Small businesses make the world a more interesting place!
There’s lots being said about the decline of the high street with the focus being on the big names that made town centres look much like duplicate copies of each other – and then in some cases moved to bland out of town retail parks – adding further to the problems.
But are things changing? Take a look around the corner and you’ll discover pop-up shops, farmers markets, makers markets, art and craft fairs all showcasing small business and local producers all of whom are passionate about their products.
The supermarkets and large chains have their place and certainly contribute to the economy – but nothing compares to a specialist designer, artist or retailer – someone who not only knows their stuff inside out and is passionate about it but who also has an exciting and unique array of products on offer. It’s far more interesting stepping into a lovely craft gallery, delicatessen or cheese shop or craft gallery and discovering things in there that you’ve never seen before! There’s also something very satisfying about finding something for a gift for someone – or yourself – that you know hasn’t been mass produced.
Design is now much more accessible than it was just a couple of decades ago with the rise of the TV makeover programme bringing aesthetics into everyone’s living room and there seems to be a real demand for ‘experiences’ as people look to fill their leisure time.
The internet has also enabled people to get creative and set up their own business – a hobby or interest can easily be capitalised on with a small beginning and little investment. Growing organically by first selling on line, then progressing to local fairs can allow designers and makers to establish themselves and their brand first whilst still being supported by regular full or part-time employment.
Where do you want to be?
You need to decide what’s right for your brand and how do you see it developing – with increased competition for every centimetre of shelf space the glory of seeing your products stocked by a high-street name can be short-lived.
There’s also the “all your eggs in one basket” syndrome – it may be great to have a mahoosive order from one of the big boys, but should anything go wrong (as in the case of BHS, House of Fraser etc) then where does that leave you?
Not everyone wants to be supplying products on that level – it may not fit with your business plan – and even though expanding the business is one of your goals, you may want to keep your distribution to a smaller scale. If you’re hand-making products, then that may be one of your main USP’s that you want to continue to capitalise upon.
There’s lots of support out there…
One of the biggest problems for small businesses – and it is stating the obvious – but they all need sales to survive and for many that’s an uphill struggle. That’s why awareness initiatives – be they days, weeks or year-round campaigns – are important to highlight the plight of the smaller business.
The Just a Card campaign is an initiative run by volunteers (including a little help from Howling Moon PR!) from the creative community that runs all year and encourages everyone to get involved – designers, artists, galleries, craft shops and independent retailers alike. Then there’s March Meet the Maker, started by Joanne Hawker, a campaign using Instagram to let your followers and the wider community know all about you and what you make.
Designed to get everyone shopping in their local independent stores, there’s also Independents Day – aptly named to coincide with the big American holiday on the 4th July!
There’s been a Small Business Saturday in the UK for a number of years and they are now more active at ‘making a noise’ throughout the year.
Experts in business, The Federation of Small Business offers members a wide range of vital business services including advice, financial expertise, support and a powerful voice in government. Their mission is to help smaller businesses achieve their ambitions.
There are also lots of ways to get involved on social media too – worth a look at are the regular chats on Twitter including #handmadehour, #justacard hour (every Thursday evening) and some really interesting Instagram challenges for designers and artists which encourage month-long participation and help to build a real sense of community and support.
It’s vital to support small businesses – they really do make the world go around!
Written by Roy Mouncey, from Howling Moon PR
With over 25 years of experience in PR, Roy has worked with a diverse range of brands and products; from a Royal Milliner to hiking socks, designer fragrance to haemorrhoid cream and everything in between!
Once described by a tutor at college as a “Renaissance man” (being able to turn his hand to most things!), Roy contributes constructively to each project. As well as PR campaigns he has been creatively involved in helping businesses to develop and grow – even going as far as to design and make tea pot and hotbox covers for one client to supply to a major London hotel.
Roy enjoys working with niche brands that have a great story to tell and that have been developed through a passion rather than because of a big budget.