I was sitting in the auditorium at Curve, Leicester, attending my first-ever Federation of Small Businesses conference. On stage was Chuka Umunna, then Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, who began to explain how he’d seen Small Business Saturday work in the United States and wanted to bring it here.
It was such a great idea that I’m delighted to say it won cross-party support and the first-ever Small Business Saturday took place in the UK on December 7, 2013. Each year since it has grown in size and influence, but if you’ve still not heard of it, let me tell you a bit more. It’s a grassroots, not-for-profit campaign supported by ALL the major political parties plus a number of major big businesses including American Express, which was responsible for launching the campaign in America in 2010.
It’s a year-round drive to showcase independent, small businesses and encourage more people to support them. The annual highlight in the UK is the first Saturday in December, which is called Small Business Saturday.
Small Business Saturday 2017 saw an estimated £748 million spent on the day with 56% of customers saying they spent more than usual on the day. More than 115,000 tweets were published about the event, with #SmallBizSatUK UK trending at number one in the UK.
Backing from local authorities was up from 80% in 2016 to 87% in 2017 with active support for the campaign.
This year, the sixth annual Small Business Saturday falls on Saturday, December
How you can get involved with Small Business Saturday
1. Go to smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com and sign-up for a free account. You can then register yourself on the FREE Small Business Finder online. Once your entry is approved, you can log in and update your profile whenever you want; add hyperlinks, offers and events.
|The Small Business Finder of the Small Business Saturday website|
2. Apply to be in this year’s #SmallBiz100. From 2013 onwards, 100 companies have been chosen each year to represent the UK’s five million plus small businesses. Each year they are highlighted across online and print media, one a day for the 100 days leading up to Small Business Saturday. For the last five years, the 100 have not only received exposure on Small Business Saturday's social media channels and in the local and national press, but also joined the Small Business Saturday team in London at receptions in both Downing Street and The Treasury Drum with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I was fortunate enough to be chosen in 2015 and it made a massive difference to my business and its profile locally, regionally and nationally. Applications this year will be open just for the month of June.
3. The more you throw yourself into the spirit of Small Business Saturday the more you will get out of it. Make sure you are shouting about the small businesses that are your customers, your suppliers and your associates on social media. I’m sure that you do that anyway, but make a special effort to talk about what makes them special and how they go the extra mile. Engage with the Small Business Saturday team on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Share and reply to their posts and tag them in when you’re talking about small business initiatives. Whether you are a family business, a local shop, an online business, a wholesaler, a business-to-business service or a small manufacturer, Small Business Saturday wants to support you.
4. Create a promotion or special offer that your business can run to celebrate Small Business Saturday. If you own a shop there will be posters and logos you can download from the Small Business Saturday website later in the year to display in your windows and show your support. You might want to offer a special discount on the day – or offer free mince pies and hot drinks to customers. If you are a business services company maybe you can also offer a discount for clients for orders placed in the week (or two) around Small Business Saturday. Perhaps you could team up with other like-minded companies to create some free advice sheets that you circulate to other local businesses. In Burton we held a ‘flash conga’ in December 2015 to show the fun side of small businesses and we got local businesses to sponsor cloth bags that we gave out (it was the year when charges came in for plastic bags).
|The Small Business Conga in 2015. Picture by Joanne Cooper Photography.|
5. You could do a tour of your favourite local, small businesses and share content about them on your blog or on social media. You could do short video clips of you talking to them about their story or just film your own video testimonial explaining why working with them is a positive experience and how they add value. This could be on the day itself, or perhaps focus on one business a day for the week leading up to Small Business Saturday. It could be your own personal #SmallBizSeven! Consumers are drawn to businesses that are generous in their support of others. Associating yourself with like-minded, quality businesses can only be a positive thing.
6. Remember Small Business Saturday is a celebration – so don’t be afraid to do something a bit different that will make you memorable. After our flash conga, we did a tour of Burton town businesses with a giant blue puppet in 2017. #BuckieLovesSmallBiz was the brainchild of Tilley Bancroft, one of the 2017 #SmallBiz100.
|Buckie with Helen of Helen's Bakehouse and Tearooms, December 2017|
7. Look out for details of the 2018 Small Business Saturday bus tour, which will be announced later this year. In recent years the bus has visited towns and cities around the UK to promote the campaign and celebrate local businesses. It has played host to activities, workshops and small businesses stands. It’s a great opportunity to go along on the day and network with other businesses and get more content that you can post on your own social media to show your support for the campaign and for other small businesses.