Celebrating our small business community each December is becoming as much of a tradition as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but never before has the sector endured a year like 2020. Bev Crighton, Senior Lecturer in Business and Management at the University of Derby, is a member of Derby’s Small Business Saturday group, and in this blog explains why and how we should join the University’s virtual celebration on Saturday 5 December.
Adapting to challenging times
Following the devastating impact of the pandemic and the consequence of lockdown upon our high streets this year, it goes without saying that it is more important than ever to support small business, and even more so to shop local. Fortunately, in 2020 there are so many ways to do this.
Having suffered during the first lockdown, many local shops, if they did not already, have found a way to transact online, through either a website or social media presence. If not, they have a phone number, and a rapidly evolving delivery and postal system, at their disposal to make sure that everyone gets their Christmas goodies in some way.
If delivery has been one aspect that has developed in lockdown, then creativity, for which small businesses were already renowned, is another and Derby has so many that are. For example, White Peak Distillery has been using its skills for making gin to produce a hand sanitiser which it donated to frontline workers across the county, while Derby tech firm App4 has developed a bespoke mobile food and drink ordering app, which is helping the hospitality industry.
Finding small businesses through corporate giants
When we think of supporting small business, it is sometimes easy to demonise the giants of online retailing. But it is also good to remember that the likes of Amazon may not be the big bad guys that some think they are.
In fact, many small businesses sell their products through Amazon. It is important to remember that when you look at a listing for a product there will be a number of options, so do check them, as the first on the list will be Amazon’s own. However, lower down you could find a selection of small businesses wisely utilising the profile of the world’s largest online retailer as their vehicle to sell their amazing products.
A virtual celebration
This time last year, the University was planning to host one of the biggest gatherings of small businesses in the country for Small Business Saturday (SBS) at our Enterprise Centre – something we aim to do as and when it is safe to do so.
However, the government’s Covid-19 tiers will not cause us to shed any tears over a lost opportunity, as we will still be hosting a Facebook live event on the day between 10-11am. To take part, visit the Events page of the University of Derby website.
It is something we are not prepared to postpone or reschedule because these events are so important to all the small businesses in Derby and Derbyshire.
Last year across the country, 17.6 million people turned out to support Small Business Saturday by visiting shops and stores. This time around, we need just as many, if not more, people to stay in and show their backing for it by ordering products via websites and phones, as we should all want to see as many small businesses as possible survive such a tumultuous year.
It’s also a time to focus attention on how well – and how far – small businesses have adapted to ensure their survival. During the last few months, businesses diversified from gin making to hand sanitiser, and from serving lunches to delivering eggs and sausages.
And their cause has generated celebrity backing too, with figures such as TV chef James Martin using the pages of their well-visited websites to support small local enterprises.
A track record of support for SBS
Derby has a great track record in supporting Small Business Saturday and we have lots of SBS100 members here – 100 selected businesses which are profiled in the 100 days leading up to the event – including several University of Derby alumni.
Sarah Gatford, one of the SBS100 last year, who runs local communication businesses, told me: “Being part of Small Business Saturday for me means connecting with a huge number of innovative, resilient people.
“Having been recognised as a Small Business Hero, I’m keener than ever to shout about the difference small businesses make to our communities and the value we add to so many people’s lives.”
And Becky Longden, who has recently started a business in Derby, noted the “enthusiasm, uplift and support” company owners gave to each other in terms of business and development through a series of online sessions which have been held in anticipation of this Saturday’s celebration, for which, she adds, she “cannot wait.”
So straight from those who actually take part, SBS is really useful to Derby entrepreneurs, to connect and promote what they all do. And in this trying year, that’s become so very important.
For more information about the University’s support for small businesses, visit our website.