprenticeship programme and successfully won 'SME Apprenticeship Employer of the Year' as well as a special commendation for 'Apprentice of the Year'. The awards helped us to showcase our business to our local community and presented us a business that nurtures its employees.
  3. Also in 2016, we became ISO 9001 accredited, allowing our customers and prospects to see that we have the correct systems and procedures in place. The assessment was quite rigorous and we became one of the only telephone answering services to obtain this new certification at the time. 
  4. In 2017, we launched a new brand and website. This re-launch encompassed the true meaning of Face for Business, showcasing our 'real' PAs. Our new USP, 'Our PAs are the Difference', together with a complementary logo representing growth and metamorphosis, saw a 30% increase in conversions from our website.
  5. Finally, our much anticipated App went live and was rolled out to all our customers in June 2018, with the aim of making our customers’ working practices better. You can view the details here.
Managing Director, Andy MacGregor, says “I’m so humbled and grateful to have reached this major milestone in our business. It started out of necessity and has grown into a brand and service of which I am immensely proud.”

SmallBiz100 Mooch revive the local high street

Wednesday, July 11 at 21:39

We caught up with Jon May of Mooch Gifts & Home, to talk how to advertise without a budget, why big business is struggling more than small, and the impact of being a part of last year’s Small Biz 100. Mooch Gifts & Home took part in the Amex Shop Small offer in 2017.
Fed up of working long hours to earn money for others, Jon May and Luke Jacks decided that, if they were to be throwing themselves head first into a business, it should be their own. In 2015 the pair took the plunge and opened their first Mooch Gifts & Home store in their hometown of Stourport.
It was an immediate success. Jon says: “We worked out what our worst-case scenario would be - the fewest number of customers we could have each day to survive. And we absolutely smashed through that.”
With no advertising budget, Jon puts this quick-fire success down to their impressive social media reach. Focusing their customer outreach on Facebook and their brand-to-brand marketing on Twitter, they have seen strong, organic growth. They’re also getting by with a little help from their friends. Mooch have utilised the support of other Facebook pages such as we love stourport-on-severn past and present day, whose 12,000 likes gave Mooch a great platform to advertise.
Jon and Luke are returning the favour to small businesses in Bewdley, the home of their second store, with their own Facebook page. Shop, Eat, Sleep Bewdley has helped bring life to what had been a struggling shopping town. “We look after them, they look after us.”
This is an attitude that Jon says is vital to the survival of small businesses. When opening in Bewdley, other gift shops feared the competition, but they’ve become close allies. “There was definitely a sense of ‘oh no we don’t need another gift shop’ when we moved into the area, but we work closely together now,” says Jon. “At the end of the day, it’s not about competition. If we don’t have an item, we would much rather guide a customer to another gift store in the town, so they spend the money here rather than in the big city.
Unique products, a community-focused outlook, and the warmth Mooch staff show to their customers has led to numerous award nominations including at last month’s Small Awards, as well as a place in 2017’s SmallBiz100. This recognition has allowed Mooch to build up a closer relationship with media outlets in their area, and has seen them featured in national newspapers and websites, including the Telegraph, Independent and the Sun.
“Being able to say publicly that we were named one of the best 100 small companies in the country by Small Business Saturday has been brilliant for us. We’ve seen more customers on the shop floor, and more online traffic than ever before,” says Jon. “It’s great to know that we are bringing more revenue and recognition to Stourport and Bewdley, with orders from across the country.”
The growing base of ‘moochers’ in the last year has meant Jon and Luke have been able to open up in larger premises in Stourport, set-up over three floors. The company has gone from a penniless start-up to one of the town’s high street landmarks.
The message from Jon to any small business owner thinking of taking part in Small Business Saturday is to go for it: “If you’re passionate about what you do, if you fly the flag for your sector, then why not? Anyone who has found a gap in the market and put their job security on the line to create a business they believe in deserves recognition.
“Customers are returning to the high-street, appreciating their better prices and personal service. Now we are seeing that small is mighty.”
Click here to visit Mooch Gifts & Home
For more information on Amex Shop Small please see here

Why apply to be a SmallBiz100 2018?

Thursday, June 28 at 10:15
Smallbiz100

With just two days to go until applications close for this year’s SmallBiz100, we look at the benefits of taking part.
First things first – what is the SmallBiz100? In a nutshell, we choose 100 brilliant small businesses and celebrate one every day in the run up to Small Business Saturday, which takes place in December each year.Clearly 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 celebrated across Small Business Saturday’s social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. It’s 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.If you want still more exposure, there are opportunities to feature in Small Business Saturday’s case studies series – find previous articles on our website here – or even to increase your impact longer term by becoming one of our Small Business Champions. It’s entirely up to you how far you want to take it.
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. Taking part in SmallBiz100 provides you with a fantastic community and a readymade 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 businesses who have been there and done it sharing their experiences. And finally, if you prefer your networking done in person rather than online, the fabulous blue tie ball takes place every year and is open to all SmallBiz100 participants, alumni and newbies alike.Michelle from Pink Spaghetti, who was one of the SmallBiz100 in 2017, says “As a business that operates from home and employs home workers, it is sometimes difficult to be seen or be taken seriously in the local business community. Being chosen to be a SmallBiz100 has not only given me amazing opportunities to network, collaborate and grow my business, but has also put me on the map locally. The increased exposure from Small Business Saturday has really made a difference to the way my small business is perceived; and the local press releases highlighting my involvement with SmallBiz100 has not only promoted my business but also validated it: we are no longer seen as a “hobby” business but as a worthy member of the business community.”All this and taking part is completely free! Sounds good? Applying to take part in SmallBiz100 2018 is quick and easy – just click here to register and start your journey. Already registered? Click here to apply to SmallBiz100.
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.
The standard of entrants for SmallBiz100 has already been phenomenal this year and we can’t wait to present the SmallBiz100 2018 later in the year! In the meantime, what are you waiting for? Make 2018 the year that you take your small business to the next level and take part in something amazing: apply now for SmallBiz100 2018.

SmallBiz100 Julu on design, manufacturing, and building an online business with friends

Thursday, June 21 at 09:00

When many friends and family admired a wall hanging airer which Lucie Savidge had designed for her home, she asked her school friend, Julia Adams, to help her to develop it into a product and start a business, Julu Laundry Ladders. Both were involved with the design and development, taking Lucie’s concept idea and making it the Laundry Ladder with many unique selling points. Lucie now runs the day to day shipping of the product to customers and Julia manages the accounts and marketing. The Laundry Ladder is now an award-winning product at the FSB West Midlands Awards, where they won the category for Business and Product Innovation. 
Julia has a background in sales and selling to retailers, and this knowledge has been helpful as it gave them the understanding of pricing a product with wholesale margins included. However, with no previous experience of running a business or developing a product, both directors have had lots to learn along the way.
 
Once they had their intellectual property rights and Trade Marks pending, Lucie and Julia set about the task of finding reliable and trustworthy manufacturers. Their first manufacturer came through a contact which helped open that first door, and once they had one manufacturer here in the UK, they were then able to start the process of looking for one in Poland. They have also found that having a sales history helps with negotiations, making the approach to manufacturers a little easier.
Lucie and Julia say that they are still learning a lot about business but have some great tools:
  • Cloud based accounting and other Cloud based systems help them easily access accounts and files from any location, allowing them to work from home but share files and information easily with each other and keep up to date with their financial position.
  • They have found great support in groups like FSB/Chamber of Commerce in technical and legal aspects of the business, plus networking.
  • Their website developers also keep up to date with regulations and help them to renew their website, keeping it fresh and continually improving the SEO of the site. The internet is a constantly changing beast, so having a team who know what’s changing and how to adapt to those changes keeps their site high up in the searches, which is crucial for an ecommerce business.
  • Through MAS (Manufacturing Advisory Service) they received a grant plus one of the contacts which eventually helped them to find their first manufacturer. The grant was given through a gateway process which gave them the encouragement that as they passed each gateway their business idea/product was worthy of production. Part of the gateway grant was used to commission a business case study report which highlighted that the clothes airer market is competitive and largely dominated by big high street names at middle to lower price point, leaving a gap in the market at the higher end. They then set out to design the Laundry Ladder to be stylish and functional, giving it many USPs to place it at this gap in the market, where it stands strong and unchallenged. Their customer reviews prove that they have succeeded to create a well-received, innovative and needed product.
  • The internet has levelled the playing field for small business to compete: now with one’s own website, you can reach a vast and wide audience from your home. With good SEO which is regularly maintained, you can keep your business profile in view. The use of websites such as Amazon help improve your SEO and social media, and support you to grow your brand. Julu only market here in the UK but sell all over the world, and this can only be done due to their presence on other platforms.

Lucie’s top tips:

1. Being on other websites, even little known ones, can assist your SEO.
2. Lifestyle images are a must when selling a product for the home. Even on a limited budget, Lucie and Julia managed to create different looks within their own homes in order to produce images for their website. They borrowed furniture, pictures and props from local retailers who they then linked to from their website by way of thanks, which added to their SEO as well as creating powerful lifestyle images to market their product.

Lucie’s best advice:

Keep asking, whatever it is you need. A manufacturer? Platforms to sell on? An accounts system? Consumer shows to attend? You will receive many different answers but the right one will come along eventually. Don’t give up.
Lucie says that she is looking forward to the Julu Laundry Ladder becoming a piece of must have furniture in every home, and a successful business of which she and Julia can both be proud.
About the author: Lucie Savidge is co-founder of Julu Laundry Ladder. Find out more on their website here.

Small Business Champion Series From Rich Brady ... Setting Business Goals

Monday, June 18 at 09:10
Inspire Series | Small Business Saturday Uk Champion

When you’re your own boss, in many ways you are never not at work, and it can be all too easy to slip into working on your business every possible hour; yet for many of us, a more positive life-work balance and being able to spend more time with family and friends was one of our main reasons for starting our own small business in the first place. How do you get back on track? Rich Brady, SmallBiz100 alumni and MD of Brady Global Ltd, is a passionate advocate for putting family time back into family business. As a Champion for Small Business, he’ll be sharing a series of blogs and videos with hints and tips on how you can find a more positive balance in your life. In this blog, the second in the series, he discusses the importance of creating priorities and setting business goals.

Setting business goals

It's really important to have a direction, something to aim for or a goal that you want to achieve: if we don't have a target, a plan, a place where we want to be, then we end up turning up every day and not really knowing what to prioritise. If you don't know what to let go of and what to drill down on, you are wasting lots of time.
I'd like to talk to you about how I set goals and how I try to get my team to set goals too. Going through this process is hugely beneficial and it will, I hope, radicalise how you start operating within your company.
The first thing I suggest you do is to go away and have a think about your personal goals or your life's ambition. Ask yourself this question: Where do I want to be in five years’ time? Think purely personal and forget about business for now. Where do you live? What are your family and friends doing? What do you do in your free time? Picture yourself in five years' time!
This could take some time, but once you've identified your personal goals you then need to work backwards. Say to yourself "Right, if that's where I want to be in my personal life in five years, what does my business look like to achieve that?" What does it need to be producing? What systems need to be in place? How does my company fit in with my personal goals? That's the way to do it.

In the beginning …

We start these companies because we've got an idea and a passion. We want to have the flexibility to run things the way we want to run things. That's a personal choice.
However, you're likely to see a mismatch, a disparity. Your current trajectory may be completely at odds with what your personal ambition is. If so, then there needs to be some quite significant changes. It's okay: you've got time.
You can do a lot in five years, but unless you go through this process, you're not going to realise what things you should be doing within your business and what things you shouldn't. Imagine waking up in 5 years’ time with a business that's doing well, but you're unhappy. That wasn't the plan!
It won't be because you haven't worked hard, it's tough running a company. Without goals we react to decisions coming in: Yes, I'm going to focus on that. That looks interesting, I want to work with those people. With no real idea of where your focus should be, you run the risk of ending up miles from where you hoped.

A better place

Once you've got those personal goals bottomed out, you're then in a much better position to say "Well, actually, I shouldn't even be looking at that." or "We need to stop doing that." or "That's an interesting opportunity. Yeah, it fits in with where the business needs to be for me to facilitate that personal goal. Let's spend a bit more time on that."
Setting goals now is a great way to plan. It's a great way of filtering out noise and distraction, which is hugely important for us as business owners. Distraction eats away our time and that's one thing we cannot buy more of, especially if it's just you. If you're on your own, there's even more pressure on you to be super-efficient. Distractions are really going to slow you down.

Go on, get cracking

I want you to take some time to think about your future.
You might find that you can sit down solidly for a couple of hours and really, really work things out. More likely, you'll need to go away and process this. Let the idea drip-feed into you over the next week or so. I highly recommend going away and talk to your family too, and make sure that your personal goals fit in with their vision of the future. Family comes first and that is fundamental.
Ensure that you are on the same path, and you'll be invincible.
Rich Brady will be posting regularly with his hints and tips - do keep an eye on social media and here on the blog for more Rich-ness. To hear directly from Rich, pop over to our Facebook page now for his first video.
About the Author: Rich Brady is Managing Director of Brady Global Ltd, and a Champion for Small Businesses both in his home of North Wales and across the UK. Rich is a SmallBiz100 Alumni and a passionate advocate for putting the family into family business.

SmallBiz100 Techsixtyfour on how to successfully build an online business

Wednesday, June 13 at 12:28

My name is Colleen Wong and the founder of Techsixtyfour's My Gator Watch. I am also a mum of 2 small humans. The Gator watch is a wearable mobile phone and tracker made for children in primary school. It can make and receive calls from only up to 13 trusted family and friends and it is a tracker using GPS outdoors and WIFI indoors. It has no internet, social media or games and works almost anywhere in the world.

I was at Bockett's farm with my kids in 2015 and saw a mum running around looking for her young child. It really hit me as a young mum as kids are FAST. So I thought of a way of staying connected with our young children but without giving them a smartphone.

The biggest challenge was getting people to know my product exists. I started with very little money and had virtually no marketing budget. I would just wear my Gator watch everyday and go to as many networking events as I could while managing the daily activities of my 2 children.

I signed up for Amazon Launchpad which is a great platform for startups as it tells my story. Selling on Amazon is the key to success of any consumer electronics business and for my business specifically, Amazon was one of the first places customers would go to search for a wearable or watch for children. We have just recently received an Amazon's Choice badge for our Gator watch and this is a major pat on the back for us! Also as my customer base grows, we are getting a lot of referrals which is amazing.

We use Amazon to sell alongside our own website. We use Amazon Marketing Services and Facebook to market the Gator watch as it is really important to look at the metrics behind our marketing spend. We are very active on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter also to generate awareness of our product.

My Top Tips:

  1. Make sure you are solving a problem with your product. There are so many consumer electronics out there that are just nice to haves but cost a fortune to build.
  2. Prove that people are willing to part with their hard earned money for your product. This is really not easy as ideas are great and people will say that often but the key is will they buy it.
  3. There is no need to start everything from scratch or reinvent a wheel. A great way to test out a product is to take an existing one but making it 10x better.
  4. Sell your product online using Amazon or your own website. Traditional retail costs are extremely high and as a small business, this is not a risk you should take at the start.

My Best advice:

Know your numbers. Don't be daunted by numbers as it is the only way you will know how to make decision with your company. The best idea or business will fail if financial management is not a priority.

I am looking forward to finding new and exciting but low cost ways to market the Gator watch to parents. To working with my amazing team of flexible working staff most of whom are mums of young children. To spending more time with my family as starting a business has taken time away from them but my team is brilliant and I am able to take more time off as a result.

About the author:

Colleen Wong is founder of Techsixtyfour and the Gator Watch - see here for more details.

SmallBiz100 Frequently Asked Questions

Thursday, June 07 at 09:40

We are delighted to have once again opened applications for the Small Biz 100! It’s a unique opportunity for you to celebrate and promote your small business, to learn from other small business owners, and to join our growing Small Biz 100 alumni family.
Here are some answers to common questions about the Small Biz 100.
What is the Small Biz 100?
Small Business Saturday chooses 100 amazing small businesses from the thousands of applications we receive, and then highlight one small business every day for the 100 days leading up to Small Business Saturday on 1st December 2018. The 100 receive exposure on our social media channels and in local and national press, and also have the opportunity to meet and work with other small businesses, creating a valuable network and support system.
Who can apply to be in Small Biz 100?
Any kind of small business based in the UK can apply, whether it's retail or online, professional services to personal training.
When and how can I apply?
Applications opened on 1st June and will close on 30th June. Successful applicants will be notified by email in August. Click here to start the application process.
I get an error message when I try to register with my email address.
Please make sure that your email address is right (it's happened to all of us!) and that you have both read the T&Cs and checked the little box to say you are happy with them.
If it's still not working, please send a screen shot of the error to [email protected] and we will help you from there.
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Please check your spam folders – it's quite likely that we're hiding in there. If it's been a couple of hours and you haven't received an email, please let us know via [email protected].
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I finished my application to be in Small Biz 100, but want to change something. Is this possible?
Yes - you can change your application right up to the deadline at midnight on the 30th June. 
What is My Small Business Finder?
My Small Business Finder is a tool for consumers and small businesses to use on Small Business Saturday and the run up to it which will enable you to enter a postcode and see the small businesses in that area. It is available on the campaign website and mobile app (do make sure you have downloaded the app to find great small businesses in your area!).
In addition, it will also allow you, as a small business, to enter a promotion, deal or offer available to celebrate Small Business Saturday. It's just our way of trying to connect more customers with small businesses, and of course more small businesses getting to know each other. Nearer the time, we will let all our networks know via social media when they should be thinking about My Small Business Finder.
Ready to begin? Click here to start your application. Please note that if you aren’t already registered with Small Business Saturday, you’ll need to register before you start (it only takes a minute). Once you’ve registered, you can complete the application process – look out for our blog post coming soon that will talk you through it. Good luck!

Small Business Champion Series from Rich Brady...Putting the Family into Family Business

Tuesday, May 22 at 15:54

So, I’m here to talk to you about why I want to be a small business champion. I truly believe that everybody should be able to put their family first and not be a slave to their business.
When you first start out, embarking on that business owner journey, you kind of think, “Well, yeah, I have to put some hard hours in initially”. You work tons and tons of hours, but it’s okay. Eventually, you’ll be so successful that you’ll have lots and lots of free time to with your partner, the kids, parents. Even the dog!
That’s not what happens.
You start off on that journey, and you put all those hours in, and then the business reaches critical mass. You’re generating revenue, but you spend almost every waking hour on it.
When you’re not in the office or doing the thing that you do, you’re thinking about it. All the time. Then add in social media, emails, networking and accountancy…
It never stops!
There’s money coming in, but not enough for help. You're thinking “I’m not going to spend 200 quid on outsourcing this, I’m can do that myself.” You’re saving cash, but losing time. The one thing you cannot buy! I see this happen to quite a lot… My parents still do it. Now you’re just busy all the time, you’re getting stressed and maybe a little scared. Ultimately, you’re not spending the quality time with loved ones. The very reason you started on this journey.
What is my role as a small business champion?
I want to help you put your family first. It’s something that I do for myself. I help my team do it and we are doing it more and more for our clients and customers. I’m taking my passion for putting families first and partnering with Small Business Saturday UK. We’re going to help you. We are working on a series of videos and blogs that are going to free up some of your time, so you can prioritise your family again.
Imagine the future
I want you to think about how it would feel to spend more quality time with the people that you love. At the same time, you are going to grow a successful business. Can you picture it? That’s the ultimate aim, right? That is what I’m going to help you with.
What’s the trick?
We will go into specific details as the weeks unfold, but basically, you’ve gotta be more organized. Laser-focused! By being more organised and scheduling my time I’ve been able to prioritize my family. I’ve also cut a lot of meaningless distraction out of my life too. I was able to do that long before I had a team working with me. In fact, I had to. I’m a natural magpie. Flitting from one new idea to another and it means the business coasted for a while. These techniques can be used by everyone. Even if it is just you. You don’t need a big team around you to start spending more time with your family.Rich Brady will be posting regularly with his hints and tips - do keep an eye on social media and here on the blog for more Rich-ness.To hear directly from Rich, pop over to our Facebook page now for his first video.About the Author:Rich Brady is Managing Director of Brady Global Ltd, and a Champion for Small Businesses both in his home of North Wales and across the UK. Rich is a SmallBiz100 Alumni and a passionate advocate for putting the family into family business.

Exporting - not just for the big!

Wednesday, May 09 at 13:26

Exporting. It sounds big. Freight containers, customs, overseas buyers and the unknown. It all sounds daunting and expensive. Little wonder only 11% of UK businesses sell outside the UK.  Why would you do it when it takes so much time and effort? Why not just do more business here at home?
Because there are huge opportunities for small businesses too!
Here’s the skinny. Research shows that exporting not only makes your business more productive, innovative and profitable, but it can also make it more resilient to downturns*. That’s because accessing new markets allows you to generate new sources of revenue, new opportunities and new challenges. It also allows a business to maximise its production capability, generates jobs and helps keep a surplus in the UK’s balance of trade – all of which contributes to a healthier economy.
Admittedly exporting isn’t for everyone. You need to be ready, willing and able. Even then it doesn’t come without its challenges. You might need to modify your product or packaging, you’ll have to identify the best route to market and perhaps adapt to new distributions channels. You might also need new quality accreditations.
The following also represents some of the big things to get in place before you start:
Finance
Exporting will have an impact on your time and capital, so making sure these are available is vital. Ideally you’ll already have a budget that can be allocated to export-led growth activities, but chances are as an SME you’ll need to find an additional source of finance. Options include grant funding, equity finance (seed investment, angel investment and venture capital), debt finance (business loans), trade and cash flow finance (letter of credit, bank guarantees, performance bonds, invoice and purchase order finance), tax credits and crowdfunding.
Plans and research
Failing to plan is planning to ….yes, we all know the saying… but it’s important:
i. Make sure you have a solid business plan
ii. Prioritise your export markets - it’s one of the first steps to developing a successful export strategy. It means doing a proper market selection study so you can focus your resources on markets most likely to give you the strongest return.
iii. Finally, once you’ve identified your target market, you need to research and analyse it. Look at your competitors, business challenges and your company’s competitive differentiators. Your market research should contain your best and most clear description of the current state of the marketplace you are targeting.
Finding customers
This can be one of the most challenging aspects of exporting. It involves trawling business directories and lists of exhibitors at relevant trade shows, as well as going to trade shows and networking events.
There’s a lot to do, but you can get advice from your bank, accountant or lawyer or your local Chambers of Commerce. The Department forInternational Trade (DIT) can also help with all of it. DIT has a dedicated team of International Trade Advisers (ITAs) who will help you throughout your export journey. From helping with your export strategy through to pointing you in the direction of key market and sector information. They’ll help you find overseas partners, understand e-commerce and even sometimes help with the cost of exporting by giving access to funding.
Exporting is definitely a journey. It’s a way to grow and strengthen your business. But it’s not something you have to do on your own. In fact, the more help you can get, the better.
Marco Simon is an International Trade Adviser (ITA) for The Department for International Trade East of England office. Find out about how an ITA in your region could help you by contacting your regional DIT office
*Source: Harris, R., Li, Q.C. (2007)

Can Giving Really Be Good for a Small Business? Spoiler: Yes!

Wednesday, May 02 at 10:08

Reputation is everything when it comes to making a business work, and nobody knows that better than a small business.  If your customer sees you in a good light, then you are halfway there.  Larger corporations are moving rapidly down the ‘purpose-driven’ route, and using Corporate Social Responsibility as a marketing tool to attract and retain customers who want to spend with brands that align with their own values.  Businesses with a clear ‘Brand Purpose’, those seen as making lives better, grew three times faster in value on average over the past 12 years. Many smaller businesses do want to give to back to society and make a difference, but it’s not always easy without designated CSR resource. Everyday pressures take over. And when time and money are tight, good intentions can fall by the wayside.
But what if all sizes of businesses could give to charity in a way that’s good for their business too?
We wanted to find out directly from the very businesses and charities themselves why charitable giving seemed to be the preserve of the large enterprise, so we surveyed people from both businesses and charities to see where the disconnect was.
Firstly, one in four businesses surveyed have yet to give, with a failure to see the benefits being a significant factor in their decision.
Increasing your bottom line, elevating customer perception and retaining and attracting staff are just a few of the fundamental aims all companies have, and have many tactics to achieve, but charitable giving may not be considered as one of those tactics or credited with helping to drive any of those success measures.  Yet out of the businesses who do give regularly to charities, two thirds saw noticeable positive impacts on their profitability, and the more they give, the more benefits they report. Those that donate over 0.5% of turnover were twice as likely to report enhancements in company reputation and nearly 50% more likely to see it help recruit and retain staff.  
For most, giving doesn’t seem to be all that regular. Aside from the occasional charity bake-sale or ad-hoc donations, giving is often not part of company strategy, especially in small to medium business where margins can be tight and overheads prohibitive. However, it doesn’t require big bucks to make a difference.  Alone, small business may feel just that….small. Yet small businesses make up 99% of the 5.7million businesses in the UK and have huge potential to be a force for good, and enabling every business to donate in manageable increments when revenue allows could lead to a ‘give to grow’ movement that could really change things.
So we can see the benefits to business giving, but what are the other barriers? With only 2% of charities’ income coming from the business sector, something is amiss. Well for starters; regular giving is a pain. 
For a business to donate off the back of their sales, there must be a Commercial Participation Agreement (CPA) in place which involves negotiations, admin and legal issues. This can actually result in charities turning down donations under a certain threshold, because it’s just not viable for the amount of time spent (average of ten hours to secure one donation from an SME) and businesses have enough on their plate without philanthropic efforts actually costing them time and therefore money. What a waste. Charities lose out on vital funding and businesses lose out on long term benefits of valuable PR, reputation building and profits.
So out of this, we created another small business to add to the UK’s 5.7 million in order to solve the problem.  The Work for Good platform was created to make giving easy, flexible and beneficial to SMEs and the charities they choose to support.
BTE Automotive is a family run garage service business based in Hampshire. Started by husband and wife team Jan and David Parker 27 years ago, day-to-day operations are now run by their son Barry. BTE Automotive have recently signed up with Work for Good and are building giving into their business in a serious way.
Barry comments, “As a family run business, our values are at the heart of what we do.  As well as offering our customers the best possible service, we also want to give back to the community we serve and the causes close to our heart. By donating a £1 for each MOT undertaken this year, we’ll raise more than £3500. And that’s just the start. We’re looking at giving through product sales and ways to get customers involved in choosing which charities we support. It’s a great way to develop trust and develop relationships.
Work for Good makes it easy for us to build giving into our business.  They connect with the charity and take out the legal and admin hassle. We can focus more time on doing what we do best – serving our customers, supporting our team and growing our business."
Download our full survey results and learn how your business can do well by doing good, at workforgood.co.uk/research
If you’d like to hear more visit www.workforgood.co.uk. 
The Small Business Saturday community can receive a 50% discount to first year membership using code:  DOGOOD18.

Let's get organised....

Wednesday, April 25 at 15:26

Is a Better Organised Home Office the Key to Improving Your Productivity?
Do you find it difficult to give appropriate attention to the opportunities and challenges that come up in your business?
Perhaps your car is an extension of your office and you can’t face sitting at your desk when you get home but unopened envelopes and out of date files are taking over your workspace, leaving you feeling overwhelmed, stressed and distracted.
The effect of this disorganisation is often financial — interest or fees are being incurred, or money is being left on the table as invoices remain unprocessed.
Decluttering and organising your office might seem like a tedious and time-consuming task, but your home office is a reflection of you and your business. Putting a simple system in place for managing paperwork means you can lay your hands on documents quickly, be current on your priorities and clearly focus on goals.
You will need:
A shredder and a bin
Separate zones for recycling, shredding or filing
Transparent files and sticky labels
A progress tray — for items that need an action or are awaiting a response
Space — the floor, dining table or kitchen worktop
A lockable, fireproof filing cabinet and suspension files
A rough idea of what categories you want to set up going forward i.e. business travel, insurance, registrations. Others will naturally emerge as you go through the process
Break the task down into bite-sized chunks over a few sessions. Just set aside some time, grab a drink and snack and put on some motivational tunes!
Organising Paperwork
Gather every piece of paper relating to your business, including any from attics or garages
Separate items into piles for shredding, recycling and filing.
Roughly group the ‘filing’ papers by category i.e. financial, travel etc., and label suspension files. Ideally, set aside a drawer of the filing cabinet for archived paperwork
Quickly shred/recycle
Go through the remaining items; group related papers together in transparent files with a label on the front i.e. insurance policy, car documents etc.
Items that need an action/response should be placed in your progress tray
Put everything else in the appropriate sections within the filing cabinet, ensuring it is all stored securely — this includes archived paperwork.
“For every minute spent organising, an hour is earned.” Benjamin Franklin
Progress Not Perfection
Going forward, aim to deal with paperwork on a daily basis;
Dispose of junk mail. Check and action bills and invoices. Place pending items in the progress tray
File or shred everything else
Conduct a weekly review of your progress tray and schedule/action any next steps
Once the above system is in place and routinely managed, you will find that rather than searching for documents or trying to recall what is next on your to-do list, your time and attention is freed up to concentrate on business growth and client contact.
About the Author: 
Kate Galbally is a Glasgow-based member of the Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers (APDO) and the founder of Better Organised. With over twenty years' experience in PA & administrative support roles, she now works alongside clients to streamline their homes and offices so that their lives run more smoothly. www.betterorganised.uk

Is your business leaking money?

Tuesday, April 17 at 18:20

The Leaky Bucket theory is a handy analogy and one that I use a lot with my clients.
Think of your finances in this way: The money you earn flows into your bucket. The money you spend inevitably leaks out and you are left with either a profit or a loss.
But there can be holes that, no matter how small, allow money from other areas to trickle out. Most of the time these leaks are unnecessary and completely avoidable, yet difficult to find or seemingly too insignificant for a busy Business Owner to notice.
My goal as a coach is to use this 'leaky bucket' theory to offer an outside, experienced perspective and patch your leaky bucket as best as we can. If you’re frustrated that your business seems to be doing well but your profits aren’t matching your expectations, you might be leaking money.
The obvious way to fill up your 'financial bucket' is through increased sales and a drive to increase profits. Patching your leaky bucket isn't just about savings or driving more sales, though. Taking a look at how you manage your expenses and your finances can pinpoint unnecessary spending that is hurting your bottom line. However, it is just as important to take a closer look at any potential losses resulting from factors such as utilities, team performance, business procedures to purchasing decisions and even credit-card processing.
I place great importance on reviewing the P&L on a monthly basis, looking in every nook and cranny for hidden savings. Many expense leaks are the result of seemingly minor choices that add up to a lot of lost cash. Even if you think you have all your expenses under control, its worthwhile to do a quick check for any cash drips.
Think Before You Discount
It's a tempting idea isn't it? To offer a reduced price on your product or service in hopes that it will drive sales and gain you lots of new custom. Yes, this is exactly what discounting does. However, the spike in sales is only short-term, and the customers gained more than likely won'tbe returning for repeat custom. Discounting will not win you long-term success and may do more damage than good. Let's explore why discounting may be doing more damage than you think...
As business owners, we are often tempted to discount our product or service, thinking it will win us customers and drive growth. Where the real problem lies isn't with generating the new customers and sales, it's what that discount in price represents:
1. Lower Perceived Value
Most people value a product/service based on its price. Lowering the price effectively demonstrates to your prospect that what you're offering won't truly add value to their life. Whilst a customer may still might buy from you, they won't place as much value on your brand as they most likely would have before.
2. Bad Precedent
When you offer a discount, either on the first engagement or the seventh customer engagement, there’s no going back. As soon as you lower your price, your customer will expect the same price next time.
3. Lack of Confidence
Cutting your prices tells the customer that you don’t believe in what you’re selling enough to warrant selling it for the standard price. As soon as you offer a discount, your prospect immediately loses confidence in you and assumes that you don’t have faith in what you’re trying to sell to them.
4. Price Focused
The last thing you want in a sales conversation is to be focused on price, and that’s just what happens when you offer a discount. When the conversation is focused on price, it leaves no room to talk about the value, the story or the qualities of your product/service. In the long run, it’s hard to sell something based on it’s price than on it’s value.
Question: Is price your only competitive advantage?
When you offer a discount, you take the focus away from the value you provide and basing it directly on the price. To maintain higher prices and steady business growth, you have to offer value. Discounts hinder your ability to do that as a reduction in price damages your price integrity and makes re-focusing on value difficult in the future.
If you would like to learn more about how to stop the leaking, do get in touch here 
About the Author:
Jonathan Keable is a Business Coach and Consultant based in the South West, providing business development, help, advice, coaching, consultation and mentoring services.

Podcasting - The Ultimate How-To Guide - Part 2

Wednesday, April 11 at 16:18

Welcome back! This is part 2 of the Ultimate Guide to Podcasting (part one can be found below from last week).
Let’s pick up from last week – you are going in with your eyes open and you have prepped well. Now it is not a bad idea to be aware of the competition….
There is a good chance you’ve listened to Gimlet Media’s excellent series StartUp, so you’ll know that podcasting is so popular now that it’s getting VC-backing.
Do bare that in mind – the competition now includes venture capitalists! As for the "niches to riches" the easy niches all already taken (and are often boring). Make sure you are not just repeating what the competition have already done – if your interviewee has already been on lots of podcasts, it is probably not going to be that super interesting for your listeners. Being aware of the competition will help you stay fresh and original. You may be aiming for JLD on EoFire or MindPump – but do see them as stimulation and something to learn from rather than becoming their serious competition.
Now let us talk "jobs"
Pre-interviews: Done either by email or phone, this helps determine whether your podcast and the potential guest are a good fit. 
Production: Guests do not always show up on time (or at all), and even if you have a problem-free interview, " Can you hear me?" will become the most used expression in your arsenal. You will still need to do post-production work to level out the noise and ensure that, as much as possible, the sound quality is excellent. People want good quality or they will stop listening. You can’t fully control what is happening on your guest’s end, which is why I strive so often to do interviews in person
Editing: Not everything we record makes it onto a podcast. Sometimes fascinating (or dreadful) tangents that don’t fit within our normal show time parameters have to go. It takes time to carefully slice those segments out so your listening experience isn’t interrupted. Again, Thank you Bret (my editor – see last week’s blog!) 
Libsync:  They show, stats, and you will need to find out which episodes are doing well and which ones aren’t. In your earliest days, you may find that releasing on one day versus another makes a significant difference. I prefer Mondays and Wednesdays. 
Push: So you’ve recorded and posted your podcast. The world isn’t going to beat a path to your studio door. You’ll need to promote on all the relevant social media platforms and your email newsletter list. You’ll need to pay to advertise it. You’ll need to have it featured in news and media. You’ll need to create and promote it consistently and professionally.
The Guestlist Podcast was built by the hard work of my two partners, Bret Farmer and my wife, Samantha White ( who also does all my social media pushing and guests getting). Even if you wanted to do something similar to what I did, I suggest you find a partner as you build a world-class product/service to feed into your world-class podcast and vice versa.
Although Lipsync is great, you will still not know the following information from the largest syndicators of podcasts (this includes iTunes):
Who exactly is listening
How much of the show they listened to
How the ranking system works
Everything we tell advertisers is built off the back of downloads, but downloads don’t tell us any of that information above.
You can’t even “buy” your way to the top without having built another (easier) business first. 
Let’s look at a great example, someone who went about building a great podcast:
JLD and E-Ofire. Check out his story on how he did it and how long it took, here. 
So, here is what I would start doing if I was starting from scratch today:
Going to get a podcast, speak to my man, Bret Farmer - let him walk you through options, create your avatar (he will explain) talk equipment and costs - tell him Jason from Small Biz send you and you are ready and know the pitfalls. 
If podcasting sounds like a bit too much right now, why not try a book or a blog first? 
Anyone can start one
There are fewer moving parts.
More income possibilities.
More flexibility — people don’t expect books or blogs as regularly as they expect podcasts.
The more likely path to success — more people read books and blogs than listen to podcasts, which means it’s a less crowded space and hence offers you more of an opportunity to get your "true fans". 
But no matter what you do, build things of value, you can also still be on a podcast, be on someone else's and start to appear as a guest on other podcasts. And do not forget you can always reach out to me to be on my show! 
Whatever you decide to do, good luck – and do speak to me first, I will be waiting. 
Jas
The host of “The Guestlist Podcast

Setting BIG goals – why do it and how to go about it

Friday, March 23 at 09:53

Did you know that setting yourself a really challenging goal makes it much more likely that you will have a successful year, even if you don’t actually achieve the goal?
It’s because a stretching goal forces you to take big steps towards it, rather than just continuing to do what you’ve done before. It pushes you to think outside the box, and to make a shift.
I know, because I did it last year.
As a business coach, I work with small business owners. A year ago I was focusing exclusively on 1:1 coaching. Then I set myself a goal to “help 500 small business owners in 2017”.
I wasn’t going to achieve that simply by 1:1 coaching. I needed to reach groups of people. That led to me running workshops, writing guest blogs, sending a weekly newsletter to my mailing list, going out networking and giving talks.
I would probably never have done any of that without my BIG goal.
So how do you identify your goal?                           
Rather than a goal, I prefer to think of it as a vision. For me the word ‘vision’ conjures up something much more exciting and inspiring. Something that you can really connect with emotionally and get motivated to work towards. 
There are lots of ways to come up with your vision. The least effective way is to sit down with a blank document, write or type VISION at the top of the page and wait for inspiration to strike!
It’s far more effective to access the more creative parts of your brain. You could:
  • create a vision board
  • go to a creative space and reflect on your own
  • get together with a couple of other small business owners and brainstorm
  • do a visualisation.
If you’ve never used visualisation, I can recommend it! Start by closing your eyes and taking a couple of deep breaths to release any tension.
Now imagine that it is 12 months’ time, and you are looking at your business as it is then. It has evolved, grown and changed. It is thriving, and so are you.
Let this business take shape around you.  What do you see around you? What are you doing? Who else is here?
What can you hear, and smell? If you reached out and touched something, what would it be?
What’s important here? Soak this environment up with all of your senses.
Once you have completely immersed yourself in your future business, you can open your eyes. You’ve just ‘seen’ the vision of your business a year from now. 
Did I achieve MY vision last year?
By the end of the year I wasn’t really concerned whether I achieved it or not. I was more focused on the benefits that had flowed from aiming for it.
These benefits included:
  • Increasing my exposure online
  • Growing my mailing list to reach more small business owners
  • Reaching a wider audience through my workshops and speaking engagements
All of these contributed to an increase in paid work, both 1:1 coaching and workshop attendees.
And actually yes, I did achieve my vision too!
More About The Author:
Amanda Cullen is a business coach who helps small business owners to grow their business and run it better. She provides 1:1 coaching, either face-to-face in London and Surrey, or by Skype or phone nationwide. She also runs monthly workshops in London.
Social media
Facebook: @businessmadesimpler
Twitter: @AmandaCcoach
Website

International Women's Day 2018

Wednesday, March 07 at 22:14

This International Women's Day we are highlighting some amazing Small Businesses. Businesses who triumphed through adversity and who found a way to help others by giving of themselves even when the going got tough. 
Flower Girl London
A well-known fixture at its South London station location, Flower Girl London, run by Sam Jennings, is a truly admirable small business. While running her own shop has let Sam be her own boss, that doesn’t mean she can relax – the Flower Girl London stall is set up every day, and packed away again come evening.
A young and thriving business, the use of point-of-sale technology by Square has had a huge impact on how Sam manages her time, not least because she now no longer has to make the treacherous journey to the bank each evening with bags of cash. A sufferer of multiple sclerosis, Sam also used helpful tech to track her sales per hour, and discovered that an afternoon’s work would prove more profitable than working through a quiet morning. She changed her hours from 11 am – 8 pm to 3 pm – 8 pm, and chose the days that had the highest footfall, meaning she now has more time to rest and recharge, while making more money from the busiest hours of the day.
But Sam’s dedication to her community has meant spending these extra hours committed to those in need. Following the tragedy of Grenfell Tower earlier this year, Sam worked tirelessly to help survivors, initially collecting supplies such as clothing before realising gift cards would be more effective. Launching the #giftcardsforGrenfell campaign, Sam successfully raised over £2,000, with donations coming from as far away as Australia. She also assisted the survivors on a personal level, lifting the spirits of a young man who experienced the blaze by organising a FaceTime call with his hero, rapper Stormzy.
For her selfless hard work and dedication to a community that, notably, is on the opposite side of London to her own,Sam was rewarded for her outstanding community service by Norbury Hill Cubs Nursery.
She’s a truly inspirational young, female entrepreneur, Norwood commuters can now take pride in the fact that they are buying their flowers from a local hero.

9 tips for Business Success - it's all about love.

Wednesday, February 14 at 09:35

This Valentine's day we are giving some top tips and advice for small businesses. 
Often you can overlook yourself in the process of starting or running your business and without this self-care you can quickly run yourself into the ground and impact your success. 
Check out our top tips for taking care of your business, yourself and how looking after others can also benefit you. Share the love! 
#loveyourbiz
Make a Plan
It’s said that if you fail to plan you plan to fail and this is certainly the case with a small business. If you are just starting out then you need to make an exhaustive business plan and factor in every eventuality and cost you can.
If you are already an established business it’s good to make a plan on a monthly or seasonal basis with some key goals and keep revisiting and updating it.
Know your Product or Service.
Make sure that whatever you have decided upon for your business format, you are passionate about it and have a good knowledge in the subject or area. Keep an eye on trends and read around the subject to stay ahead of what customers want to see and changes in buying climate.
Tell your Story
People love to make connections and sharing your story, your inspirations and your process through your website, blog or social media is key to engaging with customers and creating a connection that people trust and will buy from. Other entrepreneurs may also be inspired by your journey and learn from your experiences.
#loveyourself
4.  Invest in Yourself
You are your business’ best asset. If you need to take some extra training to ensure that you are up to date with the skills needed to run your business then don’t put it off! If you need to take a break to recharge and refresh with new ideas, then maybe delegate (more on that later) or engage in a relaxing hobby to change gears and invigorate you
5.  Be Yourself
Don’t waste valuable time analysing other similar businesses and trying to be exactly like them. It is good to learn from others but copycat businesses rarely succeed because they lack the personal passion that is needed. Share your quirks and express your personality and you will attract the right customers.
6.  Find your Tribe
Entrepreneurship can be lonely and even if you employ staff it is often hard to discuss business and growth with them. Find a local meet-up or networking group and connect with others, you may be surprised to find others who can provide help and advice through peer-to-peer support. Social media is also a great resource for like-minded groups and motivation.
#sharethelove
7.  Get the right people
A strong support team is crucial in a successful business, whether this is employees or family and friends. Recruiting wisely can save you both time and money and someone with a passion for your business or cause is a huge asset. Take your time when recruiting and don’t be afraid to have a trial period to see if you are a good match for each other.
8.  Delegate
Giving a team member a new responsibility doesn’t only free up your time and energy to focus on a different area of your business but it also can provide a learning and development opportunity for them. It’s a win win!
9.  A Random Act of Kindness
Showing and sharing kindness with others goes a long way and needn’t cost you a penny. You could skill share or swap with another business who may need your help in return for some of their product, or you could include a nice handwritten note inside a customer order to brighten their day. You might make a new friend in the process and it’s always nice to be nice.
Aster Sadler is Head of Digital Marketing for Small Business Saturday.Small Business Saturday provides help and support for all Small Businesses throughout the year by providing workshops, webinars and informative content.
Small Business Saturday UK also highlights small business success and encourages consumers to ‘shop local’ and support small businesses in their communities.

Demystifying LinkedIn for Small Businesses

Thursday, February 08 at 10:46

If you are not yet familiar with LinkedIn – or are one of the 1 in 2 LinkedIn users who have joined but not finished setting up their profiles – it’s the preferred social media network for business to business marketers and one of the leading job search sites in the world, designed with professions and businesses in mind and with 500 million (and rising) users who are all focused on creating a business network.
I first started using LinkedIn on my own behalf during the early days of setting up Pink Spaghetti, using it to network and build my business. Although a newcomer to LinkedIn, I quickly learnt how to perfect my profile, attending courses and keeping an eye on what successful users were doing.
As my business has grown, I have used my knowledge of LinkedIn to help other businesses build their networks. The search function is excellent and an easy way to find and connect with prospective clients; you can start a conversation with a potential customer online before suggesting a meeting in person to further the connection.
As well as creating your own personal profile and thus marketing yourself to the world, you can also use the platform to join groups, collect information, find out about local events, share articles, and add your own professional comments.
LinkedIn can also be used to find a completely new role, by changing your profile to reflect that you are looking for a new opportunity, connecting with recruiters, and asking previous employers for recommendations.
A good profile is a powerful tool and a definite must if you want to get ahead, helping you to grow your network strategically so that it works for you.
Michelle’s top tips on using LinkedIn for your business.
1. Start with the basics. Join LinkedIn as yourself, not your company – you   will be able to build out a company page later, but should always join on your own behalf.
2. Make sure that your basic information is completed and that your contact details are up to date, with your phone number and email displayed – if you are taking the time to network, it’s vital that you can be contacted.
3. A picture truly is worth a thousand words. Be sure to add a photo, and make sure that it’s professional looking, high resolution and recent.
4. Ensure that your profile is kept up to date and that your skills and experiences are displayed correctly. Got a new role or completed some training? Don’t forget to put it on your profile.
5. It’s particularly important to make sure that your headline explains exactly who you are and what you have to offer – people will make a decision on whether to connect within seconds, so first impressions are vital.
6. Once you have your profile set up, you can create a company page if appropriate, which allows you to post job openings, create content highlighting your products or services, engage with your followers and share key updates.
7. Understanding the etiquette of any social media platform can be intimidating at first. Spend some time familiarising yourself with the site and watch those using it successfully to pick up tips – then take a deep breath and dive in.
8. Build your network slowly. First connect with people you know, trust and value on a professional level. Always use a personalised invitation rather than LinkedIn’s automatic default, and take the time to explain why you want to join their network.
9. Try to go onto the platform every working day, even if you don’t have the confidence to post at first.  Join in a conversation - it’s a great way to make yourself visible to others. Join groups relevant to your industry, or start your own.
10. If you’re struggling then attending a course can help to build your confidence and learn to make the most of this exciting platform, there are 34 Pink Spaghetti franchises across the UK who can offer this training or can assist by creating or enhancing your profile or I can be contacted directly for online training. 
Michelle Collins is the owner of Pink Spaghetti Chester and North Wales, a virtual PA service which offers flexible, efficient support to small businesses (and homes), freeing up clients so that they can make the most of their time. Michelle also worked in HR in a public-sector organisation for 12 years before moving on to become a  Pink Spaghetti franchisee and, with two young children, also juggles a busy home life.  http://www.pink-spaghetti.co.uk
·         LinkedIn:         in/michellecollinspspag/
·         Twitter:            https://twitter.com/Michelle_PSpag
Facebook: @PinkSpaghettiChesterandNorthWales 
  Instagram:     michelle_pinkspaghetti/    
·     

10 Top Money Tips for Small Businesses

Thursday, February 01 at 09:37

Money is always a hot topic for Small Businesses so we spoke to Shohaib from Integrity Accounting and gained his top tips to help all types of business with their finances in 2018. 
Top Tip No. 1 – Choose the right company Structure
Choosing the right company structure is a really important decision required before the business commences trading.  Company structures in Sole Trader, Partnerships, Limited Liability Partnership, Community Interest Companies and Limited Companies, to name but a few.  Focusing on Sole traders and Limited Companies, our recommendation is that if you plan on operating the business for the long term, then setup as a limited company.  If you want simpler accounting and to manage the returns for the business yourself, then setup as a sole trader.
Top Tip No. 2 – Plan, plan and plan again
The better you can plan for your business, the better the business will be prepared for peak and troughs in trading.  We recommend that business owners take at least 1 or 2 days per month, working on the business to review the past months performance and to plan ahead for the next year or 18 months.  Please get in touch with us if you’d like a free cash flow spreadsheet to see when the business will have surplus cash or when there are likely to be pressures on cash.
Top Tip No. 3 – Cloud Accounting
In recent years, accounting software has evolved significantly, and this evolution has enable business owners to maintain their bookkeeping records quickly and efficiently.  Cloud accounting also enables you to give access to professional trusted advisor, like us at Integrity Accountancy, real time access to your accounting records enabling business owners to access really good advice for their business.  Plus cloud accounting software cheap and effective, with monthly payments reducing the need for a big investment in your accounting software.
Top Tip No. 4 – Meet Deadlines
When you run a business, always ensure that you submit annual accounts, corporation tax return and self-assessment tax returns before their deadlines.  Also, if you owe tax, pay your tax before it comes due.  This will ensure that you are up to date with a key creditor for all businesses, HMRC.
Top Tip No. 5 – Utilise Allowances
There are so many allowances available to business owners and businesses of all shapes and sizes, and these include the following:
Income Tax Allowance - £11,500
Dividend Allowance  - £5,000
Mileage Allowance -  45p 1st 10,000 miles,  25p afterwards
Marriage Allowance – Partner earns less £11,500, save up to £230
Annual Investment Allowance – up to £200,000 invested in assets
R&D Tax Credits – reduce corporation tax by £130 on top of every £100 of qualifying costs
For many allowances, there are rules as to who they are available to and how they are used so always get professional advice if there is anything that you are unsure of.
Top Tip No. 6 – Claim for Travel & Subsistence
If you incur costs relating to travel and subsistence whilst working for your business, make sure that you claim these periodically (ideally monthly) from your business.  These costs can include Air, Train, bus, and taxi fares, parking, the London congestion charge and tolls, subsistence expenses e.g. lunch while out, hotel and meals, if you need to stay away from home and mileage when using your own vehicle.  Again, always get advice from an accountant to ensure that you are entitles to claim these costs.
Top Tip No. 7 – HMRC Workshops
HMRC does give some things away for free and their workshops are fantastic for business owners.  There workshops cover topics such as:
       employer online filing and running a payroll
       becoming self-employed and self assessment for self-employed people
       Construction Industry Scheme
       setting up a limited company
       introduction to VAT
       introduction to international trade
They also have free payroll software to allow business to manage their own payroll and report their details directly to HMRC themselves.
Top Tip No. 8 – Budget for Tax
If you are a profitable business then you are almost certainly likely to have a tax liability, whether it is income tax and NI, corporation tax or VAT.  So budget for the tax that you will owe to ensure that you have funds set aside for these liabilities.  For most business we recommend setting aside between 20% and 30% of turnover in a separate business deposit account for when there is tax to pay.
Top Tip No. 9 – Claim Costs of working from Home
If you do work for your business from home, you can offset the costs of running your home against your business if you have a designated space in your home that you use solely for business purposes.  There are a couple of method, the Flat Rate Method (simple) and the Costs Method (more detailed).  The flat rate method enables you to be paid costs based on the number for hours that you work at home:
25-50 hours:£10 per month
51-100 hours:          £18 per month
101 hours +:           £26 per month
Top Tip No. 10 – Get a Good Accountant
Getting a good accountant for you and your business should be seen as being an investment in your business, and as with any investment, this should reap benefits for your business.  When it comes to choosing an account, you should consider the following:
  • ·      Ask yourself if location matters
  • ·      Choose a certified or chartered accountant
  • ·      Look for an accountant with relevant expertise
  • ·      Talk to government and business associations
  • ·      Tap into your social networks
  • ·      Make use of your connections online
  • ·      Decide how the accounting work will be divided
  • ·      Get someone who’s proactive about saving you money
  • ·      Find out what software the accountant uses
  • ·      Do background checks
  • ·      Learn to use and trust your intuition
If you’d like any further details, please contact us using the details below. 
About the Author 
Shohaib Shafiq ACMA CGMA is the principal accountant at Integrity Accountancy Services Limited.  Integrity Accountancy specialise in working with SME’s that want accountants that do more than just tax returns.  They work as a businesses trusted adviser, working to add value to their clients, by providing a proactive accountancy service. 
Twitter: @IntegAccount

Organising a Small Business Event - Tips from the Experts

Friday, January 26 at 11:23

Organising a small business event is no mean feat. It takes attention to detail, knowledge about your aims and goals, and plenty of creativity and flexibility.
Know Your Audience
Before you can start planning anything else, determine what your target audience looks like. Closely linked with aims and goals, nailing your audience will help with everything else from location, to event content and activities, catering, entertainment and cost.
Know Your Purpose
      Product launch
      Lead generation
      New services offered
      Local business networking
      Professional conference
      Employee rewards
      Business milestone celebration
      Reward loyalty
      Create awareness
      Boost profits
There are many reasons why you might organise a business event, and pinpointing your unique reason is one of the keys to success. When you know why, you’ll have a much clearer picture of who you need there to help you meet your end goals.
Knowing your audience and purpose also shapes how you’ll stage the event, what type of seating, barriers or fences you’ll need, and whether you need to hire an actual stage. For staging supplies, budget for professional equipment so you’re sure of the quality and can meet health and safety requirements.
Choose Dates Carefully
Holding your event at the same time as other big events in your location can ruin your chances of success. Check the calendar, keep ears and eyes open through social media, and avoid major holiday seasons if possible.
Define Your Budget
Whatever your budget is, some compromises along the way are almost inevitable, for example:
      A smaller venue.
      A simpler menu.
      A less well-known, but still expert, speaker.
As you get deeper into the planning process, keep a sharp eye on estimated vs. actual costs, and be willing to scale back where necessary. Professional event planners are worth considering, as they have the experience to know how and where to trim the budget.
Have a Financing Plan
Could you get sponsorship from other companies? Ideas include inviting catering companies to sponsor the event, working on a joint venture to save money for you both. If you manage to secure sponsorships, make sure to give your sponsors the VIP treatment.
Advance ticket sales can be a good indicator of likely popularity, so you should consider this as one of the first planned activities even before venue booking, and certainly before you sign any contracts.
Have Contingency Plans
Always make contingency plans well in advance of the event. It helps to make a couple of lists, with every activity in one column and everything that could go wrong in a column next to it. Suppose, for instance, the catering company lets you down, or the sound system fails, or your guest accommodation double-books and your VIP overnighters have nowhere to sleep?
Things can and will happen outside the plan. Figuring out the worst-case scenario and how you could solve it, gives you a plan of action, just in case.
Alistage is the only UK company to manufacture its own staging equipment.  Modular stage systems, tiered seating, catwalks, barriers and bar systems are among the event equipment available for hire and sale, and used for concerts, TV and film work and exhibitions.

12 Top Tips for Micro-businesses

Monday, January 15 at 13:55

On #microbizmatters day we shared 12 top tips on running your business to support their #IGave12 campaign which encourages others to give 12 to a micro business owner.
Focusing on business advice, branding and marketing there are some great tips for all kinds of businesses and some helpful links to further help from our Small Business Community.
Running your business
1. Get connected
Don’t feel like you have to be alone. Running your own business can be lonely and having other entrepreneurs and thought laders around you can really help to develop ideas and provide key support as well as a great sounding board for queries.
The FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) is a great organisation so check out @fsb_voice for more help and advice for Small Business.
2. Get social!
Today it is easier than ever to connect with peers online and join support groups and business development pages on social media. Be brave, sign up and get asking (and supporting) other small businesses. There may be someone out there that needs your expertise too!
Enterprise Nation has great meet-ups and networking opportunities, search @e_nation on twitter.
3. Money matters
Make sure that you get good financial advice when setting up or running your business. Good financial planning, clear strategies/forecasting and a good accountant can save a lot of sleepless nights and heartache.
If you want to find someone local to you with specific expertise, check out @ACCA_UK for your local member.
4. It’s all about me
Whether you are a sole trader or have a small team, you need to look after you. It’s tempting to take on all the roles and run yourself into the ground in order to move your business forward but as the saying goes, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’. You are the most important asset for your business, you must look after your needs in order to run a business to the best of your ability.
Marketing and social media
5. Make a plan
Planning is key for a marketing strategy. Don’t create an unrealistic plan as this can be demoralising and leave you feeling defeated. Set yourself small simple goals and these can be increased as you see success. It may be a target number of followers on Facebook, a specific number of sign-ups for a newsletter or exhibiting goals.
If you need help with a marketing plan, check out Marketing by Minal  @Minal2804
6. Be where your customers are
It may sound obvious but with so many social media platforms it can sometimes feel very overwhelming and like you have to be everywhere at once! Find the social media platform that most speaks to your customers, most people are on Facebook so that is an obvious start but you may consider other platforms like Instagram if your business is creative or particularly visual. Do some research and see where your customers are visiting.
7.Aim for relationships not just sales
Building strong relationships with your customers will mean that they are more likely to be a repeat customer and share their good experiences with others. Micro businesses are all about the people at the very heart of them. Be brave and put yourself, your passion for your product/service and your business into all your interactions to make sure you stick in their minds for exceptional customer service.
8. Keep in touch
Don’t be afraid to ask someone for their contact details. Mailing lists have a bad reputation but used carefully and compassionately they can be a great tool to inform your customers, advise them of great offers and let that personality shine through. Similarly, every day we come across opportunities to network (especially if you produce a wearable product), always make sure you have a supply of business cards and details you can pass on.
If you need more help with your marketing, one of our fab small business community Karen Campbell could help you. Check out @k_c_marketing for some great blogs, advice and tips.
Branding
9. Have a good name and logo.
 A strong brand is easily recognizable. Recognition starts with the name of your business. The name will appear on your business cards, letterhead, website, social networks, promotional materials, products, and pretty much everywhere in print and online to identify your company or your company’s products and/or services. People commonly associate brands with the brand’s logo. As you think about your logo, keep your audience and products/services in mind because you want your logo to reflect your company. A good logo builds trust and a strong logo will help to pull your brand together.
10. Find your brand voice.
What you say is important, but don’t overlook how you say it. Your company’s “voice” is the language and personality you and your employees will use to deliver your branding message and reach your customers. Successful brands speak with a unique voice. Think about the brands you admire – what makes them unique? How do they communicate with you and other customers? What do you like about their voice?
11. Deliver value for your customers.
Value doesn’t mean lowest price. You can focus on product, great customer service , delivery of service, or a combination of those things. When thinking about the value your company delivers ask what sets your product or service apart from others with similar products/services. A personable company with an excellent product are strong emotional drivers for a customer to purchase.
12. Create a personality.
When you are deciding on how to brand your company and ‘voice’ it sometimes helps to think of it as a person. Analysing that character’s beliefs, likes and dislikes, where they live and what their lifestyle is like. This will help you find your target customer and solidify your brand.
One of our favourite personalities is Alison Edgar from The Entrepreneurs Godmother, go to @aliedgar13 to check her out!
Small Business Saturday provides help and support for all Small Businesses throughout the year by providing workshops, webinars and informative content.
Small Business Saturday UK also highlights small business success and encourages consumers to ‘shop local’ and support small businesses in their communities.

ACCA on board the Small Business Saturday Bus Tour

Tuesday, November 28 at 14:46

Small Business Saturday toured the UK once again this year with its iconic big blue Bus Tour. Starting in Dundee and finishing in Brighton, the tour took in 29 locations around the UK. Launched for the first time this year was the Small Business Saturday mentoring programme on the bus, offering free business mentoring to small businesses at every stop. As part of its support of Small Business Saturday, the business experts ACCA sent their small business members to the bus to provide free advice to local businesses – and it could not have been more of a success!
From Birmingham to Cardiff, Edinburgh to London, Lowestoft to Leicester, ACCA accountants joined the Tour to meet local businesses and share their advice and wisdom, all with a view to helping these businesses thrive in 2018 and beyond.
Tour Director, Tom Flynn, said about the mentors, “It was fantastic to have experts with strong local links, that also brought the reassurance of a strong recognisable global brand – this is why the ACCA mentors worked very well. The mentors were fantastic with a great attitude, they were helpful, positive and constructive, helping out other mentors as well as jumping in with ad hoc help and advice where needed.”
Of the mentees themselves, Tom said, “We had a real range – some businesses in their infancy through to well developed, well established businesses that were looking for a new direction or had new ideas they wanted to talk through with someone. The feedback from the businesses was all positive with many getting in touch afterwards to say what a huge boost it had been for them and they absolutely intend to continue the relationship with the mentor.”
Small Business Saturday launched the programme this year in response to feedback from small businesses on what they felt was missing locally and where they wanted help. The programme will continue into 2018 and the campaign encourages all communities to develop their own mentoring programmes, so experienced small businesses can pass that knowledge onto others, making communities stronger across the UK.
The tour was also joined by ACCA Head of SME Policy, Ben Baruch:
In Cardiff, Small Business Saturday was joined by James Slatter, ACCA member, and Lloyd Powell, Head of ACCA Wales.
Joining the tour in London, Shakar Elahi provided small business help and advice, and spoke to Director Michelle Ovens here
For more information on ACCA and to find a local qualified ACCA accountant  click here 

Is Britain Becoming a Cashless Society?

Wednesday, November 22 at 13:52

As Britain becomes a cashless society, businesses big or small have an opportunity to offer seamless cash free transactions. Where once the ring of a cash till was a sure sign of success, most modern shops will instead have their steady flow of payments signalled by the beeping of acard reader.
Cards are the new cash
Cards, especially in their contactless form, are quick to use, easy to pay with and make tracking purchases much easier with online banking. The simple decision to change from cash to card therefore has a knock-on effect on personal finance admin, time-saving and even moral stances like being green, with online banking lessening the need for paper receipts. In other words, offering card payments to your customers can help them in more ways than one.
Thefigures speak for themselves, and should prompt any smart business owner to get their hands on acard payment systemASAP! Three in five Brits favour paying by card to cash, with 58% of them choosing card before any other form of payment. While this may leave over 40% of consumers happy to pay by cash, small businesses should bear in mind that the average amount of cash carried by brits is just £32.54, hardly enough to fund a single purchase if your shop is a customer’s third or fourth stop along the high street. 
£647.3 billion worth of sales was made in the first quarter of 2017 alone. In fact, 27% of shoppers say they haven’t completed a purchase when they discovered a shop did not accept card and 28% said that this would impact negatively on their overall opinion of the business. That’s a lot of potential customers or repeat customers lost when the solution is as simple as acard reader. And for modern businesses, it’s expected by shoppers that they can pay any way they want – a staggering 60% of customers would be more likely to visit their local small businesses if they knew they could pay with card.
Not just about customer convenience
Permitting card payments isn’t just about making life easier for your customers, you’re sure to benefit as a business owner, too! Say goodbye to counting penny after penny of the day’s takings, nervous trips to the bank with bags full or cash or having to run through your receipts with a fine-tooth comb to calculate your sales. With anEPOS system for card payments, customers complete their payments with a single tap or by quickly inserting their PIN, and that’s it! All sales are recorded inyour system so you can view, analyse and compare your total sales in a single glance. There’s no risk of money being lost under the cash drawer or rolling under the counter and you can even send receipts digitally so your customers will have a much more secure record of their purchase that a paper receipt hastily stuffed in a pocket.
A portable card payment system makes things even more convenient for businesses that have no set location or a counter to have a till wired up to. Even if your business inhabits no more thana corner in a local train station, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the ease and convenience of card payments.
Take card, keep customers
Between the high street and the extensive choice of online shops, if customers can’t complete their purchase with you, it’s far easier for them to find what they need elsewhere than source a cashpoint. And with the average Brit going weeks between trips to the ATM, it’s a huge inconvenience that will likely confirm your brand’s status as one they never intend to visit again.
Keep things simple, easy and sales-effective for both you and your customers and make sure you're equipped to take card. You’ll never lose a sale, customers won’t lose faith in your brand as a modern business and ease of pay will increase your customer service in a way that may well see the same customers come through the door again and again!
Find out more at squareup.com/gb 

Small Business Spotlight - How Technology Can Help Small Businesses

Thursday, November 16 at 08:34

Advance business analytics were once only available to the business giants of the high street and remained something small businesses could only dream of, but new technology is changing all that, and now the ‘little guy’ is just as well equipped as the retail titans to analyse every aspect of their business and get the insight they need to make their businesses perform better than ever.
We’ve caught up with two small businesses who have used this technology to improve their sales and even their health.
Flower Girl London
Sam Jennings runs Flower Girl London from the corner of a busy South London train station.
Originally operating from 11am – 8pm, the long hours were doing little good for Sam. After making the switch from a cash-only business to one that operates with an EPOS, Sam couldtrack her sales per hour and discovered that the morning rarely bought in many customers. Changing her hours to 3pm – 8pm, Sam now works less while making more money and has more time to rest and relax. It also means she has more energy for big weekend jobs like weddings and events.
This small change that has helped Sam take better care of her health and enjoy better sales would never have happened without technology lending a helping hand, as Sam herself says, “It’s great…how technology can help even the smallest of businesses to be more efficient.”
Wookey Hub
A good analytics system can help small businesses get a better understanding of their sales, but for those business owners who prefer to be far more precise, it can even help with interior design, as Andy, owner of Wookey Hub, discovered.
A café and grocery store set in Wookey, Somerset, Wookey Hub was subject to Andy’s crisp experimentation earlier this year. Having gained the technology he needed to track his sales on an item by item basis, Andy was able to pinpoint precisely which position in the store raised his crisp sales. Over the course of a month, Wooky Hub homed a very active crisp stand, which Andy moved to different positions seeking the spot that got the best customer sales.
It’s the sort of marketing precision that would have relied on guesswork without the right technology, and now Andy can enjoy an unrivalled insight to his sales trends and, of course, better crisp sales! Find out more at squareup.com/gb 

Taking Your Business Beyond the High Street

Friday, November 10 at 10:00

It’s the dream that has driven many an entrepreneur to start their small business; owning your own shop front. A place on the high street is a fantastic achievement, and something that any small business should take pride in – who doesn’t want a space to stamp their brand identity on? As powerful as a personal slot in the parade of high street shops may be, shopping habits have moved on from simply popping down the shops, now, people don’t even have to pop out of bed to make a purchase, a few taps on a smartphone or tablet, and voila.
For small businesses seeking success, it’s time to embrace the sales opportunities beyond the perfectly dressed window – an event five minutes from your shop door might be drawing customers away, so why not get in on the action too? Get online and get out there, here are our top tips for helping grow your brand’s presence and its customer following:
Enrol for Events
The event is a powerful thing, while your shop may boast a great shop front, amazing products and even a tempting sales event, a single shop can’t match the buzz and draw of an organised event like a market or fair. These events are committed to promotion of the businesses they showcase, but they also promise their visitors a fantastic experience overall. And experience is something people are willing to pay for. In fact, Eventbrite found that consumers aged between 18 – 34 collectively spent over£419 million a month on experiences over things and are readier than ever to discover the latest happenings, like Small Business Saturday.
Research events in your area, many town centres will boast their own markets on the weekend and for major citieslocal listings can help you keep up to date with all the events that occur week to week. Food traders should get in on the boom in food markets, joining the dozens of traders that showcase at almost any given event and feeding the hungry bellies they find there. Seasonal markets, especially in the run up to Christmas, really amp up the atmosphere, giving local businesses across food, drink, music and gifts the perfect platform for the most important shopping month of the year, stalls quickly get booked up, so prepare well in advance for this major date in your trading calendar.
Events like these also come with a sense of exclusivity, running for a limited time only, which has a positive effect when it comes to sales –almost half of all consumers say they have visited apop-up in the last 12 months enticed in by their here-for-now nature. Every appearance is a chance to gather new customers, so even if your first off-site pop-up is a at the local school fair, you’re sure to make sales, hopefully gain a few return customers and, of course, gain valuable learning experience for your next outing. So, arm yourself with aportable payments system, a selection of your most eye-catching wares and instead of waiting for customers to come to you, go straight to them!
Get Online
Providing your brand with an online presence is vital in modern times, even if your business isn’t suited to an online store, you can still enjoy thebenefits of being omnichannel by having social media channels that let you connect with and build your customer base.  An Instagram photo of your latest rainbow cake creation, for example, can quickly become reason for anyone who likes the snap online to pay your physical location a visit, just look at the rise ofthe Freakshake!
If your business is a business that sells goods rather than services, then an online store is a must-have, as is making it optimised for mobile visits. A recent survey found that most small businesses are set to miss out on the£27 billion Brits will spend on mobile shopping this year. A lack of mobile-compatible websites, only 18% of small businesses currently accommodate mobile visits to their sites, is the main obstacle between small businesses and their online sales enjoying a boost.
Making an online store is far simpler than you think, with many apps letting you get set up for both desktop and mobile visitors in a few clicks. Once you’re up and running, you’ll have something to point your online followers at. A Facebook post that they like can lead to the product page, can lead to a purchase. Another useful addition to your site is a blog. This is where you can offer great content to your customers like how-tos, previews of new products and behind-the-scenes glances of your business which can add a real sense of personality to your brand. These blog pages also help improve your site’s metrics i.e. can help people find your site in the first place, and more discovery means more potential sales!
Whether you're expanding online or into local events, having a system in place to track all of your sales together will mean you can spend more time selling and less time on admin. Find out more about Square here: squareup.com/gb 

5 Ideas to Improve your Time Management

Thursday, September 28 at 09:00

“The bad news is time flies.  The good news is you’re the pilot.” 
Always running out of time?  It’s a problem many of us have, and small businesses owners often lack staff to delegate to, so find themselves taking on every task single-handedly.  It’s a juggling act, but there are techniques you can use to manage your time more effectively, and while this won’t necessarily lighten the load, it will help you focus on the most important tasks to make the best use of the time you have each day. 
Here are a few tried and tested methods for time management: 
This method is designed to provide you with maximum focus and creative freshness, enabling you to get projects created faster, with less mental fatigue. 
You work for 25 minutes, then break for 5 minutes.   Each 25 minute period is called a “pomodoro” (Italian for ‘tomato’) because the inventor used his kitchen timer which was shaped like a tomato – but you could use your phone instead! 
After 4 pomodoros have passed (100 minutes of work with 15 minutes of break time), you then take a 15-20 minute break. 
The periods of focussed work with frequent short breaks helps avoid distractions such as Facebook, checking your email, making a cup of tea etc breaking into your flow of work…you save those for the 5 minute breaks! 
Time boxing is simply fixing a time period to work on a task or group of tasks. 
If you are procrastinating a task, don’t try to complete it, time box it – allow a set period to get some of it done, then if you’ve not completed it you can set another time box for the rest of the job.  If you have a series of little, annoying tasks, set a time slot to get a number done. 
Time boxing works if you are an expert in perfectionism.  If you consistently carry on with tasks, redoing over and over, and wonder where all your time goes, then time boxing is for you – you set the deadline. 
  1. Eat the frog! 
If you had to eat a live frog every day, you could be pretty sure that nothing you did for the rest of the day would be as bad. 
Do you find yourself putting off your least favourite task?  Make a to-do list each day, and circle the ‘frog’ – the job you’re most likely to procrastinate:  maybe it’s the most unpleasant, difficult or just very time consuming – then tackle that task first. 
It’s tempting to do the smaller or simpler activities first, but by doing this you risk running out of time for the larger more complex tasks, and they just get put off to the next day.  Start each day by eating a frog and you’ll find yourself energised by having accomplished a major task. 
  1. The Pareto Principle (80:20 rule) 
This states that 80% of results will come from 20% of your efforts – use this idea to identify which 20% of your workload is going to produce the most gain, and focus your time on that. 
  1. Outsource 
If you’ve employed all these techniques and are still struggling, consider outsourcing some tasks.  Entrepreneurs have to be ‘jacks of all trades’ to run their own businesses, but you may find that for certain tasks, a specialist can do the job in half the time.  When considering the cost, think about what your own time is worth and factor in the value of other things you could be doing in that time. 
“Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.” 
Guest blog by: Michelle Collins. 
Michelle Collins owns Pink Spaghetti Chester and North Wales. Dedicated to going the extra mile for her clients Michelle quickly earned a great reputation and is now in her third year of trading and is growing her own team.
Proactive, flexible and a strong ability to problem solve Michelle undertakes a variety of work for a wide range of business sectors. Research, admin, invoicing, social media campaigns and decluttering are regular tasks on her to-do list which help her clients find time to further develop their business or spend more time pursuing a more leisurely lifestyle.  If your business or home “to do” list seems never ending, Michelle will be delighted to help you gain control.Organised, friendly and discreet, Pink Spaghetti Chester and North Wales is the ideal company to provide you with PA services in Chester and North Wales or to get help from a virtual personal assistant.
·         Web:                http://www.pink-spaghetti.co.uk
·         LinkedIn:         in/michellecollinspspag/
·         Twitter:            https://twitter.com/Michelle_PSpag
·         YouTube:       channel/UCJMAN7JhMeIksaKux6AV9kw
·         Instagram:     michelle_pinkspaghetti/
·         Facebook:      PSChester/
·         Google+        109545179990303628618

The Small Business Saturday Bus Tour launches across the UK for its fifth year!

Monday, September 18 at 15:22

Small Business Saturday are pleased to announce the launch of the Bus Tour for 2017! 
The bus will be visiting 29 different towns and cities and launching the brand new Small Business Saturday mentoring programme, supporting small businesses one-to-one, with advice directly from their peers. Small Business Saturday is recruiting experienced business mentors in all locations and small businesses will be able to sign up on the campaign website from the beginning of October.
Also debuting this year is the “Small Business Saturday Blue Sofa” where interviews and exclusive Q&A sessions will be live streamed via Facebook Live.
Beginning at Dundee on October 23rd, the bus tour travels up and down the country with stops including Lisburn, Cardiff, Lowestoft and the Isle of Wight before finishing in Brighton on November 24th. The tour will provide advice and information to all small businesses as well as some hands-on activities for the public to promote local support for the campaign. Full list of stops is below:
Bus Tour 2017
Week 1
Date
Location
Arrive
Depart
Mon 23rd Oct
Dundee
10:00
14:00
Tue 24th Oct
Edinburgh
10:00
14:00
Prestwick
16:00
16:30
Wed 25th Oct
Lisburn
10:00
14:00
Thu 26th Oct
Belfast
10:00
14:00
Fri 27th Oct
Dumfries
10:00
14:00
Week 2
Date
Location
Arrive
Depart
Mon 30th Oct
Sunderland
10:00
14:00
Tue 31st Oct
Lancaster
10:00
14:00
Wed 1st Nov
York
10:00
14:00
Selby
15:00
16:00
Thu 2nd Nov
Brigg
10:00
14:00
Fri 3rd Nov
Rochdale
10:00
14:00
Week 3
Date
Location
Arrive
Depart
Mon 6th Nov
Bangor
10:00
14:00
Tue 7th Nov
Stoke
10:00
14:00
Wed 8th Nov
Birmingham
10:00
14:00
Studley
15:00
16:00
Thu 9th Nov
Hereford
10:00
14:00
Fri 10th Nov
Barry Island
09:00
09:30
Cardiff
10:00
14:00
Week 4
Date
Location
Arrive
Depart
Mon 13th Nov
Leicester
10:00
14:00
Tue 14th Nov
Stevenage
10:00
14:00
Wed 15th Nov
Lowestoft
10:00
14:00
Thu 16th Nov
Maldon
10:00
14:00
Fri 17th Nov
London
10:00
14:00
Week 5
Date
Location
Arrive
Depart
Mon 20th Nov
Plymouth
10:00
14:00
Tue 21st Nov
Taunton
10:00
14:00
Wed 22nd Nov
Reading
10:00
14:00
Thu 23rd Nov
Ryde, Isle of Wight
10:00
14:00
Fri 24th Nov
Brighton
10:00
14:00
Logos and posters will be available to download from the website: www.smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com from end of September and can be displayed online or on premises. Posters can also be collected from your local bus stop on the tour. Businesses around the country can also upload information to the ‘My Small Business Finder’ on the website (www.smallbusinesssaturdayuk.comon what special events or promotional offers they will be running for Small Business Saturday. 
More information on Small Business Saturday can also be found on the Small Business Saturday Facebook page: (www.facebook.com/smallbusinesssaturdayuk) and Twitter feed (@SmallBizSatUk).

Making the most of Small Business Saturday

Monday, January 04 at 13:41

Independent wine merchants Bat and Bottle reflect on Small Business Saturday and offer 3 tips for making the most of it as a small business!
Bat and Bottle Wine Merchants are specialist importers of Italian wines who had been trading since 1994. Made up of husband and wife team, Ben and Emma Robson, Bat and Bottle began by selling cricket bats as well as wine. Now they just focus on wine and are proud of their successful small business.Bat and Bottle Wine Merchants offered a unique experience for Small Business Saturday 2015 Shoppers by offering a taste of some remarkable and rare wines for free. A great way to entice shoppers through the doors of small businesses!Brightpearl spoke to Emma Robson from Bat and Bottle to see what they got up to on Small Business Saturday. “We had wine and gin tasting of some rare and wonderful drinks from a very small gin producer in London called Sacred and our smallest wine producer in Italy called Roberto Picech”, Emma revealed.But was it a success? “People were genuinely very happy. The day was steady, constant and full. We thought it was good!” Emma added.Bat and Bottle got creative with the Small Business Saturday stickers, Emma explained, “We sell from our warehouse on the outskirts of town and don't have a shop window, so we put the stickers on the back of our mini pickup. It’s still on there actually, I don’t see the point of taking it off!”Located in the East Midlands town of Oakham, where independent businesses are the norm, many small businesses took part in Small Business Saturday. The council even offered free parking on the day.“We are pretty much a town of independents in Oakham and it was good to see there were quite a lot of stickers all over the High Street. Somebody around the town had even organised a stickers trail so people went into all the shops displaying the Small Business Saturday stickers and got a tick or something along those lines from the person in each shop.”Emma talked about other community events they’ve taken part in: “in the past, instead of discounting we’ve held a wine tasting in the town and encouraged our nationwide customers to come and stay in Oakham and shop in our small market town.” A great way to unite the community and increase business for independent and small businesses.It not just Bat and Bottle who saw the benefits of Small Business Saturday, according to data from Brightpearl their independent retailers saw a 16% increase in gross merchandise value on Small Business Saturday from 2014 to 2015, Great news for independent retailers! Here’s three quick tips for small businesses to take away from Bat and Bottle’s 2015 Small Business Saturday experience to help in 2016:1. Offer product testingProduct testing is likely to get more people through the door of your store. Tempt them in with free samples and if they like the product, they’ll be likely to buy it from you!2. Creatively display those Small Business Saturday signsThink outside of the box like Bat and Bottle when displaying your Small Business Saturday signs and stickers. Place them in unusual places as well as your shop windows!3. Join together with other small businessesJoining forces with other local stores can lead to community co-operation. Building a relationship with other small businesses gives you an extra channel of support.To find out more about Bat and Bottle Wine Merchants and Brightpearl visit their websites.

Why I applied to Small Biz 100: Crafty Revolution tells all

Thursday, May 07 at 13:48
Small Biz 100 | Small Business Saturday Uk Champion

2014's Small Business Saturday UK impact statistics
With just 25 days to go before applications open for 2015's Small Biz 100, we hear from a successful 2014 applicant: Crafty Revolution.Crafty Revolution was one of 2014's Small Biz 100, and now a current Small Business Saturday Champion. Owner Francesca Kemp has spoken about why she applied......"Small Business Saturday UK recently published the above statistics for last year's campaign which made me reflect on my time as one of their Small Biz100.As the application date looms in June the question is: why would you want to apply?My top 3 reasons are:1. Amazing connections with fellow Small Biz 100 and local businesses2. New skills learnt along the way3. Being part of a truly great campaignFive months have passed since December 6th, and I am still on an incredible Small Business Saturday journey. Learning to push my own boundaries was paramount to me, as I am quite a shy person so participating in an ITV interview, for example, was an adrenalin-pumping scary moment but I did it and I loved the experience!For me, it was also about the long-term impact this accolade would have and what could I do in return. Profiling, promotion, likes, followers, web visits, retweets, shares, linking up with amazing entrepreneurs, going to Downing Street, meeting VIPs, support from fellow Small Biz 100....the list is endless and continues to grow. This led to other business collaborations and campaigns for Crafty Revolution to be involved in.Would I still press that enter button to send my application? Without a shadow of a doubt, YES!I am honoured to have been made one of Small Business Saturday UK's champions for this year's campaign. The above statistics speak for themselves and this year will see an expanded bus tour, with businesses encouraged to organise their own events celebrating the day.Now the question is, will you apply to be a Small Biz 100?"Applications for 2015 Small Biz 100 open on 1st June. Please check website for more details. 

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