Small Business Saturday Blog

Say Hello to the 2017 Small Business Saturday Champions

Thursday, August 31 at 16:15Small 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 comms@smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com if you would like to connect with a champion in your area.

Lee Parker, Parker Sourcing, Greater Manchester
Yvonne Gorman, Essential Print Services, Derbyshire
Alison Edgar, Sales Coaching Solutions, Wiltshire
Becky Sebright, Lady Bakewell Park, Essex
Alice Malcolm-Green, Wick & Tallow, Greater London
Adam Balfour, Buffoon Film & Media, Neath Port Talbot
Elaine Pritchard, Caittom Publishing, Staffordshire
Rich Brady, Recruit Packs, Denbighshire
Karina Pedomo, Quick Brown Fox, Greater London
Faye Dicker, Freelance Mum, Somerset
Russell Pullan and Albert Chau, Fifth Dimension Chocolates, Greater London
Sara Parker, Face for Business, Lancashire
Ruth Pringle, Pringle Accountants, Lancashire
Bala Croman, The Chocolate Cellar, Merseyside
Gail Bryden, JustBe Botanicals, City of Edinburgh
Alistair Bell, Muddy Farm Models, County Antrim
Rowena Howie, Revival Retro, Greater London
Precious Jason, Etieno Skincare, Greater London
Sanjay Aggarwal, Spice Kitchen, Birmingham
Jo Smedley, Red Herring Games, Lincolnshire
Claire Hearn, Rose & Olive, Kent
Hayley Williams, Keystone Marketing, Oxfordshire
Liz Wilson, Ma Baker, Greater London
Sam Hale, Advance Performance, Cambridgeshire
Colleen Wong, TechSixtyFour, Greater London
Martha Keith, Love Give Ink, Greater London
Carolyn Frank, Libby Butler Jewellers, Yorkshire
Rachel Gilbertson Roxiie's Treasures Liverpool






5 ways to save money on your business energy

Tuesday, August 29 at 16:16Small 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 equipment

Replace 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 Businesscomparison.com. Steph has vast experience within the energy industry, previously working at Moneysupermarket.com for 9 years on sales, operations & commercial. Businesscomparison.com 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 15:06Branding | 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

How Small Businesses Should Deal With Adversity

Monday, July 24 at 10:28Inspiration | 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 10:56Digital | 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 signatures

If 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 book

A 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.

Five Tips to Effectively Market your Business

Monday, January 09 at 10:50Digital | 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 website
Most 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 calendar
Have 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 media
Why 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 front
If 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 video
The 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.

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

Thursday, December 08 at 10:40Small 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 in
communities 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 10:32Brand | 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 profit
Exhibiting 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 places
Being 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 roof
One 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 awareness
Although 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 feedback
Being 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.









Practical advice from Acas to help small businesses succeed

Wednesday, November 30 at 17:18Small 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 16:53Small 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 https://www.pensionsolution.co.uk

See 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

A Pension Solution for small businesses tackling automatic enrolment

Tuesday, December 01 at 10:11Finance | Quick Guide | Small Business | Small Business Saturday | Small Business Saturday 2015 | Top Tips

Joanne Segars, Chief Executive of The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, highlights how small businesses can prepare for automatic enrolment.


Automatic enrolment will require every UK employer to put certain staff into a pension scheme and contribute towards it. We know this may seem a daunting task, which is why we've launched Pension Solution. It has been designed specifically for small employers, to take the hard work out of implementing a workplace pension scheme for the first time.

Planning and preparing for automatic enrolment means thinking ahead: what you need, and whose help will make it easier to complete key tasks and estimate costs. These are the key steps I’d recommend to take when getting your small business ready for automatic enrolment:

  • Find out your staging and declaration date  using your PAYE reference from The Pension Regulator’s website
  • Go through a step by step guide to setting up, get familiar with what automatic enrolment means for you and your workplace.
  • Research and select a pension provider that suits your needs
  • Communicate and explain how automatic enrolment will affect your workforce 

Pension Solution helps with each of these steps. The online service will provide the know-how and tools you need to tackle automatic enrolment confidently and successfully. We also offer access to a free half-day face to face training course for those who prefer the human touch.

We’re delighted to be supporting Small Business Saturday for the first time this year because we recognise the vital role small businesses play in the UK economy.

Over 67,ooo employers have already enrolled their staff into a workplace pension, with 5.5million employees now benefitting from a workplace pension and saving for retirement. 1.8 million small and micro employer workers will now join over the next three years if they earn £10,000 or more a year, increasing the amount that is being saved in workplace pensions by around £15 billion a year, according to the DWP Automatic Enrolment evaluation report 2015.

Through Pension Solution we are bringing 90 years of expertise in workplace pensions to help small businesses through automatic enrolment and beyond. It is our status as an independent not-for-profit trade organisation with an impartial view that makes us different.

Automatic enrolment is our best chance of getting the nation into the habit of saving for retirement, and we must focus on making the process as straightforward as possible for small businesses like you in particular.

Pension Solution does just that and we warmly invite you to join our membership on Small Business Saturday so that we can help, represent and work for you.

The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association will be supporting Small Business Saturday UK on 5th December 2015 by offering a 70% discount on the normal £49 subscription to join Pension Solution as a member. Use voucher code BIZSAT1 when joining online. Follow us on Twitter: @SolutionPension

Meet the businesses on the bus: Gough Quarters

Thursday, November 26 at 07:51Bus Tour | Inspiration | Small Business | Small Business Saturday | Small Business Saturday 2015

The Small Business Saturday Bus Tour is now under way! The tour is supported by TalkTalk Business and we are delighted to feature the logos of fifty TalkTalk Business customers on the #SmallBizSatUK bus!

Hear from Aaron Gough of Gough Quarters, a Bristol-based business featured on the bus...

What is your small business?
A property management and lettings agency

Where did you get idea to start your business? 
Having worked for a property management company for five years, my knowledge of the market meant I could start on my own and provide a high level of customer service.

What's the best thing about working for a small business?
The flexibility to provide a tailor made service of what is required rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

What makes your business unique?
We keep as much as possible ‘in house’ – as little as possible outsourcing to third parties. From reference checks to inventory’s everything is carried out by us meaning that we know our properties inside out.

Meet the Businesses on the Bus: Recipe

Friday, November 20 at 12:08Bus Tour | Inspiration | Small Business | Small Business Saturday | Small Business Saturday 2015


What is your small business? 
We are an independent advertising agency called Recipe.

Where did you get idea to start your business? 
In 2004 we saw a gap in the market to produce cost effective TV commercials for smaller brands. For the first time they could advertise on cheaper niche tv channels due to the introduction of Freeview and the expanding Sky platform but couldn't get cheap adverts made.

When did the business begin? 
Three of us started the agency in 2004 from one of our founders bedroom and we've been growing organically ever since. We now have two offices in the West End and employ 35 people.

What's the best thing about working for a small business?
We're able to adapt to ever changing market conditions faster than the competition which gives us the edge. The advertising landscape is constantly changing with the frequent introduction of disruptive technologies and we need to constantly evolve to keep ahead of the trend.

What makes your business unique? 
We're the only agency I know that started with three founders who had no experience in the advertising industry. This has meant we've developed a less bureaucratic and more efficient way of working which our clients love and can't be found at other companies.

Meet the businesses on the bus: Riverside Dental

Tuesday, November 17 at 09:48Bus Tour | Inspiration | Small Business Saturday | Small Business Saturday 2015

The Small Business Saturday Bus Tour is now under way! The tour is supported by TalkTalk Business and we are delighted to feature the logos of fifty TalkTalk Business customers on the #SmallBizSatUK bus!

Hear from Bim Sawhney of Riverside Dental, one of the businesses featured on the bus...

What is your small business?
Riverside Dental is a state of the art, modern, award winning dental practice in Norwich city centre.

Where did you get idea to start your business? 
I always wanted to have my own business and did not to work for other people long term. As a dentist, my ambition was to always set up my own practice!

When did the business begin?
11-11-11! 4 years ago!

What's the best thing about working for a small business?
Being responsible for the day to day running and seeing how the business flourishes over the years. There is no better feeling as a business owner walking in every morning to see the fantastic team we have assembled and interacting with our loyal patient base.

What makes your business special?
The team, patients, premises, location and our work ethic. These are the reasons we have achieved what we have done and won the awards we have. To find out more see our website www.riversidedental.co.uk and follow us on Twitter


Spot the Riverside Dental Logo!


Making the most of Small Business Saturday in the big city

Wednesday, November 11 at 14:38Collaboration | Inspiration | Small Business | Small Business Saturday | Small Business Saturday 2015

Birmingham has a great reputation for its retail repertoire: with the iconic Bullring, the newly opened Grand Central, and the recently refurbished Mailbox; the second city has cemented its place on the map for being a shopaholic’s heaven. However, perhaps Birmingham’s best-kept secret is its thriving small business scene. In recent years, Birmingham has made moves to embrace its independents.  Initiatives like Joe Schuppler’s citywide loyalty card, Independent Birmingham, have helped locals and visitors alike to swap big businesses for lesser known shops, restaurants, and cafés.

One of the pioneers in the push for supporting independent retail was, and still is, Great Western Arcade. Built in 1876, the Grade-II listed Victorian arcade was restored in 1984 and has since been voted Birmingham’s favourite building. Set right in the heart of the city, GWA is the home of independent retail, representing a step away from the high street, into an emporium of unique brands. The centre houses around 40 of Birmingham’s best-loved small businesses and is a modern day treasure trove. GWA offers everything from freshly made food and the finest wines, to hand-made trinkets and high-end goods from hand-selected designers. Though the businesses may be small, they are not to be underestimated, as many have been recognised both regionally and nationally by various award boards: GWA’s Loki is the most awarded wine merchant in Birmingham having won 11 major national awards in the past two years, whilst traditional delicatessen Anderson & Hill has been profiled by the Guardian as one of the best budget eateries in the city. The arcade has also recently welcomed luxury accessories store Peter Forson and will soon play host to leading lifestyle and menswear brand P&Co. GWA has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and there seems to be no sign of stopping anytime soon.

Opportunities like Small Business Saturday present GWA with the much-needed and appreciated platform to shout about all that they have to offer. The GWA is choosing to celebrate the day as a collective body, rather than as separate shops.

The general premise concentrates on trading out to get trade in, something that GWA’s central location will lend itself to nicely. The arcade is a popular thoroughfare given its proximity to the city’s major stations, particularly for commuters in the surrounding Colmore Business District, which alone has 35,000 professionals. In recent years, a huge focus for us has been making GWA a destination in its own right. For Small Business Saturday, we want to consolidate this, creating a market-vibe in the arcade itself and showing Birmingham what GWA is all about.

Whilst we are keen to be seen as a whole centre, we are equally eager for each seller to be able to express their image in their own way. With such a wide-range of retailers comes a wide-range of activities. For example, the well-loved Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe is planning to give shoppers a taste of something sweet, having special guests from Alice in Wonderland hand out a selection of pick’n’mix treats.

With the spotlight already on Birmingham’s thriving business scene, Small Business Saturday is set to see GWA shine.

The sky's the limit

Monday, October 26 at 15:53Federation Of Small Business | Fsb | Small Business Saturday

John Allan, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses tell us about their plans to support and celebrate Small Business Saturday this year.

"The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is a proud supporter of Small Business Saturday. We know from our research that for every £1 spent locally, £1.76 is placed back into the local economy, underlining the important contribution made by small firms to their communities.

We have encouraged our members to enter the Small Biz 100 campaign and over a quarter of those that have been selected are FSB members. I will personally be visiting some of these winners over the upcoming months and celebrating their achievement with them.

We are also working with MPs, on a cross party basis, to encourage them to visit the interesting, unique, and diverse businesses we have in our membership. In one area we are even hiring out a mini bus with the local MP as part of a tour of small firms. We are also working with local councils, many of whom have agreed support such as free parking on Small Business Saturday.

As experts in business, we will be supporting the Small Business Saturday bus tour stops. Alongside these, we will be facilitating advice and networking sessions for local businesses. This will be accompanied with a virtual social media campaign to raise awareness amongst local firms in each town as it arrives.

Our activities are as diverse as organising a market in Trafford with the leader of the council to running a ‘flash conga’ session for small businesses in Birmingham. In my own neck of the woods of Merseyside, we are running a ‘local at Christmas’ campaign to include a market at Knowlsey, setting up a Christmas tree in Sefton and organising the Christmas lights switch on at Southport.

Meanwhile in London and South Yorkshire, we are organising a ‘selfie challenge’ with councillors and MPs and for my own part, I will be taking the plunge and marking Small Business Saturday by doing a skydive for charity. Watch this space....

This is just a flavour of some of the many exciting things the FSB is up to in support of Small Business Saturday and I urge others to get behind the campaign and celebrate small firms."

Five ways to better know your customers

Thursday, October 15 at 12:33Events | Research | Small Business Saturday

Using Research Methods for a Better Understanding of Your Customers 

At Who London we constantly research to make sure our events are fun and diverse for our customers. In today’s world where there are so many options for consumers, we have to listen to what our clients are telling us. We shouldn’t forget to really research our audience and not just our market space; take the time to ask potential customers how your product or service could suit them.

Here is an outline of ways to use research methods to better understand your customers. With all research methods do remember to decide if your findings will be confidential and let potential respondents know if they are or not.

Primary and Secondary Analysis
The first step and continued approach for best business practice would be to find data and documents both online and offline and analyse them to see how you could develop or change what you offer. You could use statistics, newspapers, forums and social media to shed new light on topics. It’s vital that we keep abreast of improving our services for our customers.

London changes all the time with new restaurants and courses on offer, so this is something we at Who London research continuously.

Interviews/1-2-1s
These can be useful on an ongoing basis and can be casual as well. For a more formal approach you can set up interviews with an individual and make them as structured or unstructured as you like, i.e. think about if it’s most appropriate to have closed questions such as “Do you like eating out?” Or for more open-ended questions you could ask “What type of restaurants do you like?”

If set interviews are not something that is appropriate for your business, why not ask people you meet for their thoughts and ideas, or simply discuss your venture with them and see what they reply? We’re always talking to new people and this can provide so much interesting and valuable information.

Focus Groups
These groups usually range from 4-12 people and they work as discussion groups because they’re used for understanding group dynamics for a particular topic. Focus groups are perfect for Who London as we are about people interacting in social groups at our events. Focus groups can have some structure but this research method’s strength is that with them you can see where points deviate to without leading respondents into areas that you believe are most important. Some participants will be more vocal than others, so try and make everybody feel naturally comfortable, whether it’s by introductions or even offering drinks and nibbles.

Observation
You might be able to study individuals or groups and learn this way. You could also think about participant observation where you would become part of e.g. joining a dining club to understand how they’re formed, what they’re like first hand and how, looking outwards, you personally feel part of the group. If you do this, think particularly about ethics during your planning stage.

Surveys
These are great for giving anonymity to respondents if needed. For instance, you might feel you’ll gain honest in-depth answers if the respondent knows that you’re not able to assign answers to respondents. They’re also time-efficient in collecting responses.  However, like with all other research methods, they require more planning than usually initially thought.  For instance when you’re devising your questions, be careful not to ask two questions at the same time, e.g. “Have you gone to a restaurant in the last week and do you have any favourite restaurants?”

Try not to be ambiguous with wording or phrases because we all have a different comprehension of the English language after all – simple is the key! Surveys are great for feedback too. You can even ask if you could use comments given here as testimonials on your website (just get permission to use their name/s and location). At Who London we like to keep our after events feedback questions quite open-ended so that the attendee can really say what’s on their mind and we don’t assume anything.

Good thorough research should be done at least yearly, but that doesn’t mean you should entirely refrain from it at all other times. Research can be done in bite-sized chunks within this timeframe too – for example you might like to solely research which special offers appeal to your customers during the Christmas period. Whatever stage your business is at, don’t be afraid to change and add things in response to what your ongoing research tells you.

The good news is research is an enjoyable way to uncover new insights and results to ensure you’re fulfilling customer needs, the lifeline of your business. Make sure you show your customers they’re your priority.


In 2014 Alexandra Felce launched Who London, the London social events organisation for anyone 50+. To find out more visit www.wholondon.co.uk
























Is your website doing what it should?

Monday, October 12 at 12:37Getting Online | Small Business | Small Business Saturday


Joel Calliste, co-founder of Small Biz 100 Smart Little Web gives five important tips for a successful small business website:

A website should be far more than just a tick in the box. It’s a chance to have your business showcased and explained perfectly to your target audience.

Imagine how often you realise you need a product or service and turn to Google for help. And what do you do when you take a look at a website it’s found for you?

If you’re anything like me, you quickly run through your internal criteria to match whether it’s right for what you’re looking for and leave the site quickly if it’s not.

Your small business website needs to focus on helping website visitors understand quickly that you’re relevant to them and encourage them to stay and browse. This should help lead to the all-important conversion from online visitor to an enquiry,  if not an actual customer.

First Thing’s First: Who are you and what do you do? 

It’s seriously this easy, yet so many websites don’t include these fundamental details on their homepage. Back this up with a supporting image that tells your business story for you and you already have a strong start.

Make it Easy to Navigate: and pick-up important information

Being clear and transparent about your business should be replicated on each page of your site. And guiding your visitors with easy navigation is a must. This means keeping it simple and straight-forward.

When it comes to setting out your navigation, imagine a blank piece of paper with the different parts of your business jotted down. Your history and today’s team, your products or services, your location and how to get in touch…. and in each section, in simple language, tell your story. These then become each page on your website. It doesn’t need a lot of words. In fact, the fewer the better!

Also think about joining up where two sections meet - if something on one page is relevant to another - then link the pages with an explanation eg. ‘if you want to know more take a look at…’

Make sure you refer to where you’re based, where your customers are based (if this differs), and who your customers tend to be. Help your visitors to understand that they fit into your box as much as you fit into theirs.

And most importantly, remember that a visitor might land on a specific page of your website and it could be the only page they read. Each page should convey who you are, what you are and how you do it in some way.

Be Transparent: encourage interest

It’s not just about simple messaging, but personality can really help with transparency too. We want to know who we might be doing business with. So think about bringing personality to your website - who are the key people in the team? What are they most passionate about? Include profile shots of individuals and also working if possible.

Help your visitors to easily piece together your story and get a good feel for the people behind the business.

Every small business website should also include a price page. Let’s be honest, we all want to know how much something will cost. Now, I know there are service businesses that can only provide a cost with a proposal but saying this on a price page is completely fine! At least your visitor will understand how you work. Do try to include a couple of ball-park figures where possible though.

And if you have a physical presence please make sure you include your address and a map on your site. Help your online visitor become an offline customer by encouraging them to visit you - and make it easy to do so.

Building Trust: add extra reassurance

Building trust is really important. And there are actually many ways you can achieve this. It helps a visitor to know who your customers are, or at least what they think of you. So testimonials are a great way to help with reassurance. But there are other ways to prove your credibility, especially if you’re a new business. Include the names and logos of partnerships, affiliations or perhaps even suppliers. This all helps to tell your wider business story.

Obviously, if you’re also lucky enough to have been nominated for an award - and definitely if you won - include it!

Call To Action: they’re interested - what should they do now? 

It’s not enough to have a telephone number or email address on your contact page. Yes, most of us know where to look if we want to get in touch. But having a clear Call to Action (CTA) not only helps the visitor with the next step, it can also guide them to do what you want them to do.

Want them to call you to book an appointment? Say it! Want them to sign-up to your newsletter? Do it! Think about the way you want them to get in touch with you and make it really obvious - on each page.

Smart Little Web are a next-generation website platform. The platform is tailored 100% to the needs of small businesses and focuses on guiding a small business on what to put on the website, not just how to build it. For more from Smart Little Web visit their website and blog.



Our purpose and the importance of small business

Friday, May 15 at 15:07Inspiration | Small Business Saturday

‘People of Portobello’ is a lifestyle project creating a photographic library, with supporting interviews, to capture the community and culture of the Portobello Road area in London.

It is intended as a celebration of a wonderful collection of people and it is also a message on the value of community, and diversity within that community. We believe in the importance of understanding and immersing ourselves in what is different and new. Celebrating examples of this, such as Portobello Road, is one way to send that message.

Small independent businesses play a massively important role within any local community, but even more so in Portobello. They focus and retain investment within an area, and offer cultural value to customers and communities through original and varied experiences.

A large proportion of our interviewees are small business owners and we love to celebrate what they do and why they do it in Portobello Road - we should all try to take the opportunity to support local businesses whenever we can!

Some lessons from Portobello Road for other small businesses


Small businesses can benefit from planning strategically about how to make the most of their unique position. There are many competitive advantages to being a small business and in Portobello Road I’ve found that the most successful small businesses have taken these into consideration:

Move Quickly  

Your advantage of being small means you can make decisions, implement them and move forward quickly; whether they be strategic, marketing or operational. Make the most of that.

Be ‘Close’ to the Customer

In a small organisation, you, as the decision maker, have the advantage of seeing your customer face to face regularly. Use this interaction as an opportunity to understand, and meet, your customer’s needs.

Be Unique 

Ultimately customers want to try new things and experiences but may have fallen out of the habit. Re-introduce them to the value of ‘the new’, whilst remaining accessible and approachable.


Simon Hardy, People of Portobello

Simon and the People of Portobello team will be joining the Inspire series on 16th May and conducting interviews and photography of the event: @PoPortobello 

The Inspire Series Comes to Colchester

Monday, April 27 at 17:10Small Business Saturday

The Small Business Saturday Inspire Series travelled to Essex on Tuesday for a lively and helpful workshop with PR expert Amanda Ruiz. The event was held in the lovely Minories art gallery in Colchester.

Amanda shared great tips on how small businesses can get into the press, including timing press releases with national holidays (such as Small Business Saturday!), writing press releases after winning an award or competition and monitoring industry opinion pieces and joining the conversation.

Amanda encouraged small businesses to think of ‘golden nuggets’, interesting press hooks that make their business stand out from the crowd. Small businesses should use these nuggets to gain the attention of journalists. Have you rubbed shoulders with a celebrity? Why did you start your small business? What is unique about your business? Everyone has an interesting story to tell! You can download this form to help you discover your business’ golden nuggets.

Catch up with the talk on YouTube: ‘I am #Visible: How to Find Your Press Hook

A special congratulations to Faye Dicker of Freelance Mum for winning a box of chocolates from Fifth Dimension Chocolates! Make sure you tune in online for the next Inspire Series workshop for your chance to win a delicious prize.

The Inspire Series will continue in May. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to stay up-to-date.

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