Small Business Saturday Blog

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.
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 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
  • 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.
  • 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”.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Why apply to be a #SmallBiz100 2019?

Thursday, June 06 at 00:05

Applications for this year’s SmallBiz100 are now open and we can't wait to celebrate the best of Britain's small businesses in the run up to Small Business Saturday 2019! 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 celebrate one every day in the run up to Small Business Saturday, which takes place in December each year. 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, 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.
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 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 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.
Claire from Addiscott's, who was one of the SmallBiz100 in 2018, says “I was inspired by the dedication and commitment of the Small Biz Sat team and made some fantastic connections and friendships along the way."
She adds: "If you’re thinking about applying just GO FOR IT! Being a Small Biz 100 really does make a difference and is a wonderful celebration of all that is Small but with HUGE support from your fellow 100’s and the team! From Bus Tours to Blue Ball’s there is opportunity to showcase and shine.” Claire has also written a blog about her SmallBiz100 experience - find it here.
All this and taking part is completely free! Sounds good? Applying to take part in SmallBiz100 2019 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.
We can’t wait to present the SmallBiz100 2019! Make 2019 the year that you take your small business to the next level and take part in something amazing: apply now for SmallBiz100 2019.

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 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 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: 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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.

Going for gold with the Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award!

Thursday, October 18 at 08:25

The Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award (iDEA) from the Duke of York aims to address the digital skills gap by providing free digital skills education via online modules – think of it as a digital and enterprise equivalent of the Duke of Edinburgh Award. It is made up of a huge variety of digital badges: short modules which can be completed anywhere a learner can be online, and each of which earns points which aggregate towards the Bronze, Silver or Gold Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award.
Small Business Saturday has been partnering with iDEA over the past few months in order to bring this free expert training to small businesses across the UK, and today we’re delighted to showcase a small business which has completed not one but two levels of the award since the launch earlier in the year.
Rachel Gilbertson runs Roxiies Treasures, based in Liverpool, which provides beautiful costume and handmade jewellery alongside bags, scarves and gift hampers. She completed her Bronze Award in July 2018 and her Silver Award in September 2018.
Rachel says that iDEA appealed to her as soon as she saw it mentioned by Small Business Saturday, describing it as “a breath of fresh air”. She says “The badges were very fun because there were different things such as word searches, anagrams, problems to solve and games, which helps you keep focused to achieve badges and keep your mind active, which helps you take the information in to complete them.”
She adds, “I certainly would recommend iDEA to other small business owners because you never know what you can achieve until you give it a go and it teaches you a lot about yourself, what you can do and what you need a bit more help with. Completing the awards certainly gives you a sense of pride being able to achieve them.”
Congratulations to Rachel on your amazing achievement and we look forward to hearing about your gold award!
Find out more about iDEA here.

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!

How to open a corner shop

Wednesday, October 03 at 22:07

The humble corner shop — haven of sweet treats, un-judging provider of late night booze pickups and vendor of early morning milk and eggs. Every neighbourhood has its handful of corner shops that enhance the community and service its needs from dawn until dusk.
With over 50,000 operating in the UK, these retailers have a unique place in customers’ hearts. From the quaint village grocery to the 24-hour city newsagent, they’re a British institution that we’ve all come to rely on in one form or another.
If it’s your dream to work at the heart of your local community, here’s Square's guide to get you started. Before you put any of it into practice, we highly recommend you consult with legal and financial professionals to ensure this is the right venture for you.
Create a Business Plan
Before you begin the practical setup of your corner shop, you need to create a business plan. This acts as a vital roadmap outlining where your business is headed. It’s also a helpful reality check — the first year or two of your corner shop business will come with challenges but your business plan helps you prepare. Here’s what it should include:
  • Executive summary
  • Market analysis
  • Stock and services summary
  • Marketing & sales strategy
  • Management plan
  • Financial considerations
See here for more in depth guidance to building your plan.
Legal Obligations
Due to the diverse range of stock and produce corner shops sell — including age-restricted items like alcohol, cigarettes, lottery tickets and sharps — there are many legal requirements to consider. To keep your customers, staff and premises covered with the correct insurance, look into:
  • Public and product liability insurance
  • Stock cover
  • Employer’s liability insurance
  • Personal accident insurance
  • Business interruption insurance
  • Business legal protection insurance
  • Business buildings and contents insurance
  • Personal accident insurance
Some insurance policies will neatly cover all of the above as part of a shop insurance package which you can compare online.
Beyond insurance, there are a range of business licences which you should investigate to ensure you’re operating lawfully. These include:
You should also make sure you’re fully equipped to offer a workplace pension to any staff, as it is now a legal requirement.
How much does it cost to open a corner shop?
There are a number of costs involved in opening your own corner shop. If this seems prohibitive, don’t give up — budgets can be scaled to make it happen. Here are five cost factors to consider when you open a corner shop:
  • Physical space
  • Interior design
  • Stock
  • Marketing
  • Labour
In particular on this last one, due to the size and nature of corner shops, it’s unlikely you’ll need a big team. However, it is wise to have some form of backup for those days that you’re ill or simply need a break. As well as paying employees the National Minimum Wage, factor in the cost of training, pension contributions and any benefits.
Finding a location
The location you choose should tie in with the type of business you want to run. If your dream is a no-frills corner shop serving emergency supplies, a residential area without nearby supermarkets (and other corner shops of course) is a great shout. If you’re considering a more specialist approach, for example by offering whole foods and zero-waste packaging, your location should be based in a community where there is real demand (and disposable income) for this niche. Or if you’re planning to set up shop in a densely populated urban area, consider the direction of footfall so that you can capture potential customers from competitor businesses.
Here are some key factors to think about before you set your heart on a location:
  • Does it need/have parking space?
  • Is there easy road access for drivers?
  • How busy is the local area (down to postcode level)?
  • Are there any obstructions that will make it hard for people to find you?
  • What’s the ambience and demographic of the area?
  • How is the area going to change in the coming months and years?
  • How visible is the building itself within its surroundings?
  • How vulnerable is the location to competitors?
  • What opportunity is there to attract custom from other local businesses?
  • Are there any local businesses (such as pubs, schools or gyms) that could increase your footfall?
  • What’s the local crime rate like?
Keep your prices competitive
The corner shop is an icon of convenience, but that isn’t always enough to build customer loyalty if you’re charging them far more than the local supermarket. With supermarkets creating smaller branches, the affordability of your products and services is more important than ever. Here are three ways to keep your costs down without impacting your business.
1. Choose an affordable payment provider.
2. Collaborate with local suppliers.
3. Offer loyalty discounts.
Reach your customer base
Resist the temptation to rely solely on your convenient location for thriving business – even small, local businesses can benefit from proactive marketing. When you find a moment between serving customers, stocking shelves and tracking your business performance put together a marketing strategy. Keep it simple and true to the nature of your business.
  • Flyering
  • Social media
  • Launch party
Everyone likes a party. They represent something particularly communal that works for a local business like a corner shop. To get the most from the time and money you put in, here are some launch party tips:
  • Have clear goals. A launch party gets your business’ name out and about, but you need to consider specific metrics if you want to measure the success its success and use that insight for future events. For example, do you want a certain number of people to sign up to your email list or join your Facebook Page on the night?
  • Keep it DIY. After just setting up shop, it’s unlikely you’ll be feeling flush. Skip the private hires and ask your friends and family to help out with the preparations.
  • Invite the old-school way. If you’re still in the process of building a following on social media, use word-of-mouth and direct mail to invite people. In a neighbourhood setting, this grassroots approach can work wonders.
  • Give people a reason to come. Whether it’s a BBQ, face painting or freebies from your store, people are more likely to come if there’s a specific pull. This is a real opportunity to show your generosity and fun side, and prove yourself as a core part of the community.
For more detailed information on starting your own corner shop, read the full article from Square here.

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

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

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.

Your iDEA Award questions answered!

Thursday, July 26 at 08:30

We recently launched our fantastic partnership with iDEA Award, which is backed by the Duke of York and which delivers free expert online training to small businesses across the UK. Last week we hosted a Twitter Q&A with iDEA Award to answer any questions that you may have.
Hello iDEA Award! First up – tell us a bit about the Award.
  • Great to be here! helps people develop digital and enterprise skills for free. We have bite-size learning modules which are fun and informative across a range of topics from growth hacking to CRM to staying safe online and setting up on social media.
How did iDEA Award get started? What inspired you to launch?
  • We wanted to help enrich the talent pipeline and inspire people to grow in confidence with the digital world. Our home and working lives are powered by tech, so it’s increasingly vital to develop digital skills and confidence to flourish. For businesses, it’s critical.
  • We launched the Bronze (beginner) Award last year and the Silver (intermediate) Award is coming soon. The free online modules each carry points which add up to an industry-endorsed Award. Categories include Citizen, Worker, Maker, Entrepreneur and Gamer. You can pick’n’mix.
Is the iDEA Award open to everyone? Can any small business take part? 
  • Yes! iDEA is free and flexible to use. Everyone is welcome. You can squeeze learning into your lunch hour and/or help your staff develop skills, knowledge and information to enhance productivity. We have students, apprentices, job seekers, workers and pensioners using iDEA.
What sort of things can small businesses learn from the badges on the iDEA Award?
  • How to use social media to find routes to market; digital ethics and hints for using digital media; techniques to optimise your digital research skills; tips for making the most of your team; and useful stuff like making websites, using graphic design and understanding GDPR.
We are super excited for the opportunities for small businesses! How have entrepreneurs benefited from the iDEA Award in the past?
  • And we are excited to help! You can be a subject expert and come up with a fantastic product or service, but still lack knowledge, experience and confidence when it comes to operating in the digital world. iDEA helps you gain confidence and skills which can be transformative.
How can it help my business?
  • iDEA can help you and your staff gain confidence, skills, knowledge and information. You will learn tips and techniques about collaboration tools, money management, problem solving, social selling and teamwork as well as tech topics like cloud computing and internet of things.
When and how can I complete my iDEA Award?
  • iDEA badges are designed to be accessible and fun. The Bronze Award badges are beginner level. The numbers of points for each badge helps indicate how difficult they are. It also depends of course on what you know already. Several have downloadable guides you can keep.
  • The badges vary in length and difficulty. The easiest ones can be completed in around ten minutes. The harder ones can take an hour or just over an hour to do. Take a look at our badge directory for more info. 
How many points do I need for a badge?
  • You need 250 points to win the Bronze Award. You have to earn at least 40 points in each of these categories Citizen, Worker, Maker and Entrepreneur, then you can top up the rest of your points however you like. Your certificate will be dispatched from Buckingham Palace!
We have lots of activities planned for the Small Business Saturday and iDEA Award partnership including special events and support for businesses taking part. What would be your one piece of advice for businesses that are interested? 
  • Do what works for you and your business. Only you know your strategic objectives and the pressures you and your team juggle. Use iDEA to top up knowledge, refresh your memory, hone skills you already have and develop new ones. Make the most of the programme’s flexible design.
Final question: how can I get tech support if I need it? 
  • We always recommend people check out our FAQ, which covers the most commonly asked questions. If you are still stuck, the best way is to write to [email protected] or use the Contact Us button on the website. Both go into our CRM on a ticketing basis.
Thanks to iDEA Award for answering our questions. To find out more about our partnership with iDEA, click here, and to register and get started, click here.

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

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.
I registered with my email address but didn't receive an email.
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].
I can't log in with the email address and password that I used to register.
Please ensure your password is correct. Our password system is case sensitive.
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:
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
If you’d like to hear more visit 
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.

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. 
The host of “The Guestlist Podcast

Podcasting - the Ultimate How-To Guide - Part 1

Thursday, April 05 at 09:31

I am a successful, award-winning podcaster with an amazing American producer and a following in the hundreds of thousands now from all over the world. 
So podcasting, let's talk the good, the bad and the ugly. The truth is, we are in a golden age of podcasting. A report recently showed that podcast listeners doubled back between 2008 and 2015, and then increased again 23% between 2015 and 2016. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 57 million monthly listeners. 
After all, audience = money, right? 
I mean there is John Lee Dumas, Pat Flynn and Lewis Howes who have all made millions in podcasting. This has led many to try and make moolah in this medium. But here’s my advice to those of you thinking of starting a podcast to make money: Maybe be realistic in your expectations!
I’ve been on the radio and podcasting space for ages and even studied radio broadcasting. I started hosting a podcast in 2016, The Guestlist Podcast, with a handful of early listeners to over a hundred thousand monthly listeners today. As a result of hosting TGP, I’ve had a chance to speak around the world, make the SmallBiz100, make friends with the known and titans of industry. I’ve been mentioned by The Guardian and various other media. 
But more importantly, even though I’ve been doing this for a long time and have one of the better pedigrees in the medium, it’s never been easy and it’s not easily profitable.
Let's start with how podcasts make money. 
Most people who start a podcast think that the ka-ching will come rolling in after the audience gets big enough. Everything will come, the sponsors and the advertisers and then you simply just collect the cash and wash, rinse, repeat. But sadly that equation doesn’t work the way you think it does.
But let us show a more realistic recipe:
Start with: landing the big advertisers, you need to be part of a network. 
Then, to be part of a network, you need to have at least 20,000 downloads per episode, and you won’t get there for a while. It took me ages to get to that level and keep in mind that “back in the day,” part of each episode was explaining to people how to download a podcast. I know people who got there in four, but I know more people, who are professionals in their industry, who in ten months of podcasting are not close to 2000 downloads per episode and they have flat-lined. That’s respectable, but it’s still a long way away from being able to demand ad revenue.
Then before you even sign a deal with a network, you have to be okay with them taking a 40-50% cut of gross advertising revenues.
One of the most popular shows has ad revenue in the range of 40k- 50k/month. This variance is due to several reasons. For one they can’t choose how much inventory is sold in any given period and they also can’t control how many advertisers are in the market at any moment, you can’t choose what advertisers are willing to pay and let us not forget about seasonality. 
The dreaded "S" word, SALES. 
Then once you pay your production costs, whatever is left over is your profit. My production costs are 800/month for 8 podcasts per month. So, on the high end, the “podcast” of The Guestlist Podcast could net 40,000 a year (40k annual revenue – 10,600 production costs), but that’s also because I take no salary from the podcast division as it’s part of my marketing outreach for the show.
40k sounds like a lot. It is a lot. But keep in mind that we only started pulling in revenue in the last few months and for the first year the "podcast" was not cash flow positive, hence you see me doing so many other things to help carry me. I've had little to no sponsor revenue and was spending 800 a month without the promise of immediate return. If you were to add up all of my "lifetime" expenses and revenues, I’d suspect we’d be just barely in the black after two years.
My podcast features both ad opportunity and an opportunity to sponsor parts of the show, not to mention my public speaking opportunities geared around the topics I cover on the show. There’s a virtuous circle in which our content is informed by my revenue opportunities and vice versa. So, yes the cash flow now looks good, but I needed help to get there, and I may very well have not gotten there if we didn’t have the infrastructure and support from my producer, Bret Farmer, from the other side of the world.
The uncomfortable truths about podcasts:
It requires more personality than you likely have!
The technical qualifications for starting a podcast are the ability to speak English, a microphone, and an internet connection. The qualifications for a successful podcast are…much much more complicated.
To be even an average podcast host, you have to have the ability to guide a conversation, to pull out insights, to drill down when you need to. It’s not at all like a conversation between friends, and even those get off-track. You’ll often be interviewing complete strangers with whom you’ll need to build rapport shortly before going on air. And to be candid, you probably don’t possess those skills right now.
The second dreaded "S" word. You can’t outsource or scale most of the work. 
Let’s say you do outsource the audio editing, engineering, and production work. You can’t outsource your prep, I’ve tried, and it doesn’t work, trust me.
If you interview guests, you are going to need to read their books or articles or watch or listen to their interviews. Check out the masters of Prep: James Altucher and Tom Bilyeu. 
Showing up with a list of 10 formulaic questions isn’t just going to be a poor experience for your guests — after a while, you’ll hate it too. I’m 2 years in, and I do more of the prep work than ever before (usually up to 5 hours per episode). As I said above, I tried outsourcing this before and hired staff to read the books for me and put together relevant notes and interesting questions, but as I began to get into the craft, the deep work of being a host, I wanted to read those books and create those questions myself, and at now only one podcast per week ( used to be two episodes per week), I can tell you I read a lot. 
Next week we look at editors and producers and perhaps some alternatives to podcasting that might work for you!
The host of The GuestlistPodcast  

Save time with automation

Thursday, March 29 at 11:15

Marketing automation is an incredible way to help your business stay organised and save time. You're able to work more efficiently, because you set everything up to run on its own. Here are some of the ways you'll be able to save time.

Set up personalised email campaigns

By dividing up and targeting your email database more specifically, you're able to send out more personalised and relevant messages to your recipients. All of these messages and the groups your database is separated into can be automated. Send out your perfectly written messages using a mail service like MailChimp, with editing advise from State of Writing.

Automated social media campaigns

Stay connected with your social media followers by setting up and scheduling your updates, tweets, posts and more to all be automated. Manage and automate all of your social media in one place by using Buffer. And look to HootSuite for ways to connect with customers faster, smarter and safer.

Score your leads

Qualifying your leads by scoring them means you're able to more effectively target those who have the most potential and nurture those who need it. Automating this workflow makes it a much easier process. As a lead's score moves them from one category into the next, another set of criteria automatically begin scoring them in their new category. Once you've got those leads scored, send out well written messages from the copywriting experts at Boomessays or Ukwritings.

Prioritising your leads

Based on their buying patterns and the interest they show in a product, leads can be scored and prioritised. Depending on whether they score high or low can give you a good indication of their level of interest. When you're following up with leads, keep messages to the point by using the Easywordcount tool to track your work usage.

Lower your lead conversion time

Converting leads into buying customers can take a great deal of time. But, when the process becomes automated, you won't have to spend that same amount of time. You can also save time in the editing and proofreading process by using a service like Oxessays to do the work for you.

Lead follow ups can be automated

It is difficult to remember to follow up with every single customer. But, automation never forgets. Automating follow up workflows takes the burden of remembering off entirely. Collaborate with your team to determine how these follow ups should take place, and set a schedule for your plans using CoSchedule.

Have fewer cold calls

Because you'll be scoring your leads and prioritising them, you will not have to make as many cold calls to customers whose interest level is unknown.
Any time you can save when you're running a business is a bonus. It means you can focus on other aspects of your business and be more efficient. Set up effective marketing automation that will help you save time.
About the Author:
Gloria Kopp is a social media marketer and a content manager. Gloria is an author of Studydemic blog where she writes her educational guides for students.

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

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! 
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.
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.
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.
·         LinkedIn:         in/michellecollinspspag/
·         Twitter:  
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.
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 

There is still time to get involved!

Tuesday, November 28 at 09:00

Small Business Saturday 2017 is just days away and we can't wait!
It's not too late and there are still some great ways to get involved! 

Get Involved Locally
Lots of activities are happening across the UK. Over 82% of local councils now support the campaign, so drop yours a line to join in with their activities. 
Trade organisations such as the FSB are organising activities across the UK. Get in touch with your local organisations to take part. 
Logos and posters are available to download from HERE
Small Business Saturday Mobile App: SmallBizSatUk
This year the campaign has launched its mobile app which has close to 30,000 small businesses listed all over the country on its small business finder. Register and you can instantly be found by customers who are looking for your local business. Available on Apple and Android. Details HERE
Get Social: #SmallBizSatUk
Show your support for Small Business Saturday on social media.
Instagram: Share pictures of your  business on Instagram with the #SmallBizSatUk. 
Twitter: Tag your business and activity on Twitter with the handle @SmallBizSatUk and #SmallBizSatUk
Facebook: Do share your plans for Small Business Saturday on Facebook (which has 2.5million small business pages in the UK) and use the tag @smallbizsatuk
We look forward to hearing what your plans are!

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 

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 

Better people for Better business

Tuesday, November 14 at 08:07

Managing talent in small businesses can be a real challenge.
Just as you begin to congratulate yourself on identifying good people and getting them in the door, new challenges arise around developing them, managing career breaks (eg maternity/paternity) and demonstrating opportunities for career progression to keep them. 
The necessary administration can also be a headache, from payroll and taxes to employment law, performance and pay reviews. Even large and well-resourced business can occasionally fall foul of the law.
For most businesses, people are their greatest asset. But in a small business where everybody is a specialist in their field, how do new employees develop? Take the finance function – the accountant in a business of 15 employees may be the only finance professional. Who do they consult, learn from, observe? How do they cope when they face new situations, like growth, cash flow difficulty, sector diversification, or system failure?
On 14 November 2017 ACCA will publish results of research into managing talent in smaller businesses. It shows that the three main attractions for employees aged 35 or under of working in smaller accounting practices are: 
·      job security (86%)
·      work/life balance (83%)
·      flexible working arrangements (71%).
The research also reveals that it often pays to look outside of your business to help deliver your talent. If you have an existing relationship with a qualified accountant, could they mentor your new finance person? Is your employee taking advantage of local networking opportunities (ACCA’s 39 regional member networks cover most of the UK) or perhaps there is a local breakfast club for finance professionals? Sometimes an individual may wish to pursue more formal training or work towards their next level of professional exams. 
A little flexibility on the part of the employer can engender greater employee loyalty and professional skills development, which ultimately will benefit your business. When talented individuals move on after receiving an offer they can’t refuse, your business can bask in the glow of a reputation for developing talent and you can use this as a hook when recruiting a replacement. Incidentally, ACCA’s Jobs Board (60,000 vacancies at the time of writing) can help you find new talent.
Apprenticeships are also changing fast and have the power to radically change how you manage your talent. New apprenticeships standards are suitable for both new recruits and more experienced staff. You may be able to unlock funding to support employees studying for ACCA’s brand new ‘Trailblazer’ Level 4 Accounting Technician Apprenticeship
In the coming months ACCA will explore the issue of talent further, seeking practical guidance for our members and the businesses which employ them. It will see us explore the central tenet that better people make better businesses.
Nick Jeffrey – Regional head of policy (Europe and the Americas) ACCA

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: 

Five reasons to be optimistic about access to finance in 2018

Thursday, November 09 at 12:23

SMEs continue to face major challenges when it comes to managing their cash flow and accessing new forms of finance. Indeed, for many, the range of finance products out there can seem bewilderingly complex – and just having a handle on the latest information can prevent some SMEs from taking advantage of these opportunities.  Added to this, an uncertain economic environment may make some small firms wary of exploring what’s available.
However, there are a number of recent developments to UK finance markets that should make it easier for SMEs to manage their money and identify new opportunities to help grow their business in 2018.
1)     Launch of the Small Business Commissioner ready for the start of 2018
A third of payments to small businesses are late, which can cause significant cash flow difficulties and even insolvency for some small firms. Therefore in October 2017 the Government announced the appointment of the UK’s first ever Small Business Commissioner, Paul Uppal, who will lead an independent office tasked with tackling some of these problems and supporting those SMEs facing disputes with larger firms over poor payment practices. The Commissioner’s office will be fully operational from the start of next year.   
2)     Business Finance Guide goes digital
Launched by the British Business Bank in 2014 and supported by ACCA, the Business Finance Guide provides free information about relevant finance options at every stage of an SME’s business journey. The resource also helps small firms understand about the range of alternative finance solutions available to small firms, depending on their size and circumstances. The free guide is available here: 
3)     Open Banking revolution begins
In 2016 the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), an independent regulator, concluded that a lack of competition was leading to SMEs paying too much for banking products and services as well as being prevented from taking advantage of new innovative technologies.
The CMA subsequently announced the launch of the Open Banking initiative, which should help SMEs to shop around for their banking more easily. This should help level the playing field between the UK’s ‘big six’ banks and the rest of the UK’s SME lenders, leading to a fairer, more competitive market for everyone. Further information is available here: 
4)     Finance Referrals platforms give you another chance to borrow
Small businesses who have been unsuccessful in lending applications can now take advantage of a Government mandated referral scheme. SMEs now have the right to be referred to three designated online finance platforms where a large number of different finance options are made available. Launched earlier this year, these platforms will be further developed in 2018, and should help more SMEs to access the finance they need to grow.
5)     New funding available for SMEs in the Midlands and Northern England
This year’s launch of both the Midlands Engine and the Northern Powerhouse investment funds were major blueprints highlighted in the Government’s Industrial Strategy, which contained a central pledge to rebalance finance markets for small firms away from just London and the South East. Both funds will look to expand the finance available to local SMEs in 2018, and in particular, simplify the process for obtaining funding for new start-ups. More information is available here and
Ben Baruch
Head of SME Policy, ACCA

Small Business Saturday App!

Thursday, October 19 at 13:21

Small Business Saturday App! 

We have launched our new App and it is available to download now from the app stores at
Offering Small Businesses the chance to be seen by thousands nationwide, the Small Business Finder also ensures that customers can always find their local small biz at the click of a button. 
Current offers and discounts can be linked to businesses and events advertised too, all for free.

The Importance of Customer Service

Thursday, October 12 at 09:00

Over the last decade the great British high street has become a place of uncertainty for many small businesses. The effects of the recent recession and a move towards online shopping have meant even some high street giants such as Mothercare and Jaegar have struggled to stay afloat.
The rise in Internet shopping has most certainly resulted in the reduction of footfall on the high street as people increasingly look for speed and convenience in a retail experience. However, the ceremony surrounding a leisurely day out browsing the local shops is lost online, as is the ability to easily discuss a purchase with knowledgeable staff. The advantage small high street businesses have over their online counterparts lies in recognising the importance of excellent customer service and ensuring that they create an enjoyable shopping experience fuelled by more than purely a desire to sell.  
As a jewellery store, customers come to us looking for a variety of items or services, be it a special gift for a loved one, an engagement ring for a perfectly planned proposal or a simple watch repair. At the heart of our ethos is excellent customer service and we believe that this is one of the reasons our business has thrived for 70 years.
Good customer service expectations will vary depending on what you are purchasing, but there are some basic rules that can help to ensure when someone walks through your door they enjoy the best retail experience possible.
Adapt and react
Although on one hand ignoring visitors to your store is a big no, many shops can put off customers by being a little too pushy and enthusiastic with their communication. People often need time to soak in their environment and feeling like they are being watched or engaging in unwanted communication can result in a quick exit.
Remember that each customer is different and will therefore be after different things in their required service. Generally speaking if someone is standing in your shop looking a little lost, or has glanced your way a few times, it is a good idea to go over and ask them if you can help in any way. The best way to ensure you keep people coming back is to be alert, treat each customer as an individual and not adapt a one size fits all approach to customer care.
Be an expert in your field
One of the biggest benefits of shopping the high street is the ability to easily take advantage of the knowledge of the staff. From the one day a week Saturday temp to your store manager, educating your staff about your product, company ethos and customer service policy is vital. They are the face of your brand so it is important that they can confidently answer questions and deal with any queries quickly and efficiently.
Small businesses thrive on positive word on mouth. If what you are selling is quality, your customer service excellent and staff members knowledgeable, your reputation will grow and customers will start to seek you out.  
About the Author - Richard Warrender is a Director at independent jewellery business, Warrenders. Having celebrated their platinum anniversary this year, the family-run firm understands that quality jewellery and excellent customer service are amongst the reasons that it has remained a firm favourite on the high street for 70 years.

Sign up today for free business mentoring!

Wednesday, October 04 at 13:47

Sign up now for free business mentoring on the Small Business Saturday 
Bus Tour!
The Small Business Saturday Bus Tour has launched a new one-to-one mentorship programme this year and sessions are now open to sign up for free mentoring! 
Mentors will be from local communities so the mentee has a local helping hand to call on and each session will last for 1 hour on board the Small Business Saturday Tour Bus. 
Prior to your session, you will be sent a short questionnaire to complete so we can match you up to the right mentor. 
Sessions are free of charge but very limited so book now!
To register for mentoring for your business:
  • Sign in to your 'My Small Business' account. 
  • Click on the 'Bus Tour mentoring tab' in your profile. 
  • Select the available stop you wish to register for from the drop down box.
  • Click 'Save' and your session will be booked. 
  • Confirmation email will be sent. 
Mentoring is available at most stops but please check the list for specific availability. 
The bus will be visiting 29 different towns and cities from October 23rd to November 24th (see below) and 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.  
Bus Tour 2017 list  
Please contact:
if you are interested in becoming a mentor.
We look forward to seeing you at one of the many stops throughout the UK! 
The Small Business Saturday Team 

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:      
·         LinkedIn:         in/michellecollinspspag/
·         Twitter:  
·         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
Mon 23rd Oct
Tue 24th Oct
Wed 25th Oct
Thu 26th Oct
Fri 27th Oct
Week 2
Mon 30th Oct
Tue 31st Oct
Wed 1st Nov
Thu 2nd Nov
Fri 3rd Nov
Week 3
Mon 6th Nov
Tue 7th Nov
Wed 8th Nov
Thu 9th Nov
Fri 10th Nov
Barry Island
Week 4
Mon 13th Nov
Tue 14th Nov
Wed 15th Nov
Thu 16th Nov
Fri 17th Nov
Week 5
Mon 20th Nov
Tue 21st Nov
Wed 22nd Nov
Thu 23rd Nov
Ryde, Isle of Wight
Fri 24th Nov
Logos and posters will be available to download from the website: 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: ( and Twitter feed (@SmallBizSatUk).

5 minute interview with Nick Entwistle from One Minute Briefs

Thursday, September 14 at 06:50

We sat down with one of our Smalbiz100 this year, Nick Entwistle from One Minute Briefs  to learn about what makes the perfect pitch, how to get your story across when speaking and learn about his journey to becoming a successful business. 
What inspired you to start your business?  
The great thing about OMB is that it never started as a business. It turned into one. 
It began by generating and sharing quick thoughts and that has always remained true through all of the changes in the past few years. As the business has grown, it's the people and social community we have built that inspires me to keep growing it every day. 
What was your biggest challenge when starting your business?  
The biggest challenge is to commercialise something that didn't start that way without alienating your audience. 
That's why I always look to reward our following as much as possible for their continued involvement. That is absolutely key to maintaining the integrity of One Minute Briefs. 
What are your top tips on the perfect pitch? 
Standing out. Being different to the next person is extremely important. The work quality has to match but you need to have an edge over your competition. 
What advice would you give someone nervous about pitching?  
Make sure you are passionate about your ideas. Tell great stories associated with the content of your pitch and be yourself. 
Who would you most like pitch to?  
Dragon's Den. 
About One Minute Briefs:  
One Rule. One Minute. Create an ad. 
We promote brands and causes via social media by challenging our creative community on Twitter to respond to a brief in One Minute and reward the best ideas. When they publish their ideas, they are shared by ourselves and their followers which creates a snowball effect generating hundreds of thousands of impressions per day which is all positive advertising content for the client. This enables the brand to engage with a large audience very quickly and cost effectively. It is also a great tool for educational workshops, talks, events and is a popular social network for the creative industry. 

Say Hello to the 2017 Small Business Saturday Champions

Thursday, August 31 at 16:15
Small Biz 100 | Small Business | Small Business Saturday | Small Business Saturday Uk Champion

Small Business Saturday is pleased to announce its champions for the 2017 campaign!
The Small Business Saturday Champions are previous members of the Small Biz 100 that help to promote the campaign in their local areas, broadening the reach of the campaign and strengthening their local small business community. They are already hard at work planning B2B events, Christmas markets, live-streamed interviews and much more! Please contact [email protected] if you would like to connect with a champion in your area.Lee Parker, Parker Sourcing, Greater ManchesterYvonne Gorman, Essential Print Services, DerbyshireAlison Edgar, Sales Coaching Solutions, WiltshireBecky Sebright, Lady Bakewell Park, EssexAlice Malcolm-Green, Wick & Tallow, Greater LondonAdam Balfour, Buffoon Film & Media, Neath Port TalbotElaine Pritchard, Caittom Publishing, StaffordshireRich Brady, Recruit Packs, DenbighshireKarina Pedomo, Quick Brown Fox, Greater LondonFaye Dicker, Freelance Mum, SomersetRussell Pullan and Albert Chau, Fifth Dimension Chocolates, Greater LondonSara Parker, Face for Business, LancashireRuth Pringle, Pringle Accountants, LancashireBala Croman, The Chocolate Cellar, MerseysideGail Bryden, JustBe Botanicals, City of EdinburghAlistair Bell, Muddy Farm Models, County AntrimRowena Howie, Revival Retro, Greater LondonPrecious Jason, Etieno Skincare, Greater LondonSanjay Aggarwal, Spice Kitchen, BirminghamJo Smedley, Red Herring Games, LincolnshireClaire Hearn, Rose & Olive, KentHayley Williams, Keystone Marketing, OxfordshireLiz Wilson, Ma Baker, Greater LondonSam Hale, Advance Performance, CambridgeshireColleen Wong, TechSixtyFour, Greater LondonMartha Keith, Love Give Ink, Greater LondonCarolyn Frank, Libby Butler Jewellers, YorkshireRachel Gilbertson Roxiie's Treasures Liverpool

5 ways to save money on your business energy

Tuesday, August 29 at 16:16
Small Biz 100 | Small Business Saturday

Reducing the cost of energy bills was big news during the recent General Election campaign with both the Conservatives and Labour setting out plans to cap prices in their manifestos. However, it may well be some time now before those changes filter through to benefit small businesses.Whether you’re running a workshop, office or retail unit, utility costs can mount up for small business owners who are keen to make energy savings. According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, SMEs already spend £15bn a year on energy.The good news is that there are some straightforward ways to reduce your business energy costs. Here are some tips to get you started…Chill out Check that your heating and air conditioning aren’t set to the same temperature and on at the same time. Heating and lighting swallow up energy! The settings on the two systems should be around four degrees apart. Thermostats should be set lower in corridors and store rooms than in offices. It’s also worth paying attention to the layout of your workspace to make sure radiators aren’t being blocked by furniture and to make the most of natural light. Moving the furniture around could make a big difference. Thermal tape can be used to draft proof single-glazed windows and door frames.Conserve your energy Make staff aware that you’re keeping an eye on energy consumption and encourage them with a polite reminder to ‘turn of the lights’ when they leave in the evening. Simple steps like switching off lights in spaces when they’re not is use can save over £100 a year. You could use this saving to change your lights to energy efficient ones such as LED light bulbs rather than halogen or fluorescent light sources and save even more cash whilst helping the environment!Energy proof your technology Energy saving measures can quickly become habit with some thought and discipline. Turning off unused mobile phone chargers and switching off your GPS and Bluetooth can make a difference. Did you know that 46 per cent of electricity used in offices is outside of standard operating hours? Make sure that monitors, copiers and vending machines are also all switched off when not in use.Shop around Loyalty, ease and a lack of time can all be reasons why many of us avoid switching energy suppliers, however there are big savings to be made for small business owners who change their suppliers to access a better tariff. Whilst it might sound like a headache, it’s a quick and easy process if done through a broker and the average company could potentially save up to £1000 a year off their bill if they compare business energy. Comparison websites are a useful online tool for finding the deal that best suits your needs and can save you money.Upgrade outdated equipmentReplace energy-guzzling equipment with star appliances. For example, heaters and air conditioners that are not working at maximum efficiency can draw unnecessary power and end up costing your business money.About the author: Steph Salusbury is the Channel Manager for Insurance and Energy at Steph has vast experience within the energy industry, previously working at for 9 years on sales, operations & commercial. is a free online comparison site for small and medium sized businesses to compare deals on energy, finance, business bank accounts and insurance.

Establishing a Small Business through Online Branding

Wednesday, August 16 at 15:06
Branding | Getting Online | Small Business | Small Business Saturday | Social Media

Beating out the competition in the small business world takes more than just telling others on the street about what you have to offer. You have to create maximum exposure by being accessible on online platforms. By doing so, you better establish your business identity and brand.Building an online brand is important for a number of reasons. It creates awareness for what your small business stands for. If consumers want to learn about the product you offer, they should be able to access information about it from anywhere. You can also gather a larger following by reaching out to the online community. Lastly, the process of establishing an online presence enables you to gain credibility. If consumers see your business online, they can navigate your site and infer that yours is a legitimate company.The first step in establishing an online brand for your company is picking a domain name. Many companies underestimate the power of choosing a URL that differentiates them from the competition. A brandable domain name might directly reference aspects of your business, but it doesn’t have to specify what it entails. In the long term, the domain name can build brand value. You will want to check that a name is not already registered before you choose one. Make sure the domain name is user-friendly and short in that it is easy to spell and say. You will also want to make it unique and credible in order to set yourself apart from your competitors.When establishing your brand online, It is important to have a clear understanding of your target audience. Prior to coming up with content strategies, utilize research tools to identify your audience. Google Analytics will help you figure out the demographic most interested in what you have to offer. Google also offers an acquisition feature which points out how users found your site. You will be able to see if they typed the URL directly into their browser or if they were connected to you through social media or a search engine. Knowing this information will allow you to determine which online marketing channel is most effective.After identifying your audience, you can work on making your business stand out by creating a brand that consumers will remember. Having an eye-catching logo that can be used on all online platforms and marketing materials will mean customers will attach your small business with a visual. It should give consumers an idea of the product you represent. Also create a business slogan and tagline that stands out. A tagline is a phrase that lets your visitors know who you are right when they click on your site. You will want it to be placed on all your marketing materials. This builds recognition which is key in gaining customers for your small business.When you build your company website, be personable and accessible by having a home page with an introduction. You’ll want to establish your online brand from the get-go by telling visitors about what you offer and how it will benefit them. Make sure you have a subscriber button on the homepage so users can immediately opt to learn more about your small business.To directly help sales and marketing efforts, dedicate part of your website to reviews since they can have a significant impact on sales.. Allow customers to share their experience with your product. This content can then be shared on social media where others can see that your small business delivers on what is promised. Enabling customer reviews also positively affects search rankings in search engines. Reviews increase the amount of unique content your site offers giving you a better chance at moving up in ranking.Social media is an online marketing platform that is free and gives you instant access to consumers. Make sure that you have social icons on each page of your website. All of your social media pages should consistently feature your brand. This will make your business more memorable in potential buyers’ minds. Consumers also like to see and hear about businesses. Posting podcasts or having segments featured on a YouTube channel can build a personal relationship with your target audience. This fosters trust and increases your credibility.Another online tool you can utilize when trying to spread the word about your small business is blogging. This heightens your visibility. Your search engine rank will improve as you expand to posting content on blogging sites. It also works to help establish a direct relationship with customers in order to gain valuable feedback. Don’t be afraid to share content from experts in your industry. Online consumers will find you more trustworthy if they see you are up to speed on all aspects of your product.Lastly, stay engaged with your consumers. This is key in building a strong presence online. Use tools such as HootSuite which will notify you when someone mentions your brand. You should respond to comments made about what your small business has to offer. This will show customers you are concerned with their needs and will help spread the word about your business.Guest blog contributed by Sarah Elizabeth Saker

Get by with a little help from a friend

Thursday, July 27 at 11:07

By Michelle Ovens MBE, Director, Small Business Saturday 
Much as I love running my small businesses, and of course working with small businesses, it cannot be denied – sometimes it is just BLOOMIN HARD WORK! Not to start out this article with a big old moan - do not get me wrong, the ups massively out-weigh the downs - but it is nice when we can make the downs a little less difficult to handle.
It is easy to have your head down in your business for all challenges to feel like they are the whole world, and forget that actually, probably, someone else has had your problems before you. And come out the other side relatively unscathed. What is it about small businesses that we forget to ask the more experienced among us for help? Are we just stubborn? Do we want to make life difficult for ourselves? Is there a British stiff upper lip that tells us we should soldier on and it’s just not cricket to reach out for support? Or a sense that surely someone else would not be interested in my problems….Well I say cobblers to that. I see the small business community, all 5.5 million of them, as one big supportive collaborative community that can only be made stronger and more resilient by helping each other. And I know I am not alone here! We ran a round table with Indeed last December and all the (fantastic, successful, strong, capable) small businesses around the table said what they could really do with is a little help from a friend. There is a strong and un-met desire for mentoring in the small business community that we absolutely need to tackle to be the best we can be as an economy and as local and national communities.This basic need for a helping hand cuts across all areas of being a business owner: how to grow, financing, staffing, leadership and possibly most importantly, mental health. When working in a big business environment, it is often obvious who you would turn to for advice – HR, finance, your boss – but less so if you are the ultimate boss yourself. So finding more experienced bosses to advise you becomes absolutely critical if you don’t want to flounder or fall.A good mentor will recognise the spectrum of needs across the business (mostly because they have been there before). More than that – they will recognise the fear and stress you feel when facing these issues, and want to help you minimise these for yourself. They will know the pitfalls and help you avoid them, much like a parent that points to the crossing sign and says, go on green. Mental health in small businesses is getting more and more focus, with the sector recognising the strain that running a business can place on individuals. If we want a strong business community, we need to recognise where we have weaknesses – and bolster them from within.We need better mentoring in the UK – and we need a LOT more of it. I have not met a single small business that would not offer advice to others if asked. I have not met one that wouldn’t accept it if they knew where to find it. So in response to this we are starting, in a small way, to address this challenge by offering free mentoring on the Small Business Saturday bus tour this year. At each of 25 stops across the UK, mentors will be available to sit down with small businesses and discuss their challenges – and help them find a way to solve them. It might not be solved right away and there and then, but it will be the start of a conversation and a mentoring relationship that will stimulate more conversations over the coming year.This mentoring challenge needs to be taken up by everyone with a stake in the small business sector. And since there are 16.5 million people running or working in a small business in the UK, the chances are that you or someone you live with or are related to is part of this. So – that is all of us. Whether you are a local council, government, trade organisation, media, customer or friend, think about how you can play a role in sharing your knowledge, or helping others to share theirs.Because whether we are talking economically or socially, we could all get by a bit better with a little help from a friend.

How Small Businesses Should Deal With Adversity

Monday, July 24 at 10:28
Inspiration | Planning | Quick Guide | Small Business | Small Business Saturday

Credit: pexels
My typical approach when faced with adversity is to see every problem as having a solution. This healthy attitude helps me problem solve, and prevents me from wasting any time. These days, you are spoilt for choice with resources and advice that can help you navigate the testing first few years of your new business. This advice is useful regardless of what vertical you are in, so keep reading for some advice on how small businesses should act when faced with challenging situations. Don’t panic – find a solution As a small business owner, you are important as the leader of the team. A lot of responsibility rests on your shoulders. One of these responsibilities is the need to stay calm under pressure. Panicking will hinder you from staying level-headed and coming up with a problem to your solution, and it will make your employees stressed too. Problem #1: Insufficient funds to make necessary investment Financial problems are common in businesses of all sizes. However, your finances may be a little more unstable if you are just starting up. It’s commonplace for businesses to make a loss until their third year. You need to pull up all of your data and analyse it thoroughly to determine where the leaks are in your ship.Are any of your accounts or departments operating at a loss? Perhaps your clients aren’t paying you what you truly deserve for your services?Here are some points for you to consider if you are running into financial hardship:● If you feel you deserve more money for your products or services, consider showing your clients the great results you have delivered to them. Don’t be afraid to ask for more, within reason.● Are there any projects or product ranges that just don’t yield enough of a profit margin? Take a look at this article for inspiration on ways you could cut costs, from shopping around for the best deals on your overhead costs, to embracing cloud technology.● Have you thought about diversifying into different lines of business to supplement your existing revenue? Maybe selling your product offering online will help you generate the revenue that you need to grow? This is so easy to do – there are a lot of online store creators on the market for you to get set up in a matter of hours. Take a look at start up favourite Shopify, popular among SMEs thanks to its premium designs.● Securing funding might be what you need to do when all else fails. This article has more information on these sources of funding, including loans and grants.Problem #2: No time to make important changes to your business 
credit: Pexels
 As a small business owner, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work and responsibility that comes your way. You need to be realistic about your workload and manage your time effectively. Here’s how:● Delegate the tasks you feel can be handed on to your employees, once they have received proper training. This will allow you to focus on the big picture task of growing your business.● Getting a good night’s sleep, exercising and eating well will help you stay focused and productive, reducing the time taken to complete important tasks● Luckily, there are plenty of time-hacking apps available to help you with your time management. Toggl is great to keep track of how long tasks are taking you, and Rescuetime helps you understand your daily habits so you can focus and be more productive. Give these apps a try make your days go further.The most important thing about the problems you face is to see every experience as a valuable lesson.Make sure that you make a report for every problem you face and document exactly what your solution was. Offering your employees guidance on how to implement solutions is key here, too – communicating effectively with them will save you from encountering the problem again.Victoria Greene: Brand Marketing Consultant and Freelance Writer. Victoria Greene is an ecommerce marketing consultant and freelance writer, working with large brands to help them blossom. She loves nothing more than sharing her knowledge with the world and encouraging entrepreneurial dialogue.

Three helpful ways your phone can reduce paperwork

Monday, June 12 at 10:56
Digital | Plan | Planning | Small Business | Small Business Saturday

Paperwork is the eternal enemy of the small business, stealing valuable desk, shelf and cupboard space throughout your office and offering little in return. For a business like ours, paperwork can quickly get out of hand, become disorganised and cause havoc when we need to find one particular document.The good news is that it doesn’t take a company-wide restructuring effort to seriously reduce your paperwork. Taking simple steps can drastically reduce the amount of paperwork you generate. Since we all carry a smartphone around with us, I thought I’d look at three easy ways you can use your phone to reduce your paperwork.
#1 Scan Receipts Go back to the mid ‘90s and a lot of small businesses would have had a similar expense filing methodology: Take your receipts, shove them in a drawer and hope you never need to find any specific receipt again. If your expense were ever queried, it was a mad scramble through boxes, cupboards and old storerooms in search of an elusive slip of paper that, in all likelihood, had been eaten by a mouse.Thankfully, things are a bit easier now.Filing is super easy in the digital era. If you use any new accounting software, there’s probably an option to snap a picture of your receipt on your phone and upload it to the service’s records. Alternatively, if you don’t have a subscription, you can snap pictures anyway and upload them to a free cloud storage service like Google Drive or Dropbox. It doesn’t have to stop at digitising purchase records, either. Get snap happy with your phone and scan invoices, payslips, utility bills and everything else for easy reference and peace of mind.
#2 Electronic signaturesIf you’re dealing with someone over a long distance, signing a document can be an absolute nightmare. You print it, sign it and fax it over. They then sign it and re-fax it to you. Suddenly, there’s three pieces of paper in the world when you only needed one.With electronic signatures, however, you can streamline the whole written agreement process, cutting down on both paperwork and wasted time. And with e-signatures set up on your phone, you can sign documents from anywhere in the world!
#3 Ditch your paper black bookA lot of businesses and business owners still swear by their black books and I’m not going to try and dissuade you if you use one. However, huge paper diaries stuffed with extra notes, letters and messages are a thing of the past and will almost certainly disintegrate or surprisingly disappear if you give it enough time.Digitising your black book and saving it to your phone provides substantially more flexibility and security, ensuring you have access to all of your contacts, notes and communication wherever in the world you are.About the Author - Gary Easton cut his teeth working at one of the Big Four auditors KPMG. However, a few years ago, Gary decided that SMEs deserves a better service and left to found Tax IQ, a specialist SME accountant based in Edinburgh.

How to Set Up Your Own Business

Wednesday, May 10 at 13:12

It’s the dream. Every aspiring entrepreneur wants to launch their own business. It’s the reason why shows like Dragons Den still get such amazing viewing figures, despite being on something crazy like series seventy-three. Everyone dreams of running their own business, and if you believe all the literature out there, it’s as easy as one-two-three.It’s not easy. It takes trial and error. Success can be fleeting or worse, limited. However, that all being said, it is straightforward. There’s a clear path laid out. Once you reject the commonly spouted ideas of the easily created successful business and the near-prophetic business hero, you can view it for what it is. A difficult path that relies heavily on luck and hard work, as well as insight and intelligence. You can always get by with ambition and hard work; it’s just a little harder.Coming Up With the Perfect Idea Here’s a hint, it doesn’t exist. When it comes to thinking up your business idea, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Humans seem to live their lives waiting for the bolt of inspiration, the passion, the calling that’ll usher them into success. The great unspoken truth is that that just doesn’t happen. Success always looks easy and random to those on the outside. If you sit around waiting for success to find you, you will end up unremarkable and mediocre. No idea is perfect.So how do you come up with a killer idea then? Here’s two clear ways. Brainstorming, and paying attention. You can brainstorm the industries and businesses you’ve got clear knowledge, experience or interest in, and keep having deeper and more focused brainstorms on elements of those businesses, till you find an existing part of those industries lacking an integral part. A part your business could provide. This could work within product or service based business models.Paying attention is what it sounds like. It’s the reason people start businesses within industries that they already work. They’ve generated the idea through being intimately aware of the industry. In order to do this yourself you need time, and the ability to keep a sharp eye on opportunities and ideas.Market and Industry Research Now you’ve got an idea, you need to do your research. Endless research. There should be nothing you don’t know – you need to know your industry inside and out. Limitations as well as potential successes. Go all scouting, and be prepared. Getting caught unaware by rival products, limitations in the industry and other problems that are well documented is well and truly rookie league nonsense. Cut it out at this stage.Facts, Figures and Projections As a part of your market and industry research, you should be generating a powerful roster of facts and figures. Only through this kind of precise research can you hope to create a compelling case for investment later on. Projections allow you to both optimistically and realistically predict the future of the business’s earnings and growth and they can only be generated through facts and figures, as well as through the business plan and timeline.Business Model, Plan and Timeline Once you’re secure in your idea and you know everything there is to know about the industries and markets involved, then you need to come up with a business model, plan and timeline. A business model basically outlines the potential structure of how your business is going to run, function and grow. The plan is what it sounds like. A plan of how you’re going to get what you need to get done, done.A key part of the plan is the timeline. Knowing what needs to be done when and sticking to it is key for maintaining accurate projections for everything related to the business. Without this, you won’t know whether you’re on track or not. It all needs to be quantifiable and the only way to achieve that is through figure and fact based goals.Getting Investment Provided you get all that lot done to a decent standard, there’s no real reason why you’ll struggle to get investment. Investment is absolutely crucial to a new start-up and without it you could find yourself struggling. However, just show off your explicit and thorough business plans, figures, stats and projections to a variety of banks and investment firms and you’ll be on your way in no time.About the author: Huw Moxon is a marketing manager at Informi. Informi is a free online resource for small businesses and sole-traders. Informi provides guidance and technical support on everything you need to know about starting a business - from finance and legal advice to profit-boosting tips on marketing and technology. Whatever stage you’re at, Informi will help your business grow and flourish.

Give Your Business a Boost with Improved Conversion Rates

Wednesday, April 26 at 10:13

Everyone knows the importance of SEO to their online business. But the real key is to convert those clicks into paying customers. Anyone with a passing interest in the world of search engine optimisation will be quick to assume that it is all about improving search engine rankings and directing more visitors to your small business website. While increased traffic is never a bad thing, it is of limited use if your visitors only stop for a few seconds before flying on elsewhere. Indeed, if more people are clicking “back” than are staying around, then something is evidently going wrong, and you need to know about it or it could do more harm to your business than good. Click through rates are in many ways the prime indicator of just how much your website is helping your business, and improving conversion rates is key to increasing your business’s bottom line. If traffic constitutes the quantity of visitors, then conversion rates equate to the quality. Here, we take a look at some easy ways of improving click through rates for your small business site.Remember the BasicsIt is easy to get caught up in the latest hot topics in SEO and digital marketing, whether it is PPC, video content or social media involvement. However, the biggest factor in getting regular, repeat visitors to your small business site is to have a website that they want to visit. That means fresh, engaging and relevant content, presented in an attractive way. Make sure your content is regularly updated and remains relevant to your visitors. There is no bigger turn-off than to visit a site and find it is discussing a product release or industry event that took place months ago - it is the equivalent of entering a shop in March and seeing mouldy Christmas decorations on the walls.Make it SnappyToday, everyone seems to be in more of a hurry than ever, and that is certainly the case when it comes to our online activities. The truth is, with super-fast Internet connections, people no longer have the slightest tolerance for slow-loading pages. Even though your business is small, there’s no excuse for a slow website. If you want to compete with larger corporations then you need to ensure that your webpages are loaded within a matter of a couple of seconds, otherwise your visitors will have gone elsewhere. There are any number of free speed tests around, including Pingdom, which allows you to sign up for free and then runs regular checks to make sure your pages are performing as they should.Build a Relationship When it comes to running a small business website, the importance of building relationships with your customers, both current and potential is key. No matter how hard you try, you are never going to achieve 100% conversions. After all, we all like to shop around before we make a final decision. However, it is worth thinking about what you can do with those who choose not to click through so that they are not lost forever. Make it easy for visitors to get in touch by including telephone and email details in your headers. You could also consider the equivalent of a “maybe” button in your calls to action - where they can leave their contact details while they think about it and you can stay in touch.Check your Channels Resources within Google Analytics can give a wide variety of invaluable information as to just how well your site is performing for you. By looking under the “conversions” tab you can get detailed reports on conversions by search criteria that show you what is working and what isn’t. However, that is only half the story. There can be a tendency to assume that any drop in SERP results is due to a decline in organic search, when this is not necessarily the case. Google’s Channel Grouping report will segment your searches according to organic, paid, referrals and so on, to give you a clear insight as to where you need to focus more attention.Blog contributed by Jackie Fisher

Protecting Your Business Against Risk

Tuesday, April 04 at 16:06
Protect | Small Business

Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to unexpected events and fast changing circumstances. The number of risks a small business is exposed to are many and it is often the unexpected that causes a thriving business to suddenly fail. With about half of small businesses failing within the first five years, it is worth doing as much as possible to mitigate the risk factors in your business.
1.Get up to speed with cyber risks
Even stiffly defended large businesses are vulnerable to attacks by cybercriminals; small businesses are easy targets in comparison. Take steps to reduce your exposure to cyberattacks: use strong passwords for all systems, employ firewalls for your office network and website and always install software updates on all your equipment. It is also worth monitoring the latest security news and training your staff – the 2016 Government Security Breaches Survey suggests only 22% of small businesses have a staff member that attended cybersecurity training in the 12-month survey period.
2.Take out insurance, and review policies regularly
Many business risks are insurable. You may already have property and equipment insurance, but small businesses often skip on key man insurance for their most important employees, while public liability insurance will prevent an unlikely accident from developing into a costly lawsuit. Regularly review insurance cover – the circumstances of your business will change with time and you need to update your insurance cover to reflect this.
3.Survey the business environment
Changes in the business environment can lead to a successful business experiencing unexpected problems. By looking ahead you can identify future problems before they become a reality and planning for the possibility of adverse circumstances developing can mitigate these risks to your business. This includes potential competitors, changes in the regulatory environment and shifts in customer preferences.
4.Involve an advisor
It is difficult for a small team of employees to comprehensively survey business conditions and accurately identify risks, especially if it is a new business. To avoid any blind spots, think about getting professional risk management advice. A risk management advisor will discuss with you in detail the environment in which your business operates, and help you to identify all potential risks.
Concentrating the exposure your business has to any single supplier or any single customer increases the risk of your business suffering if a supplier goes out of business, or a customer decides to move on. This is also valid for the markets your business operates in on both a product, and geographic level. Operating in multiple regions and different product markets can make it easier to ride out a contraction in demand in any given area.
Small businesses are vulnerable to risks
It is often the vast sums of money involved in the risks large businesses face that make headlines, but large businesses are also more able to absorb losses in their balance sheets. A smaller enterprise can be fatally wounded by the realisation of a single risk, even if the sum of money involved is relatively small. For this reason managers and owners of small businesses should be at least as vigilant when it comes to risk management as those in charge of large companies.
Written By Michael Watson

Small Business Budgeting Tips

Monday, April 03 at 15:04
Budgeting Tips For Small Business | Business | Economy | Plan

With the UK economy predicted to continue to grow over the medium term, it’s easy to reap the benefits from increased demand for your products without thinking too far ahead. But could the future be even better for your business? You can start to find out by developing some form of forecast for your sales and costs. Maintaining a forecast will also help you re-plan your business if economic or new tax pressures suddenly mean your profits start to decline.
However, it’s likely that for the majority of small businesses, no actual budget exists. Well, certainly not written down on paper that can be referred to—we’re always far too busy to be planning for the next few weeks, let alone the next 12 months!
With that in mind, here are five suggestions to make your life a little easier and ensure that you can manage your costs, cash flow and profits.
1)      Make a plan
A proper business plan is ideal, but if you can’t stretch to that, put together a rough outline of your income and expenses together with when you expect to pay and receive monies. Check out some of the free templates online, such as those at the business planning site Teneric and business advice site SmallBusinessPro, to start the process.
At a minimum, a one-page spreadsheet summarising sales volume with all your expenses month by month should suffice. Adding your thoughts to paper not only crystallises ideas and anticipated goals in your mind, but it also helps you understand if you’re going to hit any financial targets.
A plan also assists with ensuring costs don’t go over budget. You can either adjust your financial projections or look at saving costs if you still want to achieve your objectives this year.
2)      Define your marketing tactics
It’s vital you have an idea of how you’re marketing to new and existing customers. Potential customers need to try your services at least once to become loyal users, whilst existing customers need to be brought back time and again.
Free trials, discounts or free upgrades are all tried and tested methods to get someone new to try your services. As it costs between four and 10 times more to acquire a new customer versus keeping an existing one, you also need to find ways to keep people that already know your about brand coming back.
Making sure people are informed and have your brand front of mind (without overdoing it!) is essential. Although email marketing still works well, social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep the communications flowing should be part of your marketing arsenal.
The cost is minimal to maintain a presence and keeps your customers in the loop with any new developments and news from your business.
3)      Over-account for all your costs
Do you ever get a bill in the post that’s higher than anticipated? We all do, and that’s why it’s important to over-forecast the cost side of your plan. If you want to accurately show costs as you believe they should be, then add a 10% compensation line just to play it safe. It’s far better to show (and easier to swallow) constant underspending each month than having large areas of red marked out because expenses appear to be uncontrollable.
4)      Know every cost line by heart and reduce where you can
When budgeting, it can be easy to miss out expense lines because they debit your bank account on an irregular basis such as one per year. To find all costs associated with your business go through your list of direct debits and standing orders whilst also browsing prior bank statements. You should find everything your business spends money on during this exercise.
To keep costs as low as possible, it’s essential you shop around for new deals from other suppliers. This is quite straightforward when it comes to insurance and utility bills. For example, comparing your electricity prices, water rates and business insurance options each year could literally save you thousands of pounds. All of those savings go straight to your bottom line.
5)      Revisit once per month
Now your budget plan is ready, it’s best to review its performance once per month, or every three months as a minimum. By doing this, you can see what costs are higher or lower than expected and adjust future months accordingly. You can also perform the same analysis on your sales numbers if things change in your operating environment.
After you have reforecast for the rest of the year, you’ll see if any changes to short or medium term tactics need changing to ensure you reach your original financial objectives.
Setting and reviewing a budget for a business is a relatively easy but often time-consuming task, especially if you don’t have the experience or handle on the financial aspects of business. However, for a business to survive and prosper, it’s an essential tool that helps achieve your financial objectives, lessons any shocks at year-end and saves money in the long term.
 By Jason Smith 
Jason Smith is a blogger and energy expert who has helped businesses increase their energy efficiency for over 10 years. Jason’s valuable expertise has helped thousands of companies cut their costs each year. He manages the website Business Electricity Prices, which advises small- and medium-sized businesses on reducing their utility bills, and continues to share his knowledge with the corporate world.

Hiring tips for start-ups

Wednesday, March 01 at 15:24

A new business is nothing without a talented and skilled workforce that can shape its culture, achieve its short-term goals and build a foundation for future growth. Hiring the right candidates is a top priority for start-ups, but many struggle to source the right employees for respective roles as they lack experience and are constrained by budgetary requirements and other demands.Data shows that 10 per cent of new hires do not work out. While large organisations can usually absorb the blow, micro and small businesses are often left reeling as just a single employee can represent a large percentage of the workforce. A strong hiring strategy will mitigate some of the risks associated with new hires and help you to bring in the talent you need to make your start-up a success.Be proactiveStarting from scratch for each new hire can really limit your ability to source suitable candidates quickly, so be on the lookout all year, even when you don’t have any open spots. According to Bas Kohnke, the co-founder of performance software enterprise Impraise, creating and saving a watch list for talent and keeping in touch with potential candidates can pay dividends. He adds: “Send them an email, invite them to a party. Just keep them in the loop.”Talent management Hiring managers can now use platforms to streamline the applicant tracking and hiring process. Cloud software can be used to aggregate, update and maintain information about candidates and facilitate simple and intuitive communications with the candidate pool. Leveraging the wealth of new technology that is available in the digital age can really level the playing field for start-ups as they can access tools that were previously only available to the largest corporations. Bringing in a CRM Recruitment specialist to oversee this area of hiring is recommended.Optimise the process A Leadership IQ study found that a flawed interview procedure can have a detrimental impact on candidate selection, so it is important to optimise this so you can process prospective new hires efficiently. You could start with a survey and an automated email response to filter candidates, and then use video interviews as a second stage. While technical competence is important, try to ask questions that help determine a candidate’s drive, ambition, temperament, motivation, emotional intelligence and coachability, as these factors are often overlooked.Diversity and problem solvers Hiring people who are experts in specific areas of business and complement other employees is the best way to build a start-up team. AOL co-founder Steve Case believes that new enterprises must “strike the right balance between having a team of people who work well together and having distinct and diverse perspectives.” You might also want to favour problem solvers during the formative stages of business as you will most likely need employees who can overcome adversity and get things done quickly.The importance of building a strategy that will enable you to hire employees who are technically capable and an ideal fit for your company and culture cannot be overstated. Taking the time to define what you need and implementing a robust procedure can go a long way toward helping you source the right candidates at the right time.

How small businesses can build their online presence

Thursday, February 02 at 15:09

When you’re running a small business and trying to compete with much bigger players, one of the few arenas where you can really do so effectively, is online. Although human resources and marketing budgets still make a difference, smart thinking, innovation and style can make a bigger one. If you really understand your customers, building your online presence can give you the edge.Get a website that works for today Most of today’s consumers access the web using mobile devices, especially when they’re not at work. This means that your website must look good on many different sized screens, so you need to invest in responsive design. You also need to understand the colour psychology that will work on your target customers, and present them with images that grab their attention. Alongside this, you should have fresh content on a frequent basis to keep them coming back.Develop a content marketing strategy Why do people visit websites? Sometimes it’s because they’re already looking for a particular product or service. More often, it’s because they want to be informed or entertained, or they’re looking for something immediately useful. An effective content marketing strategy, using professional internet copywriters, can give them that immediate reward at the same time as making sure they notice who you are and what you do. It can make them keen to return for more, and it can prompt them to share links to your site so that they start doing your promotion for you and make your traffic grow.Focus your social media strategy Whether you have great content or just a good basic site, you’ll need to promote it. Social media makes that easy but it can get overwhelming. You’ll need to go into it with a clear awareness of what your resources are – in terms of time, money and energy – and develop a strategy that targets customers efficiently. It needs to be a strategy you can keep pace with over the long term, so don’t spread yourself too thin.Make use of video Video can be a really effective way of grabbing people’s attention and communicating a lot in a very short time. It can work well on your landing page and it’s also something you can use for advertising or brand building on YouTube or Vimeo, which, if you fill out the meta data fields properly, are extremely good for generating hits. Recordings of your events and conference speeches can be repurposed to help build your online following.Get connected Although link farms and the like long ago became a liability as search engines got smarter, it’s still well worth investing time and effort in generating good quality links, which direct both search engine and human attention to your website. Nothing beats getting stories in the local or trade press – as long as they have an online presence – and local or trade forums can also be very useful, so take the time to build up a presence there.A strong online presence can help your business grow far beyond the potential it would once have had. Today, anybody can operate on a national or even international basis. Building up your online following is where it begins.

Leading business experts come together in one-off inspirational event

Friday, January 27 at 09:44

On 30th January 2017, a unique online event will begin, bringing together leading business experts from around the world.The Business Growth Online Bootcamp (BGOB) is the first of its kind and features a series of interviews with over 35 business experts.This is the only time these business leaders have come together in this way and offers small business owners and entrepreneurs free advice and inspiration from some of the most successful business minds of today.Hosted by Adèle McLay of Small Business Huge Success™, each interview delves into the experiences, learning and advice of the Bootcamp experts to inspire and guide the audience towards achieving greater sustainable growth and profitability in their businesses in 2017.Running from 30th January to 5th February, the BGOB features experts including:
Michael E Gerber – Known as the world’s #1 small business guru and author of the ‘E-Myth’ books.
Royston Guest – Business Growth AdviserJulie Hutchison – leadership consultantDr Nick Marsh – Business StrategistPhil Lewis – Marketing GuruLorraine Carter – Branding ExpertRob Warlow – Business Finance ExpertRob Goddard – Business Sales Expert Participants will receive a host of valuable information on such topics as strategy, branding, marketing, sales, finance, leadership and much more. BGOB host Adèle McLay is an entrepreneur, business expert, public speaker and author who is passionate about guiding business owners to achieve success.  She says, “The BGOB is everything that my brand, ‘Small Business Huge Success™’ looks to deliver.  It is about bringing together a community of experts, to share their knowledge and expertise with the business world.“It is rare to have such a large pool of experts coming together to offer their advice for free and I would encourage anyone who owns a business or is thinking about beginning an entrepreneurial journey to register and take part.  You won’t be disappointed in the quality and value of the advice you will receive, which will help you achieve the business success you strive for, making 2017 your best year yet.”To register and for full information on the event, including the list of speakers visit the Small Business Huge Success website or click here to register.

Five Tips to Effectively Market your Business

Monday, January 09 at 10:50
Digital | Marketing | Small Business Saturday | Social Media

Has effective marketing ever been more important among all the noise of the digital world? With billions of websites at our fingertips it’s so easy to spend time scanning for the perfect solution, and those sites or services that aren’t up to scratch might be rejected for even the smallest reason – a stray tweet or a slightly slow website, for example. Here’s five ways to tighten up your product and promote yourself well in 2017. Create a modern websiteMost companies seem to have got the message that running a site that looks like it was built in 1998 isn’t a great first impression to any visitors. Whether you’re a florist, a van leasing company, a sports management firm or are offering a legal service, your site should be a clean, uncluttered and easy-to-use interface. There should be a call to action that shows clearly how, where and why to get the best offers. Above all, it should be easy to find your products, fast to load, and very easy to get in touch – just in case someone actually wants to pick up the phone.Set up a content calendarHave you ever thought to yourself “I wish I’d created a piece of content/organised this idea” to coincide with a big, relevant event? For example, it could be a blog or video to coincide with Halloween, or the final of GBBO, or Movember. Maybe you’ve done something, but if you’d thought about it earlier you might have done better…If you’d created a content calendar several months earlier, planning your blogs and social media and videos to be completed and to land on your sites at exactly the correct time, you would have been primed to take advantage. Start doing this now and reap the benefits of great, timely content. Utilise social mediaWhy would you not utilise a completely free method of promoting yourself? It’s a great way of responding to any complaints; an easy, instant way of informing people of your new products and sales using pictures and videos; a method of showing knowledge in your business sector by publicising any blogs, appearances or media that is relevant; and a way of communicating with like-minded people and businesses.If you’re just starting to use social media, you might be wondering which platform is best. Launching a craft business? Pinterest and Instagram are sensible options. Launching a B2B start-up? LinkedIn in your best bet. Launching any business whatsoever? Facebook and Twitter, and possibly Snapchat. Revamp your shop frontIf you’ve updated the landing page of your website, then why would you not do the same with your physical premises? After all, they’re really two sides of the same coin. A stark, dark frontage won’t really bring in potential custom, and neither will empty shelves, old signage and shabby looking stock. The actual tidying is not the hard part, it’s the preparation and organisation in your mind that’s the laborious task. If you don’t have physical premises, then consider revitalising your signage, print advertising (yes, people do still take notice of this) and Google Business listing.Create videoThe statistics are clear: according to Forbes, video used in conjunction with email boasts a 300% click-through rate. Thanks to mobile phones and free or cheap online editing, it’s possible to put together a professional looking promotional video, an FAQ, a slideshow or an interview in a very short period of time. It lends itself to social media, and might catch the eye of people who otherwise might not see your work.Blog contributed by Jessica Foreman. Jessica is a Durham University graduate specialising in business and lifestyle based writing. She has developed her skills on projects surrounding The British Broadcasting Company, and running a print and online based magazine whilst at university.

Nottingham's Lady Bay Vintage Midcentury Antiques Fair

Thursday, December 08 at 16:10

Calling Nottingham antique lovers! There are just a few days left until the doors open at the Lady Bay Vintage Midcentury Antiques Fair in West Bridgford.
Visitors will be able to see forty stands of vintage, MidCentury and retro antiques from dealers who have travelled from across the UK.  Items on display will include furniture, artwork, textiles & fabric, French antiques, architectural salvage, homeware, lighting, clothing, jewelry and much more. Co-Organizer Virender Rose said “we’re predicting record numbers of visitors attending on the day so we recommend arriving early to get the very best of what’s on offer”. “We’re really pleased that the event’s birthday coincidentally also falls on the day of the fair – we’ll be a whole 2 years old! To mark the occasion, the pop up café will be serving an extended selection of really beautiful home-made cakes to refresh our visitors and sweeten their day”.For further details about the event contact Paul at [email protected] or call 07702291334.  Lady Bay Vintage are regularly posting on Facebook on the lead up to the event.  Join in the chat here.The fair is on Saturday 10th December 2016, 11am – 4pm, at the Hospitality Marquee, Nottingham Rugby Club, 1 Holme Road, Lady Bay, West Bridgford, NG2 5AA. Entry £1.

Spend with small busisness on Small Business Saturday up 15% year on year to £717 million

Thursday, December 08 at 10:40
Small Business Saturday

Temperatures may have been in the low digits over the weekend but Saturday saw the UK’s small businesses community benefit from the warmth of the British public who were out in force to support Small Business Saturday (3rd December 2016).According to an American Express commissioned survey* undertaken in the 36 hours following Small Business Saturday, an estimated £717 million was spent with small businesses across the UK.  This was up 15% on Small Business Saturday last year with over half (57%) of those aware of the day saying they spent more than usual.Over 80% of all local authorities covering the country actively supported the campaign on the day in a variety of ways, from staging or supporting small business events to offering free parking. Positive consumer sentiment and support to small businesses was echoed through social media.  Over 130,000 tweets were sent on the day itself reaching more than 120 million people, with Small Business Saturday UK trending at number one in the UK and at number 5 globally.Michelle Ovens MBE, Campaign Director of Small Business Saturday said: “In its fourth year, Small Business Saturday has once again delivered a sustained increase in spending with Britain’s small independent businesses. To see the spend on Small Business Saturday reach £249 million more this year than on the first Saturday in 2013, an increase of 53%, is fantastic and confirms the positive stories we are hearing from small businesses incommunities across the UK."Alice Noone, Vice President Marketing at American Express said:“Small Business Saturday celebrates the vital contribution independent businesses make to our communities and we’re delighted that shoppers rewarded them with such significant spend on the day.  We are immensely proud to be principal supporter of the campaign for the fourth year and hope it inspires people to shop small, not just on Small Business Saturday, but throughout the rest of the year”.Rowena Howie, owner of Revival Retro, a small London retro fashion business said:“Not only did we have more new shoppers and a higher footfall this year, we also saw a 35% increase in sales compared to the same Saturday last year.”Carolyn Frank, owner of Libby Butler Jewellers in Helmsley, near York, said:“For us in Helmsley the Small Business Saturday campaign has had a huge impact since its very beginning in 2013 but this year was absolutely the biggest and best yet. It’s become an established family tradition now for customers to start their Christmas by visiting small businesses on the day.  But it's not just the day, people are more aware of small businesses all year round because of it. I think it's because it's a grassroots initiative that it's gathered pace so quickly, and has reminded customers about the great variety and choice that small businesses can offer.”How the UK showed its support on 3rd December 2016:
  • An estimated £717 million was spent with small businesses across the UK on the day. 
  • This was an increase of 15% on Small Business Saturday last year.
  • Over 130,000 tweets were sent on the day itself reaching more than 120 million people. 
  • Small Business Saturday UK trended at number one in the UK and at number 5 globally.
  • Politicians including the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition; entrepreneurs including Karren Brady, Sarah Willingham, Jacqueline Gold, 2014 Apprentice winner Mark Wright and Levi Roots, and British talent including singer and TV presenter Louise Redknapp; TV Cook and Chef Lorraine Pascale and fashion commentator Gok Wan all publicly supported Small Business Saturday.  

Why you need to add exhibiting to your marketing mix

Tuesday, December 06 at 10:32
Brand | Customer | Exhibiting | Marketing | Small Business Saturday

Exhibiting provides a perfect opportunity for you to showcase your business to the market. In a hall filled with customers and contacts, you have the chance to show people why investing in your company is essential. Customers will be attending with high expectations and with the hope to learn more about what businesses are out there, so it’s an incredible opportunity to become a part of.If you haven’t yet decided to add exhibiting to your marketing mix then maybe it’s now time to reconsider. Here are 5 reasons why you need to be exhibiting right now.1.    Increase your profitExhibiting has proven time and time again to have one of the highest return on investments as compared to many other marketing channels. Of course, there’s a lot of effort that has to go into exhibiting, such as an upfront investment to cover stall costs, but with that effort comes the benefit of a high potential reward.With so many potential visitors under one roof who could be interested in your business, it’s a great opportunity to give out show only offers to increase the chance of a purchase on the day.To increase your ROI further, make sure you choose displays that can be used again from reputable suppliers such as Marler Haley.2.    Be seen in the right placesBeing seen side-by-side to your competitors can do wonders for your business, particularly if you’re relatively new to market.It’s one of the only places where visitors can physically see the differences between your businesses so it’s your opportunity to make sure your USPs are clear for visitors to see to make sure that they choose to buy from your stand and not your competitors.3.    Your target audience under one roofOne of the main reasons to exhibit is to see people face-to-face. But not just any person, it has to be the right one. When choosing the right show for your business, it’s important to consider who will be attending and working out whether that fits your target audience. For online businesses this is particularly important as you won’t often get the opportunity!4.    Increase brand awarenessAlthough you’ll want to gain as many leads and sales from the event as possible, exhibitions are also a great opportunity to raise brand awareness among your target audience.Let’s be honest. Not everybody will want to purchase from you at the show even if they are in your target audience. But what you’ll want to do for these people is to make sure that they are aware of you when they decide that they need to purchase.To do this, make sure that your displays have a clear logo in the upper third and that you add a simple strapline to tell people what you do and your USPs.5.    Get feedbackBeing face to face with your potential customers also has another perk – being able to get live feedback about your business. By asking about their needs, as related to your business, you can find out if you’re missing a trick by not fulfilling them. Positive feedback can also help you to identify your strong points to help guide marketing activity to push those elements that people have told you set you apart. Guest blog written by Mizzy Moore.

Seven ways you may be able to reduce your tax bill

Friday, December 02 at 13:38
Accounting | Small Business | Top Tips

Sensible tax planning is an essential tool in making the most of your finances and helping your business’s profitability. Keeping your tax bill to a minimum is not a matter of aggressive or complex tax schemes, but rather of identifying which of the many tax reliefs and allowances specifically granted by law are available to you.Jo Nockels, Senior Technical Communications Manager at small business specialists TaxAssist Accountants, shares some tips and advice about how to save on your tax bill. 1.Review your business structureHow you structure your business can have a significant impact on your annual tax bills. During the early years of a business, it may be advisable to operate as a sole trader or partnership, as profits increase it may be more beneficial to form a limited company. An accountant can help you decide which entity suits your circumstances.2.Buying equipmentBefore buying business premises, machinery or equipment, make sure you seek advice. Up to 100% tax relief could be available but the type of asset, timing and value can affect how much tax relief you can obtain and when.3.Choose a vehicle that matches your needsTalk to an accountant before buying a new vehicle for your business. There are lots of considerations such as taxable benefits, VAT, capital allowances and how you claim tax relief for repair and fuel costs.4.Don't forget to reclaim input VAT on petrolDo you reimburse employees who use their own vehicles and pay for their own fuel at the HMRC approved mileage rates? If so, then don’t forget to reclaim the VAT applicable to the deemed fuel element of the mileage rate. You will need to ensure each employee submits a valid VAT receipt in support of the claim.5.Make the most of lossesYou may be able to turn your losses around by carrying them forward to set against future profits, or setting them against other income for immediate relief. Your accountant can review loss relief claims to ensure that the losses are used tax-efficiently and eases your cashflow ideally at a time that’s best for your circumstances.6.Household billsIf you are running your business from home, you can offset some of your household bills such as heating, electricity, council tax and water rates. Even if your use is only minor for bookkeeping for example, HM Revenue & Customs will accept a reasonable estimate provided your claim is modest and reflects your circumstances.7.Save on your rental incomeIf you rent out property, you can deduct a range of expenses from your rental income. These include Council Tax, utility costs, service charges and even replacing furnishings.Choosing an accountant who specialises in small businesses could save you money and provide you and your business with expert advice on many financial issues. For more information about TaxAssist Accountants visit their website

Practical advice from Acas to help small businesses succeed

Wednesday, November 30 at 17:18
Small Business | Small Business Saturday | Top Tips

Small Business Saturday on December 3 is a great day that marks the importance of small enterprises to our economy.Small business owners are usually skilled at generating ideas for products and services due to  their entrepreneurial spirit.While these qualities are important for business success it is worth remembering that building a strong team spirit by choosing the right people and treating them fairly can be just as important.Employment relations is a phrase that can conjure a picture of regulations that many businesses think they haven’t got time for.Yet somewhere along the way, all businesses come to realise that good employment relations are not optional. Better for the go-getting entrepreneur to make sure good employment relations happen early on or from the start, rather than risk expensive complications later on.At Acas, we understand that small businesses are usually short of time and, also because they have fewer resources, can come up against obstacles which larger firms do not. So we have compiled advice especially for small firms.It is currently a series of nine practical, concise and straight-forward guides called Help For Small Firms, which include:•       how to recruit the best candidate for the job;•       drawing up their contract;•       settling them into the business;•       effectively managing their behaviour and performance;•       how to manage a complaint if they raise one;•       how to manage sickness and other kinds of absence from work;•       how to get the best out of staff, and;•       handling pay and wages.While we celebrate the dynamism and creativity of small enterprises this Small Business Saturday, we should also recognise that great team spirit also means a more productive business.You can use the guides on the Acas website or print them off.David Webb is an Acas writer working to help employers and employees understand, in plain language, employment law and workplace best practice. Previously, he was a manager in private industry for more than 20 years.

Automatic enrolment problems? The PLSA has a Pension Solution

Wednesday, November 30 at 16:53
Small Business Saturday

Joanne Segars, Chief Executive of The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association tells us about the impact of automatic enrolment on small businesses, and their plans to support Small Business Saturday this year.
Last year I blogged about how we have to make automatic enrolment easy for small businesses, which is why we launched a specifically designed service called Pension Solution.Since then, over 300,000 employers including thousands of small businesses have automatically enrolled 7 million workers into a workplace pension scheme. Eventually over 10 million extra people will be saving an additional £17 billion a year into workplace pensions by 2019/20, as recently reported by the Department for Work and Pensions.These latest figures help highlight the importance of small businesses to the UK economy and the future of pensions and lifetime savings, and we are delighted to be supporting Small Business Saturday again this year.We know that automatic enrolment can be complex so Pension Solution helps in three straightforward steps:
  • Step-by-step guide showing everything you need to know about getting your workplace pension set up for automatic enrolment.
  • Impartial guide to pension providers with comparison information and recently updated employer user ratings for nine pension providers.
  • Useful resources including handy downloadable communication templates and short films to help your workers understand automatic enrolment.
We also offer a half-day training course that helps provide you with all the basic information needed to implement automatic enrolment.Find out more about Pension Solution at how Pension Solution can help a small business like yours.The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association will be supporting Small Business Saturday UK on 3rd December 2016 and throughout the rest of December by offering a 100% discount on the normal £49 subscription to join Pension Solution as a member. Use voucher code SBIZSAT when joining online. Follow us on Twitter: @SolutionPension

Ideas and Innovation Dens: help tease out those great ideas and turn them into reality faster.

Thursday, November 24 at 10:00

Several months ago I got invited to contribute business expertise to a local radio station, providing views from a small and micro business perspective on some shows. This was and continues to be a ‘calorie-burning’ experience, not least as we now do a 3 hour live show on the first Friday of every month and at some other times. I have now progressed, quite by accident, to seemingly becoming the stations ‘business guru’?!  Our small and micro business world is different isn’t it and listeners seem to appreciate hearing tips and ideas from real local people, that they can definitely relate to and share their progression. Fascinating real life tips and experiences are always shared.Whilst there is an enormous amount of help around to develop products and companies, it soon became apparent that there are also a huge number of ‘ideas in peoples heads’ for new products, services or even new companies, that never get turned into reality. There could be many reasons why.So our challenge with the Ideas and Innovation Dens is to tease these out by offering something different.  Perhaps the thought of a ‘dragons den’ or corporate pitch with a full business plan, to be dissected and analysed, is just too scary?  Perhaps an individual or a company, has some great ideas that they would be prepared to confidentially discuss with my carefully selected group of private industry business owners, who truly understand what it takes to operate small, medium or even large businesses, and introduce new products on a daily basis, because that’s what we do? Would it be a good idea to also get the input of other public partners to fast-track help and funding too?I also believe that these ideas and stories about how we turn them into profitable reality, will make really interesting news and that’s why we are also hoping to turn the best ones into some more radio shows.This is a snapshot of our current ‘Ideas and Innovation Dens’ package.They will be available on-going for several months through an application form from [email protected] or [email protected], but a great way to experience it all is as part of a package of help and assistance for Small Business Saturday, or ‘Small Business week,’ as it will be in Dudley, West Midlands.Our ‘Ideas and Innovation Dens’ or simply drop-in business advice clinics are scheduled for:Halesowen Library -  Monday 28th November  10am-1pmDudley Library - Tuesday 29th November  10am - 1 pmNetherton Savoy Centre - Wednesday 30th November 10am-1 pmBrierley Hill Library - Thursday 1st December 10am - 1 pmStourbridge Library - Friday 2nd December 10am - 1 pmWith fantastic support from Steve Parker ICD, Dudley Metropolitan Council, Dudley Business First, ‘Business starts here’, Black Country Radio and other local business start-up providers, there is no better way to kick-start your idea.

Black & Gold: Supporting other local businesses through partnerships

Monday, November 07 at 12:30

The Elder family have farmed along the banks of the River Tyne in East Lothian for over 150 years. They launched Black & Gold Cold pressed rapeseed oil in the harvest of 2010 after Louise Elder became aware of the nutritional benefits of the oil.The overall balance of Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids in the oil means that rapeseed may be superior to other oils commonly used for cooking, such as sunflower and extra virgin olive oil. By cold pressing the oil, the levels of naturally occurring antioxidants, viscosity and nutty taste are beautifully preserved.The name Black & Gold comes from the black seeds which are shed from pods on the rapeseed plant and when pressed, a golden oil is released.  Black & Gold is sold in fine food outlets and high-end restaurants such as Harvey Nichols.Creating a Business Improvement District Black & Gold helped to set up a Business Improvement District (BID) in the East Lothian area of Scotland. This is a business led partnership to help bring together local businesses and the local council to improve local trading. BIDs provide a levy which can be used to help develop an area. Typically, BIDs are used to enhance town centres, tourism and business parks. In this case, Black & Gold believe that the East Lothian Food & Drink BID will help other small businesses to collaborate and to tackle common problems that they have in extending their business reach. This includes helping with sales and marketing, product development, identity and distribution.Why have we got together?Together we can collaborate and communicate to better promote the wealth of produce available from East Lothian, Scotland’s Food and Drink County.  Our vision is to be the number one destination for food and drink buyers and for our products to be the food and drink of choice by consumers.  They will expect high quality, premium products with great provenance. We can celebrate and shout about our bakers, millers, cidermakers, fishermen, chocolatiers, distillers, brewers, farmers and small businesses operating from home.  By collaborating we can help each other find our feet or find new markets. We can do that more efficiently through joint distribution and operational services.  Most importantly, we want to deliver a positive economic impact and effect economic return for all our members and partners.What makes our BID different?We are different because our membership is made up of food and drink businesses that produce, process, manufacture or add value to food and drink products in East Lothian. We are the first BID of its kind in the world. There are over 30 successful BIDS across Scotland which include Falkirk and Essential Edinburgh. The total investment that BIDS are now providing in urban centres is over £34 million.
Louise Elder started Black & Gold in the harvest of 2010 with the first product on sale at the Haddington Farmers’ Market.

Interview with Paul Gardner founder of the East End Trades Guild

Tuesday, November 01 at 10:00

Paul Gardner is the founder of the East End Trades Guild, he was our first member and part of the quorum of businesses who worked together to establish our unique organisation in 2012, to protect and promote the common interests of our diverse community of small enterprises.
In true East End fashion we wanted our Small Business Saturday to be a bit different. So Paul and the 130 other members have been busy with making preparations to launch our own, self styled East End Independents’ Day on the 3rd December.Founded in 1870, Gardners’ Bags is Spitalfields oldest family business specialising in selling a range of paper and plastic bags. In his own words Paul Gardner has said; “It’s nice to have been put forward as one of the Small Business 100, I want to promote little businesses. It’s an honour to have achieved this, and for us to have been going as long as we have, and we want to promote the positive stories for all the Guild members. We want to get people to shop locally, because the independents are the heart and soul of the area. Visitors come to the East End for the small businesses, for the individuality and customers know that people put themselves out when they have their own businesses. I will be open for a change on the Saturday for East End Independents Day, I’ll be telling a few stories to people on the Alternative London walking tour of when I started 44 years ago and be giving out some goodie bags”.
Our members Splice Post have made a digital invitation to the Mayor of London to celebrate Small Business Saturday with us and to launch East End Independents Day over breakfast at world famous E. Pellicci! We have not had a response yet but we’re sure we’ll hear from him soon. Our members Alternative London will be running 5 tours on Small Business Saturday. Their Hackney Food Tour will include The Broadway Bookshop where celebrated chef Oliver Rowe will be cooking up tasters outside the shop with mulled cider. 4COSE will be sampling the highest quality produce from 27 countries to mark European fellowship. The Five Points Brewing Company will talk about their indie brewery with slurpings of beer for thirsty walkers. Participants will stop at the historic F.Cooke for East End delicacy jellied eels! And get the insider's history of Pie & Mash from Bob Cooke himself. Lucky travelers will also dazzle their taste buds at The Deli Downstairs Christmas Food Fair!Alternative London will also operate two tours that will cross from Shoreditch and Spitalfields featuring talks from Paul in his shop. Participants will get to meet the inimitable Carol Burns from legendary C E Burns & Sons to discover the secret history of the East End. Lunch will be taken at Warren’s gaff - Cafe Caribbean in Spitalfields market, where the last few independents of the market are our members InSpitalfields, Source and A.Gold. They will experience a jaunt through ancient Artillery Passage taking in the heady scents of Angela Flanders Perfumery and on through to GH Cityprint to be serenaded by a London Symphony Orchestra Cellist, before our final destination at Leyden Gallery for their latest exhibition and some fine wines!There will be gift bags for all tour participants!More to be announced soon! Check our website and Facebook page for further details and read more about Paul's important business on Spitalfields Life.Blog by EETG founding Organiser Krissie Nicolson.

Fully Funded Essential Management Skills Training

Monday, October 31 at 11:25

You may be thinking, ‘Why do I need management skills training?’ I’ll get straight to the point.Here are 5 simple reasons:1. An employee’s relationship with their manager is the most important single factor in employee engagement and business growth. High performing skilled managers make the difference! Engaged employees are happier and more productive. Disengaged employees are frustrated and more disruptive.2. Because there’s no agreed skill set for management (good managers come in all shapes and sizes), there’s an assumption everyone knows how to do it. This is like someone who’s never driven a car before being given keys and told, “Drive!”3. The basics of good management: communication, setting targets, managing people performance, giving honest feedback and, most importantly, managing your time effectively and efficiently and good delegation. These skills aren’t rocket science. In fact, they’re way easier than rocket science.  Which is why companies should get them right.4. Respected, well-trained managers boost morale. Improved morale boosts business growth. We all know the expense of a slump in business and the damage this can do to team morale.5. Bad PR! If it should happen, the buck stops with the incompetent managers.A free course for small businesses in and around Greater ManchesterTotal Excellence Centre are offering a fantastic opportunity to take part in a fully funded, highly participative, 2 day course for Essential Management Skills. This is valued at £1000.00.This programme is for B2B, Retail and B2C businesses. The programme is designed to develop your management & leadership skills and capabilities, to support future business growth.Using a blend of theory, interactive group exercises, reflective and collaborative learning and case studies, we will look at a combination of skills and behaviours designed to increase your confidence. This will help you to become a more effective manager and leader.Do you meet the qualifying criteria? Please check the points below:
  • Business that are looking to increase their turnover and/or the number of employees 
  • Is based with Greater Manchester (and 10 surrounding boroughs)
  • Employ less than 250 staff but more than 3
  • Turnover is less than 50 million Euros
  • Not have exceeded 200,000 Euros in State Aid in a rolling 3-year period
Would you like to develop and grow your knowledge in the following topics?
  • The role a manager takes to ensure business growth and continued people development
  • What your natural leadership style/behaviour says about you?
  • Understanding personalities, behaviours within teams
  • What high performing teams look like?
  • Embedding and translating business growth ideas into an action plan
  • The skill of feedback to ensure continuity and consistency across teams
  • Identifying barriers that hinder communication
  • Developing plans to achieve your vision of growth
If yes, then get in touch as places are limited. The programme is delivered on the following dates:17th and 18th October - 3 places remain7th and 8th November -7 places remain11th and 12th January – 9 places remainRegister your placeIf you want to register please call Jude Honeyman on 07507 113567 or the Total Excellence Centre on 0844 815 4818. You can also register your interest for a call back via
Total Excellence have been providing highly engaging, innovative, learning & development programmes for over 20 years. Their courses are available to SME's and large multi-national organisations throughout the UK and Overseas.

What I learnt in my first year in business

Monday, October 24 at 11:15

I relocated to Leeds from India two years ago.  Previously, I would never have imagined that I would be the founder of a business and that I would be proud to call myself an entrepreneur.This Pampered Life offers bespoke experience days in Yorkshire. Since launch, last year, the question I have been asked the most is ‘how did you manage to establish a business in a different country’? To be completely honest, I think it all boiled down to ‘passion and perseverance’. However, I also feel it is a combination of many different factors.Here are a few things that have helped me in my short, yet eventful, journey as a start-up business.Be A DoerI believe that all of us have the potential to lead a successful business. We all have ideas about creating new products and services. It all boils down to what we do with the idea! That, in short, is the game-changer, ‘the doing bit’. As an Entrepreneur you start small. It is essential to accept that you will need to ‘do’ everything yourself in order to drive the business forward.This holds true especially when you are a ‘one man army’. You have to handle all the marketing, selling, delivery and after-sale feedback. This has to fit in-between admin tasks such as finances, filing records and website maintenance.Don’t Fear A “No”This has been an important factor in helping me persevere. I remember last year in July, when the idea of This Pampered Life was taking shape. I wrote to the Head of Enterprise at a major university. This was to seek guidance on what it takes to start a business in the UK. The reply, via LinkedIn, was:
‘I would love to meet you to help. However, more importantly, I would like to meet you to congratulate you for your sheer courage in asking for help without any introduction’
It may sound cheeky, but in my head I thought ‘what could be the worst that could happen?’ I could be ignored. However, that would be better than not trying at all. The worst-case scenario will be a ‘No’. It is important to remember that a ’No’ is only a ‘No’ at that moment in time. Trying someone else or trying at a different time, might achieve a ‘Yes’.Choose Support WiselyVery early on in my business journey I realised that the UK is definitely one of the best countries for start-ups. This is in terms of the abundant free support we have access to. While this is a great opportunity for all of us, I was unsure what kind of resource was most suitable for me. That meant that I attended way too many free workshops for social media, marketing and networking. Don’t get me wrong, I have thoroughly enjoyed and learnt a lot from each of these events.However, at some point I needed to sit down and analyse what was most important for my business. Was it going out and investing many hours in connecting with more people or was it sitting down in my office writing to my existing connections? Be selective and conscious of time, was my learning outcome.People Buy PeopleAt times I would be lost for words when I was expected to talk about my business. There was a point when I thought to myself that there has to be another way. Of course there is. I stopped selling my business to everyone I met. I realised that people buy into you first and then your business. Be genuine.PassionI started this business because I saw an opportunity to offer something unique. We are fortunate when we have the opportunity to convert our dream into a reality.  While chasing our dreams, take the passion along and enjoy the journey.Minoti Parikh is the founder of This Pampered Life. She has had a successful career as a Master of Ceremonies, TV Presenter and Corporate Trainer. Along with this, A Masters degree in Marketing and Industrial Psychology has helped her build the brand value of small & medium size businesses in her role as a Marketing and Events consultant.

4 Invoicing Mistakes you Should Avoid in your Small Business

Monday, October 17 at 11:20

There’s probably no small business that hasn’t prepared at least one invoice for their work. For businesses many times invoicing is considered the boring paperwork no one wants to deal with. So often times preparing invoices is based on copying already prepared and pre-populated invoice documents.Proper invoicing is one of the ways for small business to ensure steady cash-flow and secure company growth. Below are listed 4 invoicing mistakes small businesses do and usable tips on how to avoid them when managing your invoices.1. Vague services and products descriptionThis part is the heart of the invoice, and you should always aim to make it as clear as possible. Many times clients can’t just predict what you’re charging for and this is especially true when you’re doing job for a bigger company where invoices are handled by their accounting department. With this in mind you should always state clearly what services you provided for them.Sometime the services (or products) you sell can take more than one line to describe.This is often case when you’re doing large project in several stages, so don’t be afraid in being more detailed when describing the work you've done.2. Complicated payment termsThis section of the invoice is probably the one that will make it or break it. So pay attention when stating you payment terms. Many times in invoices legal language and terminology is used but part of your clients maybe aren’t so business savvy and won’t understand them.Make it no brainer for your clients, write them in clear and simple manner. One study shows that using “21 days to pay”, instead of “Net 21” resulted in more prompt payments. Including late payment interest also can play big role in motivating your client to pay the invoice. In the end make sure the terms are accompanied with polite and friendly tone.3. Piling-up late invoicesIn ideal situation your clients will pay the bills the day you send them, but the reality is different and many times your clients will be late with their payments. They’ll all have various reasons and excuses for this delay, from lack of funds, to forgetting and sometimes even ignoring your invoices. And if you tolerate this too often you can face a big pile of late invoices in short time. Not only this, but you’ll also run out of money pretty quickly.This is out of your control but there’s a way to handle this in the most productive way. The simple rule for this is to follow-up with your clients. If you notice someone hasn’t paid the invoice remind them about the services you’ve provided and the invoice itself. Don’t wait too long to email or call them, the more time passes the likelihood of payment decreases. Invoices that are 6 months past due have 44% of successful collection, and for over a year due invoices the percentages drops to 25% for successful collection.4. Improper design and styleUsually this part is many times overlooked when creating an invoice. If you think “it’s just an invoice, why bother with the design” you’ll end up making mediocre looking invoice, that can lead to invoice information scattered all around. This won’t help in collecting your payments, and can even hurt your reputation.Your invoices shouldn’t be taken for granted, so be careful how you lay out the information about your company, client, terms and your services or products. As a rule always try to include your company logo and brand colours in the invoice. This will ensure you’re serious, dedicated and professional business person.AuthorBio: Mark is a biz-dev hero at Invoicebus - a simple invoicing service that gets your invoices paid faster. He passionately blogs on topics that help small biz owners succeed in their business. He is also a lifelong learner who practices mindfulness and enjoys long walks in nature more than anything else.

Interview with Small Business Saturday Champion Elaine Pritchard from Caittom Publishing

Monday, October 10 at 13:04

What could possibly encourage four busy, small businesses to come together and organise a free-to-attend conference at their local football stadium? The answer would be Small Business Saturday UK.I’ve been a fan of the campaign since it started and getting involved every year has boosted my profile locally and regionally and helped my business grow.In 2015, three local businesses and I (we call ourselves the Burton Small Business group) organised a ‘flash’ conga of small businesses through Burton-on-Trent’s town centre. Mike Cherry, of the Federation of Small Businesses, met us at the end of our dance through the streets and our family and friends joined in to help us remind shoppers that by supporting small, independent businesses they are supporting local families, creating and securing jobs and putting money into the local economy.This year we’ve decided to organise a conference giving businesses chance to benefit from lots of help, advice and motivational speakers and also get ideas for what they can do on the big day itself. We’ve called it Small Business Big Difference, borrowing from the theme of this year’s national campaign. We’re holding it at the Pirelli Stadium, home of Burton Albion football club, on Wednesday October 12. The rise of Burton Albion from small town club to the Championship has made a big difference to our town, so it seemed like the perfect venue for us.Our local newspaper, the Burton Mail, has been very supportive. We’ve got 10 great speakers including one of this year’s #SmallBiz100, award-winning magician Jack Dent of JD Magic, who will be entertaining delegates as well as speaking about his own inspirational business journey.When businesses apply for a free ticket we’re asking them to make a Small Business Saturday pledge. We’ll make a feature of these in the form of a video at the conference.  We’re all very excited about our conference and the rest of this year and if you want to follow more of our journey you can connect with us on Twitter @BurtonSmallBiz and on our new Facebook Page.  Elaine Pritchard, owner of 2015 #SmallBiz100 company Caittom Publishing and a Small Business Saturday champion, explains why she and three other small businesses have taken on the major task of organising a free conference this year.
Elaine Pritchard leads the Small Business Saturday ‘flash’ conga through Burton town centre in 2015. Picture by Joanne Cooper Photography.

A Guide to: Handling Small Business Disputes

Wednesday, September 14 at 16:08
How To | Legal | Top Tips

Small businesses may face a variety of challenges over their lifetimes, but lengthy and increasingly expensive court cases do not need to be added to the list. The good news is that intellectual property and employment conflicts, or late payment issues can be managed without resorting to litigation.Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is the ideal solution to small business disputes.  An umbrella term for a whole range of processes and techniques that help parties resolve conflict without going to court, ADR usually involves the assistance of a neutral third party, and is often less formal, cheaper and quicker than litigation.In addition to being highly time and cost efficient, ADR is also confidential and offers a discrete and neutral setting for businesses looking to protect their public image. Both arbitration and mediation are two examples of popular ADR processes.With this in mind, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators’ Business Arbitration Scheme (BAS) is highly recommended to small businesses, as it delivers five tangible benefits which are worth considering before making a decision as to whether or not it is in your businesses’ best interests to resort to litigation. 1.Fixed fee: BAS is a fixed fee scheme, providing certainty as to costs from the outset.2.Speed: BAS offers the certainty of a final and legally binding decision in less than 90 days from the appointment of the arbitrator.3.Simplicity: The BAS rules were created with simplicity in mind, allowing ease of use and flexibility.  The scheme is simple enough for businesses to present their own case without legal representation if they so wish.  Formal procedural steps have deliberately been kept to a minimum.4.Limited Costs: The costs recoverable have been limited to protect parties against liability for their opponents’ high legal bills.5.Specialist panel: CIArb provides a specialist panel of arbitrators.In addition, a recent survey conducted by the Institute indicated that:•94% found the Scheme to be an attractive proposition for small businesses involved in low to medium value disputes;•93% found the cost of the Scheme appealing;•98% found the short timetable of benefit; and•96% found the Scheme easy to understand.Aimed at being accessible and straightforward, BAS was launched following the increase in court fees last year, which in some cases, saw a hike of up to 600%. CIArb decided it was time to take action as it became apparent that small businesses in particular were disproportionately affected, and that many felt priced out of accessing justice through the court system.As the majority of small businesses usually initiate court proceedings to recover unpaid monies, it was important to ensure that there was a scheme in place, tailored to the needs of businesses who had legitimate debt claims but felt that it wasn’t worth it to pursue them through the courts.Ultimately, businesses that wish to use BAS, should consider drafting an appropriate dispute resolution clause into their commercial contracts or into terms and conditions, before any dispute arises.  A free dispute resolution clause for BAS can be found here. For businesses looking to manage their dispute(s) and prepare for conflicts long term- the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators’ Business Arbitration Scheme is worth investigating.Post by Olivia Staines, PR and Communications Manager, CIArb & Keisha Williams, Head of DAS, CIArb. The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) is a leading professional membership organisation representing the interests of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) practitioners worldwide. For more information on the Business Arbitration Scheme, please call +44 (0)20 7421 7444, email [email protected], or visit our website at 

Communication is key

Wednesday, August 31 at 13:33

Point of Sale display manufacturer Wrights GPX offer some advice for retailers on maximising the Small Business Saturday effect!As we enter September, Small Business Saturday looks a long way off. But retailers know how fast the selling year goes by and that planning is key to success. Now seems a good time to plan to turn the additional interest that Small Business Saturday will generate into more sales on the day and for the future.If we had one piece of advice based on our almost 50 years in retail display, POS (point of sale) and POP (point of purchase) it is that clear communication is essential if you want to turn interest into sales, visitors into customers and first timers into loyal brand evangelists.And with online research fuelling buying decisions, clear communication in-store has never been more important. Of course communication covers many sins. Perhaps the most important is how you and the team communicate with customers. This interaction will be the customer’s most important brand ‘touch point’.Is your team ready for Small Business Saturday? Do they know what it is, why it came about and how it can benefit your customers? If you have any offers, deals or discounts related to the event, are the team clear about them and how best to introduce them? And how are the team’s non-verbal communications? Are they dressed appropriately? Are they exuding energy and enthusiasm? Are they smiling?How are you communicating your involvement with Small Business Saturday? There are lots of ways to do it. Have you spoken to local press to brief them about your involvement? Have you tweeted and Posted? And for passing trade? Make the most of your window display, A-boards and external opportunities. Print is getting cheaper and cheaper so a leaflet drop in the area can be very cost-effective!Why not create an offer for Small Business Saturday? Whatever the offer is it, it won’t be effective if you don’t shout about it. Again, social media has a role to play but in-store promotion is just as important. Use poster holders, sign holders, table talkers and shelf barkers to ensure all your printed communications stay smart and get noticed.You should also use these everyday communications to build brand. Whether you trade on your style, humour, sense of community, commitment to the environment or having the lowest prices in town these values need to be reinforced at every opportunity. And you need a strategy to turn those first time visitors that Small Business Saturday bring into loyal returning customers.  Think loyalty cards or sign ups to social media or newsletters. These might need incentivising – put all those who sign up on Small Business Saturday into a prize draw, for example – and again they will certainly need to be communicated.We wish everyone all the best forSmall Business Saturday!

How to get your small business found

Friday, August 12 at 09:30
Digital | Marketing

Barney from Bluebell Digital shares some ideas on master Google to get your small business more visible
Getting to the top of Google search is a goal for many small businesses, but it can seem like an elusive target. What Google wants, and what savvy businesses can provide, is quality content that will rise up the search rankings on it's own merit.Search engine optimization or SEO has often in the past been seen as shrouded in technical jargon! Marketing your content effectively is the core way to get more traffic from Google and this is where small businesses should focus. The overall goal is to communicate with existing customers and reach new ones. It should always be remembered that SEO is only one tactic in this mission, not an end in itself.There are two sides to SEO - the technical aspect which concentrates on making titles, tags and meta descriptions optimised so your website content is as friendly as possible to Google’s Web ‘robots’. The more compelling aspect is creating the strategy and content that you will use as a destination for people who find your site via Google.Here are a few simple to follow steps for the content generation and marketing side of the SEO equation. There are also plenty of good guides for basic technical SEO on the Web.First take a step back from your commercial goals and think about how people are going to search for your product or service on Google. Don't just think in terms of company buzzwords, industry terms or product names. Think how real people actually search for your product. They don't always use the official name, they don't always know about your new product category and they will surprise you in how they go about finding things online.Tools like the AdWords Keyword Tool or Google Analytics can help you see how people search before they arrive at your site. Combine this real-world research with key phrases you have come up with yourself and arrive at a keyword list that represents the core keywords that are crucial to your business. Think 'which words or phrases is it essential that my company shows up for on Google when people search?'Once this list is compiled you need to find a baseline for where you are today. Plug the keyword list into one of the many SEO tracking tools available - SEMRush, Moz or Majestic SEO are a few paid tools you can use and there are some free options also. The tools will show you where you rank on Google now for the keywords in the list you have created. This is how you are going to track if your technical SEO and content marketing efforts are successful over the following weeks and months.You can also track if your organic Google traffic increases using Google Analytics. It is important to remember that pages rank on Google, not whole Websites, so it isn't a case of get my Website to the top of Google, you are trying to get a particular page higher for a specific keyword search. Here comes the strategy and planning - you want your very best pages to surface at the top, which means you have to create meaningful content around the core keyword topics that you have chosen and then incorporate that content on to your Website.Planning out a new set of pages, blog posts or even video content around your important content themes and keywords is the way to gain those higher positions on Google. Without a planned approach to generating this content plus a process to optimize it for SEO within your site, you will struggle to put the right content in front of your chosen audience and improve your visibility on Google. Your goal is always to make it as easy as possible for Google to see your best content and then show it to others for relevant keyword queries.One part of compiling your keyword list is seeing whether you already have content around the keywords that you wish to rank on Google. Most often you will be able to identify areas where you want to appear for certain searches, but you don’t yet have any great content relevant to those keywords. This is an opportunity to start filling those gaps with new posts or pages. Always remember to try to be interesting or useful (or ideally both) to your prospective audience, so you can engage them and encourage them to share and interact with your content. Success on social media can help boost your SEO and will in itself bring more visitors back to your Website. As a final thought, always focus on the customer: how can my content help them? What are they interested in? How can my company show thought-leadership or credibility? How can we talk about a relevant topic that really resonates with our target market? What do they need and what problems are they trying to solve? Keep it real and plan. Write clearly and simply. Think about your audience’s needs and interests. That way you will see your best work rise to the top.

Is cloud hosting for you?

Thursday, July 28 at 13:19

The team over a Cyber Host Pro talk us through cloud computing and if it could work for your small business....
A website is an integral part of any modern business, and the benefits of cloud hosting could be exactly what you need to see better results.
You’ve undoubtedly heard the word “cloud” being mentioned a lot in the last few years, and not just the kind that’s related to the weather. Rather, the “cloud” is one of a variety of different hosting options, each with their own benefits to suit specific needs.
A lot of people are on board with the benefits cloud hosting can bring to the table, and if you’re a business owner then it’s something you should be looking into as well.
Increased Security
A top priority and concern for any business is security, even more so in a digital era where people rely so heavily on technology. Businesses can suffer significant losses through cyber crime or through theft of computers and hardware.
This is why cloud hosting has proved to be very popular with businesses because of the security benefits it provides. By storing your sensitive data in the cloud, it means that as long as you have an internet connection, you have access to your data. If your computer or hard drives are stolen or damaged beyond repair, then you will still have full access to anything you’ve stored in the cloud.
Just make sure you do remember to do so. Otherwise that dreaded moment will come when you realised that important data file you forgot to store in the cloud is still in a folder on the laptop you lost.
It’s Flexible
As a business, it’s likely that at some point your hosting requirements will change, such as a need for more bandwidth when your site begins to get more traffic. Cloud hosting allows you to quickly scale up the capacity to accommodate your current needs, which will not only allow your site to function quicker and more efficiently, but also by doing so it gives you the competitive edge over competitors who don’t have access to such services.
You Can Work From Anywhere
Whether you work on a freelance basis, for an online based company, or if your employer is happy for you to telecommute, with cloud hosting the ability to work remotely has never been as easy as it is today. If you run your website or blog and have access to an internet connection, then you’re at work – whether it’s at home or your favourite coffee shop.
Remote access to all of your data and the internet, in general, has completely changed the way businesses operate, as well as giving small businesses a great way to advance their business.
No Need to Spend Money on Hardware
Hardware can be expensive, not only to purchase but also to run it and —  depending on size and space — to store it. The cloud takes away all of these problems; it’s not a physical piece of hardware that will cost you a hefty lump sum. It’s a service you pay for, which can be scaled correctly to fit your financial situation.
This is a more manageable method which can prove to make a big difference to profits, especially for small businesses with a tighter budget.
Automatic Updates
To elaborate on the previous point, cloud hosting will allow you to receive automatic software updates, rather than needing an expert to maintain your hardware for you. Taking the worry out of your hands will free up time you would’ve spent upgrading equipment. Moreover, receiving updates as and when they’re available will go a long way to making sure your site is running as smoothly and efficiently as possible, a service that your competitors may not have access to.
There is so much data stored on so many clouds that physical hard drives may soon be considered “retro”. For businesses, especially smaller businesses or individuals who work on a small budget, cloud hosting is something of a godsend. Not only does it give you a flexible, remote way of doing things, but it also provides you with peace of mind, knowing that your data is backed up and secure.
Chris Danks is the owner and director of Cyber Host Pro. He has over 15 years of experience within the hosting industry. His company now supplies businesses all over the world with a number of high-quality hosting services.

Is cloud hosting for you?

Thursday, July 28 at 13:19

The team over a Cyber Host Pro talk us through cloud computing and if it could work for your small business....
A website is an integral part of any modern business, and the benefits of cloud hosting could be exactly what you need to see better results.
You’ve undoubtedly heard the word “cloud” being mentioned a lot in the last few years, and not just the kind that’s related to the weather. Rather, the “cloud” is one of a variety of different hosting options, each with their own benefits to suit specific needs.
A lot of people are on board with the benefits cloud hosting can bring to the table, and if you’re a business owner then it’s something you should be looking into as well.
Increased Security
A top priority and concern for any business is security, even more so in a digital era where people rely so heavily on technology. Businesses can suffer significant losses through cyber crime or through theft of computers and hardware.
This is why cloud hosting has proved to be very popular with businesses because of the security benefits it provides. By storing your sensitive data in the cloud, it means that as long as you have an internet connection, you have access to your data. If your computer or hard drives are stolen or damaged beyond repair, then you will still have full access to anything you’ve stored in the cloud.
Just make sure you do remember to do so. Otherwise that dreaded moment will come when you realised that important data file you forgot to store in the cloud is still in a folder on the laptop you lost.
It’s Flexible
As a business, it’s likely that at some point your hosting requirements will change, such as a need for more bandwidth when your site begins to get more traffic. Cloud hosting allows you to quickly scale up the capacity to accommodate your current needs, which will not only allow your site to function quicker and more efficiently, but also by doing so it gives you the competitive edge over competitors who don’t have access to such services.
You Can Work From Anywhere
Whether you work on a freelance basis, for an online based company, or if your employer is happy for you to telecommute, with cloud hosting the ability to work remotely has never been as easy as it is today. If you run your website or blog and have access to an internet connection, then you’re at work – whether it’s at home or your favourite coffee shop.
Remote access to all of your data and the internet, in general, has completely changed the way businesses operate, as well as giving small businesses a great way to advance their business.
No Need to Spend Money on Hardware
Hardware can be expensive, not only to purchase but also to run it and —  depending on size and space — to store it. The cloud takes away all of these problems; it’s not a physical piece of hardware that will cost you a hefty lump sum. It’s a service you pay for, which can be scaled correctly to fit your financial situation.
This is a more manageable method which can prove to make a big difference to profits, especially for small businesses with a tighter budget.
Automatic Updates
To elaborate on the previous point, cloud hosting will allow you to receive automatic software updates, rather than needing an expert to maintain your hardware for you. Taking the worry out of your hands will free up time you would’ve spent upgrading equipment. Moreover, receiving updates as and when they’re available will go a long way to making sure your site is running as smoothly and efficiently as possible, a service that your competitors may not have access to.
There is so much data stored on so many clouds that physical hard drives may soon be considered “retro”. For businesses, especially smaller businesses or individuals who work on a small budget, cloud hosting is something of a godsend. Not only does it give you a flexible, remote way of doing things, but it also provides you with peace of mind, knowing that your data is backed up and secure.
Chris Danks is the owner and director of Cyber Host Pro. He has over 15 years of experience within the hosting industry. His company now supplies businesses all over the world with a number of high-quality hosting services.

How to: Get your product in a magazine

Tuesday, June 28 at 15:40

The London Fashion Agency give some tips for getting your small business' product featured in a magazine....Misconceptions of Devil Wears Prada-esque editors with unreasonable demands and a penchant for making the intern cry makes getting featured in a magazine feel like a daunting task. But fret not – we’ve condensed all that we know about the big bad world of print into 5 easy steps so you know the whos, whats, wheres and hows of getting that all-important feature.Step 1: Do your researchDoing a little research into lead times for each publication is really important – there’s no point in sending a collection of suncreams over to Elle if they’re already working on their Christmas issue. Generally speaking, monthly titles work approximately 6 months ahead, whereas weekly titles work on issues 2 or so months in advance.Step 2: Resources at the readyHaving great resources at hand makes approaching publications that little bit easier for both parties. A beautiful lookbook, some high-resolution images and a sharp, concise press release will help the editor to envisage your brand on their pages.Step 3: The all-important approachIt would be a crime to put so much time and effort into the perfect pitch to then send it to the wrong department – it’s really important to read into the best person to contact in order to get the best result. For example, if you want to get your knitwear featured in LOOK then you should get in touch with the fashion assistant or shopping editor, but if you’re a homeware brand then the lifestyle assistant may be your best point of contact.Step 4: Call-insIf an editor likes the look of your product then it’s possible that they’ll call it in for a shoot. This is a great sign, but unfortunately not all products that are called in end up getting featured. To maximise your chances, ensure that you have samples at the ready so that you can get your products over to the publication as soon as they’ve been requested.Step 5: The waiting gameNow it’s time to wait, wait, and wait some more. Be patient – you don’t want to bombard the editor with numerous emails. If your product gets featured then be sure to share it on social media – this is a great achievement! Most importantly, always email a thank you note to the editor - maybe they’ll want to feature your product again in the future.
The London Fashion Agency is an award-winning PR and social media agency. They are the UK’s first and only affordable fashion PR and resource agency dedicated to independent brands and small business. They have broken down traditional retainers to allow businesses to do their own PR with LFA guidance. Agency director, Rosie, started LFA 3 years ago when she realised when it comes to PR, small business want to know two things; what am I getting and how much does it cost.

How to: Get your product in a magazine

Tuesday, June 28 at 15:40

The London Fashion Agency give some tips for getting your small business' product featured in a magazine....Misconceptions of Devil Wears Prada-esque editors with unreasonable demands and a penchant for making the intern cry makes getting featured in a magazine feel like a daunting task. But fret not – we’ve condensed all that we know about the big bad world of print into 5 easy steps so you know the whos, whats, wheres and hows of getting that all-important feature.Step 1: Do your researchDoing a little research into lead times for each publication is really important – there’s no point in sending a collection of suncreams over to Elle if they’re already working on their Christmas issue. Generally speaking, monthly titles work approximately 6 months ahead, whereas weekly titles work on issues 2 or so months in advance.Step 2: Resources at the readyHaving great resources at hand makes approaching publications that little bit easier for both parties. A beautiful lookbook, some high-resolution images and a sharp, concise press release will help the editor to envisage your brand on their pages.Step 3: The all-important approachIt would be a crime to put so much time and effort into the perfect pitch to then send it to the wrong department – it’s really important to read into the best person to contact in order to get the best result. For example, if you want to get your knitwear featured in LOOK then you should get in touch with the fashion assistant or shopping editor, but if you’re a homeware brand then the lifestyle assistant may be your best point of contact.Step 4: Call-insIf an editor likes the look of your product then it’s possible that they’ll call it in for a shoot. This is a great sign, but unfortunately not all products that are called in end up getting featured. To maximise your chances, ensure that you have samples at the ready so that you can get your products over to the publication as soon as they’ve been requested.Step 5: The waiting gameNow it’s time to wait, wait, and wait some more. Be patient – you don’t want to bombard the editor with numerous emails. If your product gets featured then be sure to share it on social media – this is a great achievement! Most importantly, always email a thank you note to the editor - maybe they’ll want to feature your product again in the future.
The London Fashion Agency is an award-winning PR and social media agency. They are the UK’s first and only affordable fashion PR and resource agency dedicated to independent brands and small business. They have broken down traditional retainers to allow businesses to do their own PR with LFA guidance. Agency director, Rosie, started LFA 3 years ago when she realised when it comes to PR, small business want to know two things; what am I getting and how much does it cost.

Is Beer Brewing The Next Big Thing For The Hospitality Industry?

Thursday, June 16 at 16:32

Beer brewing is the perfect activity for corporate events and team building, for so many reasons. The most important of which, is that it’s unique. Not only is the activity itself different to the norm, beer brewing company, Brew Club, is also one of a kind. The classes, the brewing options, and the style that the company has, is what makes it standout.
When arranging entertainment for a corporate event, or a team building activity for your employees, it can be a struggle finding that perfect option. You want it to be fun and enjoyable, but you also want it to come with a challenge, so that those involved start to build bridges with each other. Sadly, there are only so many times when group games or abseiling are going to be effective.
When it comes to corporate entertainment, if you want to keep your audience entertained, you need to think outside of the box. This is, without a doubt, an overused phrase. However, when it comes to corporate entertainment, it is most certainly apt.
There is no tougher audience to please than attendees at a business conference or event, or your employees when it comes to team building. Veterans from years of conferences or team building events will know what was done last year, and the year before, and the year before that. If you want to please them and make an impact, you need to present them with something new. That is why something like beer brewing works so well - as an activity it’s innovative, quirky, and most importantly, engaging. It’s not another Jacob’s ladder challenge, it’s so much more than that.
There are very few people who don’t love a cool, refreshing beer. It’s this that makes beer brewing as a corporate activity such a fantastic idea, and of course, the fact that it’s an exceptional bonding exercise, also helps. Learning a new skill as part of a group, bonds you to the people you’re sharing the experience with. These are the people you’ll be swapping ideas with, giving tips to, and having a laugh with over the interesting smells your brewing beer creates.
The thing about food and drink is that it has a unique ability to help us strengthen our relationships with others. Whether we’re eating it or making it, we as humans have a habit of chattering away to whoever else we’re with. Food and drink relaxes us and gives us a sense of security - according to psychologists that is, leading to us lowering our guard when food or drink is our main focus. That’s why, the classes that Brew Club offer, are such a perfect activity for team building or corporate events. They get people talking, bringing the fences down and opening the channels for easy and comfortable communication.
Unlike some corporate hospitality activities, beer brewing is interesting. Like sports activities that are a common trend in team building and event activities, it offers a challenge. The difference being that something brand new is being taught, not something that most of the people taking part will already have done before. Because it’s an activity that’s new, it makes it more interesting and engaging, and allows people to relate more easily to one another as everyone is in the same boat having never tried brewing beer before.
Entice your corporate event guests or employees with a beer brewing class that gives them the chance to learn a new skill, work together, and have some fun. 
Brew Club, a different kind of brewery where people can brew their own beer, was founded in 2015 by Rob Berezowski and Jo Llewellyn-Jones, when they ran out of room to brew beer at Rob’s flat. 

5 tips to make starting your business easier

Thursday, June 09 at 13:56
Start-Up Support | Top Tips

If you’re thinking of starting your own business, firstly congratulations! I know it can be scary. How do I know? I’m doing it, too.When I wrote this, I was four weeks into working for myself, and I want to share what I’ve learned by that point. Hopefully, reading this will make the process a little less scary for you.1. Help from family and friendsThey may not know what you do on a daily basis, or may not understand why you want to work for yourself. BUT, they are a wonderful source of support. My husband has been with me every step of the way. He’s having to listen to me thinking out loud about what services I should offer, about what my branding should look like, really anything to do with my work.The same goes for friends. I really feel supported by my friends, who also want me to succeed. Some are even looking for business for me!So, don’t think that just because you’re going to work for yourself that you’re on your own. You’re not. Your family and friends are there for you, so make the most of the support they’re willing to give you.2. Keep in touch with your business contactsIf, like me, you’re going to leave your job to start your business, look at the contacts you’ve already made to see if any of them can help you. You’ll be surprised at how willing people are to help out, especially if you already have a great relationship.My last job at Constant Contact put me in touch with some great organisations that help small businesses. One of these is Small Business Saturday. Having heard that I’m starting my own business, they have been very supportive and offered advice and the opportunity to write for them. And here I am, writing for them! How great is that?3. Rely on expertsJust because you’re only at the start of your business journey, don’t discount how experts can help you. Whether it’s a chartered accountant, an IT specialist or someone who has been running their business for years, the knowledge they have can really turbo boost your set up.I have a friend who ran her own marketing consultancy and she helped me to figure out my offering. She’s literally taken weeks off my services development. I still have a lot of hard work to do to get set up, but she’s really helped accelerate that.4. Don’t think, doThere’s a lot to be said about putting words into action. Don’t spend too much time thinking about what you should do. Start doing stuff. Even if it’s getting down on paper what you’ll offer, working out what should be on your website, or grabbing your business name on the social channels you want to use. Act on it today!Actually seeing things happening will spur you on to get the next thing done, and you’ll see your business take shape in front of your eyes.5. 80% is good enoughA manager of mine once told me about the 80/20 rule. It not only changed the way I looked at my work, but also gave me the freedom to just try things.If you’ve not heard of it, then simply put, whatever you’re trying for your business, if it’s 80% there, then get it in front of the world. Beit your website, a brochure, your branding. It will all evolve as you & your business evolve and grow. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect, 80% of the way there is OK.6. Organise your timeHaving an expanse of day in front of you can be daunting. So use whatever means suit you to make sure you get the most out of your day.For me, this means using the same methods I used when I worked for someone else. I block out time in my Google Calendar for all my tasks. I did it for writing this blog post. Oh, and I stick to it. Of course, something may crop up that needs to be dealt with, and that’s OK. Just reschedule the task to another time.Being organised will mean that you’ll get more done and get up and running faster.Bonus tipGet out and about. Working for yourself can mean spending A LOT of time on your own. Make sure you get out and about. I’m going to the gym more, I actually go to the supermarket rather than order in a shop, and planning on seeing more of family and friends.I hope my experience so far will help you with your own start-up. If you want to share your experiences, I’d love to hear and learn from you. Find me at @Minal2804 or on my Facebook Page: Marketing by Minal.
Minal is a marketer with over 15 years’ experience of working for national and international companies, most latterly Constant Contact, a leading email marketing provider. Having worked with 1000s of SMEs whilst at Constant Contact, Minal decided to start Marketing by Minal, making her marketing expertise accessible to SMEs that want to give their marketing more focus.

Do not underestimate the power of the internet

Friday, May 27 at 17:33

My girlfriend and I went to Paris for a city break in May 2016. Since I was in charge of organising the whole trip, and wanted an easy life, I booked my train tickets on the website. As I didn’t want to stay in a hotel I booked our 3 night stay in a flat which I carefully selected from after carefully reading reviews other holiday makers had posted online. The easiest way for us to travel around Paris was by taxi. My Uber app came to the rescue and within minutes drivers were waiting outside to whisk us off to our next sights. We decided to stay local when dinning out. Not knowing the area at all I simply searched for “restaurants nearby” using google maps where I could find a list of the best eateries within a mile radius.A new worldThis is the world most of us now live in which would have been inconceivable 20 years ago.The internet has shaped a new society with new behaviours and revolutionised the way we do business.  The speed at which these changes happened is unprecedented. While a lot of businesses have capitalised on the birth of the digital era most small businesses are lagging behind. But why?Education, education, educationThe key to success for you as a small, or local business owner, is through education. Understanding the true power of the internet as your most valuable marketing tool is paramount. To really realise how powerful it is however you must be familiar with, at least, basic concepts. Admittedly terms such as Keyword research, online reviews, Google My Business, Search engine optimisation and pay per click, only to mention a few, can be overwhelming at first for someone whose main activity is to sort out a leaking pipe within an hour or to blow dry their next customer’s mane.You do not have to become an online expert but It should, however, be at the core of your strategy if you are  considering to start a  business, no matter how small.  Thankfully numbers are easy to understand and that should be enough to convince anybody that not only online marketing is unavoidable if you want to achieve success but most of all your best friend. The proof is in the dataThe biggest shift in the digital world in recent years occurred in early  2014.  For the first time ever, time spent on mobile devices overtook time spent on desktops.  33% percent of internet users now view their mobile phone as the most important device for accessing the internet (source: Ofcom Media Use and attitudes 2015).  This has drastically changed the way people search online and purchase products and services.  According to a study conducted by Google in May 2014 called “Understanding Consumers’ Local Search Behavior” 50% of consumers who do an online local search visit a store within 24 hrs and 1 in 3 searches on a mobile is done right before consumers visit a store.
This should speak volume to anyone trying to increase their customer base and spark a real interest in understanding how to make the most of the internet.  Searches have become very specific too and search engines like google have become very sophisticated at understanding user intent. Typing “pizza delivery” in the google search box will mainly return local businesses on the results page these days. A local  pizza delivery business not showing up on the first result page of google  will now miss out on a vital stream of customers and could potentially die of a short death.  But the rise of local searches is not exclusive to take aways . Looking at the “Near me” queries in google trend only highlights this further. It is interesting to notice these types of searches really started to take off in 2014, just when the use of mobile phones overtook desktop use.
With the ever increasing growth of  mobile phone use, searches have become more localized than ever before  and there is no sign of this trend slowing down any time soon. If not careful, any small business overlooking their local online marketing strategy is likely to become a digital casualty in the year if not months to come, and nobody wants that, right? So get learning.
Luc Durand is the founder of a company that provides  a range of free video tutorials to help small businesses who want to improve their online visibility in local search results. 

A Beginners Guide to Corporate Wiki

Friday, May 20 at 17:17
Digital | Planning | Quick Guide | Top Tips

In the business world wikis have begun to boost performance and overall client satisfaction as they provide various functions and assist multiple goals. Maybe the Wiki concept you have in mind is associated with Wikipedia but it´s important to understand that it´s not the same thing starting from the fact that they pursue very different objectives.
In order to understand the concept, let's begin with a simple example which I´m sure is common to any type of organization: A project was recently started and team members began to search for past experiences and relevant information only to find that experiences had not been properly recorded and that information remained in the PCs and personal file servers of previous team members. Step by step set of instructions that explained: what to do, what you should have done and what needs to be avoided is not readily available for the team so they start from scratch and along the way they begin to encounter the very same roadblocks.
The above example is a common scenario for organizations that don't have a centralized place for information and experiences to be stored. What's worse is that resources are wasted as teams invest time doing things over and fail to reach consistency. Even client expectations are juggled as this sort of practice does not reinforce what your brand stands for. So what can be done about it? How can we avoid those angry reinventing the wheel moments and help teams incorporate best practices and important information?
Corporate wikis are a great place to start as they provide various functions in order for team members to store and co-create content together. In this sense it´s important to mention that the Wiki experience is different from having intranets as they are more dynamic and users are at the center of the strategy as they are responsible for curating and creating content across the company.
Wiki software also allows you to create FAQs, manuals and other form of vital information which can also prove to be extremely helpful in the service desk sector in order to assist client requirements. For example, ticket handling and calls can become stressful when customer agents have to attend the same requirements over and over again while clients are put on hold and have no early and proactive access to information. Wikis can centralize important product or service information so that clients can search for answers themselves which in turn helps create a better customer journey with little to none bottlenecks.
Wiki software comes in many forms and prices. Open source options are available but they have one basic problem: you need extra coding hours in order to customize it so that it suits your company´s identity and security patterns. You might also have existing software and programs, so having a Wiki that can integrate with them is a must in order to avoid multiple access points. Evaluating content reuse is also important so that you can have a clear idea of what information is valuable in terms of customer service and projects. This can also help you spot trends and insights regarding your customer´s behavior. So, being able to incorporate tools such as google analytics is great.
Existing SaaS companies like ProProfs, incorporate these functions and have the advantage of being cloud based which helps reduce costs associated to storage and maintenance.
From the above we can clearly perceive the benefits of having wikis as opposed to losing valuable information and not being able to reach out properly to customers.
These type of benefits are not just meant for big business, on the contrary if you start from day one when your company is small, meeting new challenges and growth won’t be a problem since everything will be properly centralized and structured. The challenge is bigger when companies start when they are already big as the amount of information and experiences to be handled will also be greater.
In this sense make the right decision and embed wikis in to your company´s culture from day one!
"David Miller is an educational researcher who has several years of experience in the field of teaching, online testing and training. He is associated with prestigious universities and many leading educational research organizations. Currently, he is pursuing research in online knowledge base software and is also a contributing author with ProProfs."

How to use social media to grow your small business

Friday, May 20 at 09:46
Quick Guide | Social Media | Top Tips

Three quarters of SMEs are planning to implement a social media marketing plan by 2017.  But having the expertise to do this right can be challenging, especially if your time is limited.Here at Digital Mums, where we train mums to be social media managers and help businesses with social media solutions, we’ve developed a straightforward approach that will simply define your approach to social media. And it works whatever your business type.  We call it the Test, Measure, Reflect and Refine model. How it worksThe premise is simple - expand upon what works on social media and throw away everything else.  It focuses on constantly tweaking and improving on content, conversations and engagement.Step 1:  TestThink about your target customer and develop detailed user personas of who they are (to find out how to do this check out the first in our #SocialDoneRight blog series).  Then test out different approaches on social media to see what works best.  So for example;
  • push different content formats i.e. photos, videos and text
  • push different content subject matter
  • schedule posts at different times of the day and week
What you choose to test first doesn’t really matter - the important thing is to get started.Step 2:  MeasureIt’s best to wait about a week before you start analysing posts.  As nearly everything on social media can be measured (almost there Instagram!) you can establish the success of every single post.Some of the analytics can seem complicated, but they’re worth persevering with as the data is incredible. Step 3:  ReflectOnce you have your data, you’ll need to dedicate some time to really analysing  it.  Distilling key insights will really help you improve your activity, These are some of the key things to look out for:
  • Date / Time
Are there are certain times of the week or month you posts are more successful?  Perhaps the weekend is always quiet so you need to post more mid week, or vice-versa.
  • Audience/demographics
Depending on the platform you’ll get data on the people following you and even who has viewed your profile.  If you’re not quite reaching your target demographic, think again about the type of content you’re pushing out.
  • Impressions/reach
This is helpful for brand awareness as you can check how many people have seen your activity. Certain content or a big influencer sharing may mean a spoke in content.  If you see a dip you might need to post more often.
  • Engagement
The more likes, comments and shares you’re getting, then the more engaged your audience.   You should be able to see what content works best and when it’s best to post it.
  • Clicks
If you’re aiming to drive people to your website then look at the click throughs.  These analytics are also useful in establishing if brand awareness is translating into a deeper interest in your company.
  • New fans/followers
Spikes or drops could be related to the amount your posting and joining in with conversations.  You may see more followers when you use a popular hashtag or piggyback an event, in which case do it more.Step 4:  RefineOnce you have these insights you can then refine your social media activity accordingly.  Do more of what is successful and get rid of anything that hasn’t worked.Then once you’ve refined, you can begin testing again.  It’s a never-ending cycle to consistently improve your performance! It takes patience, but over time we guarantee you’ll build an engaged and strong community and truly see results from social media.
By Richard Miranda, Head of Growth at Digital Mums. For a step-by-step guide to social media for small businesses follow our #SocialDoneRight blog series over on  Join us every Thursday 11am-12pm for our #SocialDoneRight tweet chats on @DigitalMumsBiz to get advice from social media experts.

Recruiting for your small business

Wednesday, May 18 at 12:18
HR | Recruitment | Top Tips

In this day and age of evolving technology, it’s understandable that many small business owners may feel overwhelmed when they need to hire someone. There’s hundreds, maybe thousands of websites all seemingly offering a similar solution. Whether you’re a small deli looking for a barista to make a marvellous macchiato, or a growing marketing agency delving into digital, understanding how job seekers behave is the first step to success.Tip 1 - Put yourself in the jobseekers shoes (and put your job ad in their sightline)Whether it’s browsing shop windows or searching online, job seekers with different skills behave differently when they look for a job. Take a step back, think about where the person you want to hire would go to search for a job, and make sure your jobs are seen there.  Tip 2 - The growth of “specialist search engines” Take a look at this graph below using Google data. You can see in red how searches for Cheap Flights has declined over time. More people now search for specialist travel search engines such as “Kayak", than search for “Cheap Flights” on Google.
Searches for cheap flights  Searches for KayakThis trend is also happening in the search for jobs. People are now using specialist search engines for jobs, like Adzuna, to begin their search. Ensuring your jobs are on the most relevant platforms to job seekers is the best way to make sure your vacancies reach the right job seekers.Tip 3 - Advertise for Free! The first advertising you should do for any job should be free. Whether it’s sticking an ad in the window or posting the job on your website, always look to free sources first. You can even advertise your job on sites like Adzuna for free.  There’s no commitment, no contract and no credit cards needed, just a great job description and a website or email address to receive your applications.Tip 4 - Job search is everywhere - be there. The constant evolution of the internet and ability to take sophisticated technology on the move has changed the way people search for jobs. Job seekers no longer need to spend hours visiting recruitment agencies, or trawling through newspaper ads, they can search at any time, virtually anywhere, through their smartphone or tablet. Ensuring your jobs are visible on mobile is critical, especially when trying to find people who aren’t currently “desk based” workers. Adzuna is a search engine for job ads used by over 9 million visitors per month that aims to list every job, everywhere. We search thousands of websites so our users don't have to, bringing together millions of ads in one place. By providing smarter search options and powerful data about the job market, we give jobseekers the information they need to take control of their careers.  Click here to request your free job advertising account.Adzuna’s mission is to be the best place to start looking for a job.  We love using the awesome power of technology to help match people to better, more fulfilling jobs and keep Britain working.

5 Customer Experience Tips for Small Businesses

Thursday, April 28 at 18:22

Oftentimes, small businesses stand out with their exceptional customer service. In the age of mobile, customer service matters even more - many experts call it a new marketing as the word of mouth can reach thousands of people at lightning speed.
Customer service plays a huge role in a customer’s loyalty and spending. Did you know that 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they’re being treated?
If you’re a small business owner, here are some ways for you to enhance your customer experience:
1)      Be present. The business is your investment, your concept and your design. If you’re a restaurant, it’s your menu. If you’re a bookstore, you picked the books. Your business is your creation. So, be there as often as you can to represent it. Interact with customers, answer their questions, share your knowledge and experience and inspiration.
2)      Get technical. Think of marketing as an investment instead of a cost. It’s not money down the drain, it’s money dedicated to building your customer base. A lot of businesses are focusing their marketing on mobile these days:
·         Mobile apps - Mobile apps help provide a seamless customer experience, including browsing, communicating and paying for services through an app. This case study of fire alarm and safety company Critical Systems highlights how a mobile app helped this small business compete with big corporations.
·         Text marketing - SMS marketing campaigns have experienced some incredible success both for large corporations and small businesses. Texts have a nearly 100% open rate, making them the best way to reach your clients with information about sales, promotions and appointment reminders. The case study for ProspectExpert, an automotive repair company, shows how using SMS to send appointment reminders has increased their appointments by 60-80%.
3)      Get social (media). If you haven’t created a Facebook page, a Twitter account or an Instagram account for your business, it’s time to do it. Social media is where you can post photos and videos of your merchandise or events, promote sales and create events. Better yet, it’s an interactive platform for your customers, allowing them to post, comment and share, spreading the word about your business with organic reach.
4)      Get feedback. Did you know that on average, for every customer who complains, 26 other customers have remained silent? It’s really important that you give customers a chance to voice their feedback. Whether it’s a questionnaire you send via SMS or email or even on paper by the cash register, customers need to have a platform to tell you what they’re thinking. Most won’t take the time to come forward and tell you how you’re doing. You have to ask.
5)      Take care of problems quickly. There’s nothing worse for a customer than voicing a complaint and feeling like the retailer doesn’t care. Make sure your customers feel like they’re your priority by taking care of problems as quickly as possible. If someone had a bad meal at your restaurant, comp them for it that night. If someone was overcharged for an item at your store, give them back the difference immediately.
Don’t wait and don’t give them store credit. Going the extra mile to maintain a customer is worth the investment. If you doubt that, consider that it’s 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one.
For small business owners customer service should be your number one priority. Use these tips to improve your customers’ experience.
Alexa Lemzy is a customer support person and blog editor at She writes mainly about small business, customer service best practices and mobile technology. You can contact her on Twitter @Alexa_Lemzy.

Effective interviewing techniques

Friday, April 01 at 11:26

This week, Lee Parker of Parker Sourcing gives his advice for the perfect interview when hiring for your small businessThere are plenty of articles all over the internet offering tips on how to approach a job interview from a candidate’s perspective, which is great, but there seems to be a lack of help when it comes to advice for those on the other side of the table.So, this week, we’ll look at how to get the most from your interviews, and the kind of questions you should be asking in order to make a much more reasoned and logical assessment of your candidates.Of course, before doing any interviewing at all, you’ll need to attract the right people to your company!Preparation is KeyFinding the right employees for your company is a tough task, but getting it right will ultimately lead to a highly productive office and a much more successful business. It makes sense then, to be as prepared as possible before sitting anyone down in the hot-seat.A good starting point is to right down a short paragraph which sums up the role you’re looking to fill. Not only does this make you think more about the skills that will be required to carry out the job, but it acts as a constant reminder as to the position you’re hiring for, should conversation wander in a different direction at any point during the interview.You should also jot down any essential competences and experience that are essential for role, as well as reading thoroughly through the candidate’s application and CV, making note of any sections you would like to discuss further during the interview.Finally, be sure to compile a complete list of all the questions you would like to ask. It may also be a good idea to write all CV-related questions down on a separate piece of paper before meeting your candidate – you could put yourself across as unprepared if you have to keep scanning the interviewee’s CV during the interview.  Bear in mind that your possible suitors are also interviewing you as a company, so it’s important for you yourself to give a great impression.Asking the Right QuestionsTrying to determine whether a candidate could be a good fit for your company can be quite tricky. Many job hunters will be pretty clued up when it comes to interview techniques, and will be well aware of most of the questions they will be asked beforehand. This, in my eyes, makes for a false impression, because lines are rehearsed and it all becomes a bit predictable. What you really want to do is get beyond those walls and find out what kind of person you’re interviewing. To do this, you’ll have to throw in a few questions which will make the candidate stop and think for a minute, such as:What do you think working here will be like?What has working in this field taught you most about the industry?Remember, the idea here is not to fish for a right or wrong answer, but to go beyond those rehearsed standard answers to get a truer impression of the candidate, and to let their personality come through a little more.By all means, ask a few generic questions to tackle their professional experience or personal attributes, but be sure to throw in a couple of unexpected ones too.Final ThoughtsThere really isn’t a set way to interview potential employees – each case is completely different. What’s important is that you break down barriers between yourself and the candidate to form a much more accurate judgement on their potential to enhance your team.

How Your Small Business Should Go Digital

Tuesday, March 29 at 18:30
Digital | Getting Online | Top Tips

Business in the UK is growing rapidly – with small businesses in the lead. In 2015, there were 5.4 million businesses recorded in the UK, according to a report by The House of Commons. The report also states that over 99% are SMEs that employ a range of 0-249 people. A large percentage (95%) were also micro-businesses, small enterprises that employ 0-9 employees totalled 5.1 million. While businesses in the UK continue to boom, it is increasingly important to have a well-designed and developed online presence, encompassing critical Search Engine Optimisation tactics. Here are some tips for small businesses that are thinking of taking the leap and finally going digital.Why do I need a modern and up-to-date website as a small business?In this day and age, chances are the majority of your potential consumers will learn about your business through some form of digital means. Regardless of how your consumer encounters your business for the first time, they will almost certainly use an online search engine to discover more about your business.  According to a recent survey by Weebly, 56% of consumers do not trust a business that lacks an online presence. Your website will serve as a showcase for the product(s) or service(s) you provide, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A key aspect of a website is having a sleek, user-friendly platform for your current and prospective customers alike to gain information about your business. For instance, aspects such as a “Contact Us” or “About Us” page are critical to providing your audience with the information they need. What is Search Engine Optimisation?Many small businesses make the mistake of ignoring the appropriate implementation of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) tactics. Performing proper SEO tactics will help your website to rank higher on some of the top search engines in the world. The implementation of the right SEO tactics and creating an SEO-friendly website are key to the placement of your business’ website on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).What should I do to improve my website’s Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)? At MBJ, we strive to implement white-hat SEO techniques, also known as ethical SEO which are defined as the best practices to follow in order to rank highly on SERPs whilst following the guidelines provided by Google.Below are a few of MBJ’s SEO tips & tricks to keep in mind:
  • Relevant Content Creation – Ensure that your content is relevant and flows smoothly with the theme or context of the overall website. Remember to provide valuable and useful content aimed at your target audience. Additionally, it is important to ensure your content includes correct spelling and grammar. 
  • Appropriate Keywords – Keywords are phrases that users will begin their online search with. For instance, a user looking for a hotel in London will search for “London UK hotels”. When keywords are integrated into your web page’s content then the search engine will pick up on the words and rank your site for the words that are relevant to your business. Implement the usage of keywords into your content and make sure they flow naturally with the context of the page. It is best to avoid keyword stuffing, as mentioning the same words over and over again have proven to be counterproductive. Google’s algorithms have recently been updated and designed to detect web content misconduct. 
  • On-Site Blogging – If you’re wondering where all the relevant content and keywords should go on your website, consider having an on-site blog. Not only does an internal blog assist with your SEO efforts but it also provides you with the opportunity to highlight your knowledge and expertise of the industry you operate in.
  • Concise URL Structure – A clear URL structure is especially helpful when listing the products or services your business provides. Creating a custom URL allows for custom keywords to be implemented into the URL, not just a mixture of gibberish letters and numbers. For instance, is a much clearer and easier to read URL than
  • Social Media Integration – Select the social media channel(s) that best suits your company’s mission and vision. For example, businesses that are more visual in capacity tend to be better suited for platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. Search Engine Optimisation is typically interlinked with a website’s social media presence. 
Post by MBJ London, a London-based web and app development consulting company. Their mission is to help small businesses go digital and not loose out to their competitors who have. Find MBJ London on Twitter, Facebook and InstagramMBJ offers Website as a Service (WaaS), an innovative package that encompasses the design, development, maintenance, and technical aspects that are required to create a flawless web presence. It enables small businesses to have a dedicated IT department for a fraction of the cost. 

How to write the perfect job advert

Thursday, March 10 at 10:23
How To | HR | Recruitment

This week, we hear from Small Business Saturday champion Parker Sourcing about how to write a brilliant job description for your small business vacancyEvery company wants to land the best workers to help drive their business forward, which is why creating an efficient and extremely attractive job advert is very important.  On too many occasions, businesses fail to articulate the ethos of the company and specific responsibilities of the post, meaning many potential and talented candidates slip through their hands.To lure in the most creative, innovative and cutting-edge individuals, your job advertisement must be packed with reasons for candidates to contact you. But saying that, you probably won’t want Scooby Doo and the gang showing up for an interview and wasting valuable time either, so it’s all about striking the right balance to attract the people you want to hire.For example, you’re looking for someone to come in and head up your marketing team. You want them to take the bull by the horns from day one and create some great, catchy and viral advertising campaigns to really drive your business forward. However, you’re also a very flexible and team-orientated company who loves to get staff helping out across multiple departments. Would you really want to employ a marketing guru who had a less-than-positive attitude towards customer services?It’s essential that you make your job requirements clear to the reader in order to attract the right people for the job and to whittle out anyone who probably won’t fit the bill. If you’re on the lookout for a technically savvy developer for your I.T department, who can also provide the rest of the company with computer training, then you’ll need that person to be a confident communicator and not just a heads-down coding wizard.Is your company a fun, challenging or rewarding place to work? Let people know about it upfront, so they can picture themselves in the role. Be positive about the culture of the organization to have people really wanting to work for you. Put yourselves in their situation; they’re looking for a place where they can connect with the people around them; an environment they can look forward to working in every day when they wake up in the morning. Capture the personality of your company, and you’re well on your way to attracting the right candidates for your post.It’s not always easy to remember what information to include in when you post a job online, so to make sure you have everything covered, work your way through this list before you click ‘submit’:1. Have you included a clear job title for the position?2. Have you supplied a definite list of educational requirements and experience required to take on the job?3. Have you outlined a salary range for the position?4. Have you included the amount of working hours required per week?5. Have you listed a transparent set of duties that the role involves?For more hiring advice, read Lee Parker's previous blog post: Why Job Descriptions Matter

Hiring a VA: What's it all about?

Wednesday, March 02 at 13:11
Collaboration | How To

We speak to Small Biz 100 Alumnus and Champion Agile Administration about the benefits of hiring a Virtual Assistant...As businesses are expanding, many owners are increasingly using the services of Virtual Assistants. We all juggle the work-life balance and don’t always have the time to take care of everything on the to-do list.  A Virtual Assistant can help with that!There are lots of benefits to using a VA, one being that there are no additional overheads for you. We work independently from our own premises, ensuring that you will only be paying for the actual time that you use our services. You will not be paying for someone’s time when there is nothing to do, or for someone who is late to work or on a coffee break, or if someone is on holiday or off sick.When you hire a VA, you don't have to think about PAYE, National Insurance or agency fees, providing a desk, a phone or training up new staff.Another key benefit of using a VA is that we are available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, which is perfect for those emergency jobs when your secretary or office assistant may have already left for the day and you urgently need work completing. Perhaps you just need occasional cover for employees who are on holiday or off sick so that the work doesn't pile up.Using these services will give you the time to focus on your core business activities rather than spending it on time-consuming administrative tasks, whilst having the assurance of a professional, confidential and flexible service available to you at all times.All assignments can be delivered and returned by email, post, courier or by hand (locally only), to suit you. It really doesn’t matter where you are located, the advantage of using Virtual Assistant services means we can assist you wherever you are. Some of the recent projects that we have worked on have included:Writing press releases, PR/print and media, event managementActing as an agent for a talented act in the music industryDigitalising paper records and creating new systemsWorking on an app currently in developmentBookkeepingMentoring authors with social media training with a view to them understanding self-promotionDigital audio transcription servicesActing as Marketing Director for a publishing companyReformatting of HR policies for HR consultantsLead generation work for a voiceover artistSetting up and managing social media platforms and website management for a property development companyA Virtual Assistant can help your small business by offering executive, concierge and business support services!
Whatever your business needs, Agile Administration Services is here to help you lighten the load.We have worked with clients as far south as Surrey, as far north as Dundee and overseas and are delighted to not only have been selected as a Small Biz 100 business by Small Business Saturday in 2014, but since then have been asked to be Small Business Saturday Champions in 2015 and 2016For a no obligation free chat please contact me on 07772733349, Cathy Wright, Director of Agile Administration Services. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn & the website 

Surviving and thriving as a small business

Friday, February 26 at 10:34

We hear from The Protection People about insurance protection for a small business:
Every day, we speak to business owners across the country that are looking to safeguard their commercial future through the use of protection insurance products.Yet we only manage to speak to a fraction of those who really need protection – with recent statistics from Legal & General stating that only 5% of business owners have put insurance in place to protect their “key people”.Ask yourself the question:  “If I lost one of the key people from within my business, be they a director, salesperson, engineer or manager, would my business be able to survive and thrive in the immediate aftermath of that loss?” For most SME’s, unaware of the protection solutions available to them, the answer to that question would be a resounding “No”.The reality is, with around 79% of SME’s having 3 directors or less, it goes without saying that these businesses would be put under significant pressure if the worst happened and they lost one of their key people. When you lose a key person from a business, unfortunately there is more than just the emotional upheaval to worry about.  You will need to advertise for, recruit, induct, train and mentor a replacement and this is before you consider any potential loss of profit brought on by the unforeseen absence of the aforementioned key person.Recent research found that approximately 40% of SME’s across the UK would cease trading within 12 months of the death of a key person.  This statistic alone should make business owners across the country sit up and take notice of the need for robust continuation planning.With the financial crisis still a not too distant memory, and the economy seemingly stuttering along from quarter to quarter, now is a more pertinent time than ever to ensure your business is protected from risks which are relatively easy and affordable to mitigate against.One of the businesses we spoke to this week had decided to insure their top account manager against both death and critical illness.  They had done this as this one individual contributed in the region of 28% of their gross profit month on month.  They told us that without this account manager, they would suffer financially as their profit margin was tight and they would have to use an executive recruitment firm to source a replacement which can be extremely costly.A simple Key Person policy can insure against such risks.  You can insure your business against a sudden loss of profits and the cost of replacing a member of the team.  Putting a continuation plan in place will give you and your business the financial space to breathe should the worst happen, so you can make sensible measured decisions, not rushed ones.At The Protection People we specialise in formulating continuity plans for business of all shapes and sizes, regardless of the type of industry.  Quite simply, our job is to find the right solution for your business so you have peace of mind at a price you can afford.  For free impartial advice tailored to your business, speak to one of our qualified business protection consultants on 0808 281 9393.  We’re here to help.For more information visit

Why job descriptions matter

Tuesday, February 23 at 11:28
How To | Recruitment | Small Business

This week, we hear from Small Business Saturday champion Parker Sourcing about why writing a job description matters in order to find the best people for your small business
According to a recent study carried out by, job seekers are now willing to travel larger distances to attend job interviews. The research shows that, in fact, those looking for work will travel up to around 72 miles for the chance to shine in front of prospective employers.What’s more, the study also finds that job-hunters now spend much longer preparing for interviews than they did last year, with 44% putting at least two hours into planning and company research for each job opportunity. That’s a fairly large 12% increase on the previous year, showing that candidates are realizing the competition for jobs and are equally putting their foot on the gas – quite literally – to leverage themselves onto a higher platform.The figures also mean that some businesses must look at the interview stage of recruitment a little more seriously rather than flippantly. With candidates now putting in the extra mile to impress prospective employers, it’s important that company’s hone their interview techniques too, and provide each potential employee with a fair and dedicated experience. For more information, please refer to our guide next week on writing a job description.Additionally, companies should keep in mind their location when advertising on job boards. That is, if a job seeker is willing to travel further to your premises, then it makes sense to target those within a wider locale.
Next week, Parker Sourcing will give tips for writing the perfect job description for your role, here on the Small Business Saturday blog 

Music makeover

Tuesday, February 09 at 16:37

We spoke to PRS about an exciting competition for small business pubs they are re-launching in 2016: Music Makeover!"PRS for Music’s Music Makeover competition launched in 2000 with the specific aim of helping pubs with their live music offer.Independent research has shown that pubs using live music increased their revenue by 9 percent compared to pubs without live music*. In a time where pubs are struggling, a live music offer can be vital.Most of PRS for Music’s top members started their careers playing in small live music venues which is why PRS for Music feels so passionately about the value live music can bring. The Music Makeover competition helps the winning pubs reap the rewards of live music in their venues.The competition has annually rewarded a winning UK pub with a Music Makeover comprising a £10,000 prize alongside a bespoke music consultancy from a leading expert and is celebrated with a high profile event featuring performances from key PRS for Music members.For 2016, PRS for Music is working alongside key trade titles to promote the winning prize of a £10,000 makeover alongside second and third places (£5,000 Music Makeover and £2,500 Music Makeover respectively). Historically, the prize money has been spent on new live equipment or installing a high-end sound system with previous winners quickly seeing the positive impact on both their takings and reputation as a live music venue.Ed & Elisha Sproat, landlord & lady of The Hickory Inn, Tiverton, Devon – 2015 winners“There is no way we would’ve had this opportunity without PRS for Music. We wouldn’t have gotten to this stage so quickly – a lot of bands don’t have the ability to bring in equipment like this. It will be a real positive thing to get bands that haven’t performed in many venues before.”As well as the cash prize, PRS for Music organises an exclusive event in the winning pub featuring key PRS for Music members. Last year’s winning event featured live performances from rock band Brother & Bones and indie/pop band D.I.D (Dog Is Dead) creating a large buzz around the venue.Rich Thomas, Brother & Bones’ lead vocalist “Small venues and pubs are where everything starts. Doesn’t matter if you’re Led Zeppelin or whoever the bands are throughout history, you don’t start at Wembley - hopefully this will be encouragement for other bigger organisations to do the same. With the help of PRS for Music, Ed & Elisha can help passionate musicians in pubs, they can try and get more bands and music through the door.”So do you think your pub would benefit from a Music Makeover? To enter you need to:1. Have a valid PRS for Music licence2. Submit a 60 second video telling us why your pub would benefit from a £10,000 Music Makeover (the video can be filmed on a phone – it’s what you say that counts)For full details on how to enter, including previous winner information and full terms & conditions, please go to: is Friday 25th March at 5pmAbout PRS for MusicPRS for Music is a society of around 1154,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers – its members. It represents the rights of these members by licensing organisations to play, perform or make available music. It then distributes royalties to those members and societies fairly and efficiently.*Research conducted by CGA Strategy Limited on behalf of PRS for Music showed that wet-led pubs with live music, when compared to similar pubs without live music, experienced an increase of 9 percent in additional revenue over the year due to its live music offer (of no more than once a month).* The report can be found on

Five things all SMEs should know when applying for funding

Monday, February 08 at 15:08
Finance | Small Business | Top Tips

1. Business Plan
Never under-estimate the value of producing a comprehensive business plan; it does two things. First, it is a good discipline for the company’s management because it forces them to understand what they need, to think about why they need it and in what form; e.g. should they be looking for an overdraft or a term loan? Second, and most important of all, it demonstrates to a lender that the management understands its business and takes the lending process seriously.2. Understand your cashflow
A realistic cashflow forecast is probably the most crucial element in a business’s financial arsenal. Understanding where the cash goes allows a business to identify what the money is needed for. It might be to finance growth through the purchase of machinery or another asset, or to provide day- to-day working capital? Either way, you can guarantee that the lender will need assurance that (a) you understand what the money is needed for, how much and for how long and (b) that your business will generate sufficient surplus to pay the money back when you say you will. 3. Know when to apply to fundingOften new or small businesses wait too long to apply for funding, resulting in the business being put under financial pressure and making a rushed decision that could end in a poor choice of lender or type of finance; e.g. in certain circumstances, a term loan could be a better solution than, say, invoice discounting, or vice versa. Going with a lender that can get the job done quickly is just one aspect; other considerations include the level of flexibility the lender can extend you in terms of repayments and the cost of the finance.4. Know the funding marketWith increasingly niche funding solutions available, businesses may need an adviser they can call on for advice and market knowledge, directing them to the right type of financing for their short, medium and long term needs. 
Historically, this adviser may have been a bank manager or accountant, but a growing business should also consider a commercial finance broker, as the expansion of the Alternative Finance sector has meant more funding options than ever are open to SMEs. A good adviser will understand the market and steer you towards the right lender and the most appropriate type of funding to suit your particular circumstances.
An alternative way to search for an appropriate lender is to use the aggregators’ site. Typically they offer no advice but highlight appropriate lending products for an SME’s requirements.5. Don’t be afraid to shop aroundBeing turned down for funding by your own bank does not have to be the end of the story. There is a whole new generation of lenders in the marketplace who may be able to help you. The new lenders can move quickly and thoroughly. Make sure your lender is transparent with costs, personal in approach and takes the time to understand your business. Don’t be afraid to look around the market, possibly with the help of a reputable finance broker.Written by Credit4. Visit their homepage or call 020 3637 0570 for further information. Don’t miss the Small Business Saturday Inspire Series, ‘Accessing finance for your small business’ a free workshop on 9th February. Register here or follow @SmallBizSatUK for updates.

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