Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Five million small businesses - and my five fantastic years

It's five years, almost to the day, since I took the leap of faith and started my own business. I've never regretted it for a second.

A few months ago I was wondering what I could do to celebrate this milestone, but thanks to Small Business Saturday UK that's all sorted now.

I've been a massive fan of the Small Business Saturday UK concept since I first heard Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna talk about it at a conference held by the Federation of Small Businesses.

This year, the third annual Small Business Saturday takes place in the UK on December 5 and it's a day dedicated to celebrating small businesses and encouraging people to make a special effort to spend money with independent small businesses on that day.

This year, I thought I'd fill in an application form to be considered as one of 2015's Small Business Saturday 100. There were lots of questions to answer about what I did, what I thought about small businesses and what I did to support other small businesses. I thought no more about it - and then in August came the email that said I was one of the 100 for 2015.

So what is the #SmallBiz100?

For the 100 days leading up to this year's Small Business Saturday on December 5, a different UK small business is featured each day on the campaign's website and across social media.

Look out for me on September 30, my day in the spotlight, on the Small Business Saturday Facebook page, their Twitter feed (keep an eye out for the hashtag #SmallBiz100), Google+ and of course on the campaign website's own calendar. In previous years the SmallBiz100 have been invited down to London, so I'm currently waiting to hear if there might be a similar opportunity this year. I will certainly be meeting up with the campaign bus on its travels this autumn.

What's the point of Small Business Saturday UK anyway?

Small Business Saturday is the UK's most successful small business campaign. Last year 16.5 million adults went out to support a small business on Small Business Saturday with 64% of the UK being aware of the campaign.

It's worth remembering that the UK’s five million small businesses between them provide 60% of private sector jobs and nearly 50% of private sector turnover.

National Campaign Director Michelle Ovens explained: "Although the campaign focuses on one day, the goal is to have a lasting impact on small businesses by changing mind-sets, so that people make it their mission to support small businesses all year round. Most people in this country own a small business, work for a small business or know somebody who does, so supporting a small business on Small Business Saturday is absolutely personal."

Why does it matter to me?

I think one reason why I'm excited about being in the #SmallBiz100 is that it gives me an opportunity to share my story and hopefully inspire others to embark on the adventure of starting and running their own business.  I get to do what I love every day and get paid for it. Who wouldn't want to do that if they could?

Equally important to me is the opportunity to show my gratitude to all the small businesses who have been part of my journey so far.

No man, woman or business is an island and I'm proud that some wonderful small businesses have done work for me and trusted me to work for them. Now, the dilemma is do I start trying to name check them all and risk missing out someone? I think I might tackle that at some point this year - but that's a post for another day. Maybe I'll create my own Elaine's SmallBiz100? For now - thank you all for your friendship, encouragement, inspiration, service and custom.

What is coming up next?

Well, I'm proud to say that along with Alison Bradley and Lorraine Holden I'm still leading the WiRE (Women in Rural Enterprise) networking group for working women in Burton-on-Trent. We're thrilled with how the group has grown this year and by a happy coincidence there is one of our monthly meetings on Wednesday September 30 (my SmallBiz100 day). ALL women who work (paid work, self-employment or volunteer work) are welcome to join us from 7pm to 9pm at the 
Brewhouse Arts Centre, Union Street, Burton, to hear Karen McElroy of freelance PR company FCM Associates talk about how to turn PR into profit. More details are on our WireUK page.

Last year, I joined forces with FCM Associates, HR Protected and Red Door Studios to found the Burton Small Business group to keep the Small Business Saturday feeling go all year round. We've just updated our free guide for small businesses, which you can download from our website.

I'm very excited about the launch of a new LoveBurton website, which is taking place on September 22 including a Buck's Fizz reception and a buffet sponsored by Enjoy Staffordshire and website company Webb2b. I believe it will provide important new promotion and support for our local small businesses.

There are also some great plans brewing for how we'll celebrate Small Business Saturday on December 5 in Burton town centre. Watch this space. All I'll say for now is that it's got lots of legs!