Stories of small business resilience and success

One of my favourite times of years is when Small Business Britain hosts the Small Awards. An event that shines a spotlight on the incredible achievements of the smallest and greatest firms in the UK

Stories of small business resilience and success

Once again, this year’s Small Awards showcased the remarkable stories of success, resilience, and determination across all sectors, that epitomise the spirit of small business. 
Eighty outstanding small business finalists were shortlisted across 11 Small Award categories that call out the nation’s most inspirational business, across everything from sole-traders to digital stars and mission-driven businesses. The winners are an eclectic mix – including a sustainable milk float refill service, a city choir, a law firm with a legacy to help families and an organic cotton maker.
All of these small businesses are putting their heart and soul into doing fabulous things, and they are often unsung heroes, contributing tirelessly to their communities. Indeed the belief that the hard work of small businesses needs more recognition is why I set up the Small Wards over seven years ago.  
Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely thing. While there might be tonnes of people who quietly value what your do, you don’t always get thanks, or a pat on the back. Yet a bit of recognition can go a long way to boost confidence, motivation and reinforce a business owner’s mission, pride and resolve. This is why championing small businesses is so important. 
Each year we award a ‘Small Business of the Year’ for its outstanding contribution to the small business landscape. And this year we were delighted to give this special title to 4-22 Foundation, a social enterprise in Hackney which offers safe and supportive opportunities for young people to raise and achieve their aspirations.
After they won the “Mission Possible Award” the judges selected 4-22 Foundation as the overall business winner for its tireless work to build a community where every child receives the support they need to realise their full potential and thrive. 
The foundation supports children at every stage of development from the age of 4 (and up to age 22), including mentoring for early-years, tuition at school, youth clubs, as well as vocational work placements and employability training. 
It works on the principle that children from disadvantaged areas often need more support to access opportunities, and by offering this support as early as possible in life, these children will have more successful careers in the future. 
Another fantastic Small Award winner was East Sussex gift shop chain Maybugs, which won the ‘High Street Hero’ award sponsored by TSB, which celebrates businesses making a significant difference to their local high streets. Established five years ago, owners John Dale and Greg Rose have grown the business with two further stores opened in Eastbourne in 2021 and Bexhill-On-Sea in 2022. Maybugs’ remarkable growth and commitment to supporting local communities and collaborating with other local businesses stood out to our judges.
Independent high street stores play a critical role at the heart of local economies, and it is great to see businesses such as Maybugs so engaged with their community. 
Its drive to bring footfall not only to its own establishments, but also to their neighbouring businesses, along with their belief in the importance of ‘paying it forward’, is a great example of how supporting others to succeed can lead to your own success too. 
By launching their own market to support local artisans, and providing them with a free space to sell their goods, Maybugs are truly breathing new life into the heart of their town. 
Another fabulous business that we celebrated was Wakuda – an online retailer which received the Digital Star award for their smart digital marketplace supporting black entrepreneurs and championing cultural diversity. Wakuda’s journey began when the co-founders Nathaniel and Albert shared their frustrations about looking for products that represented themselves and cultures in mainstream retail. From trying to find a Father’s Day card featuring a Black dad, to looking for a doll that represented one of their daughters, they noticed the connection between the lack of diversity in products and the lack of diversity among the creators of these products. 
Launched in the wake of the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter Movement, Wakuda created a space to recognise African and Caribbean creators, shining a light on their talent and increasing visibility. As well as showcasing incredible products, the platform also has space for sellers to share their own stories about why they do what they do under their profile. Bringing the human aspect back to the shopping experience and bridging the gap that connects buyers with diverse brands. Pioneers in the digital landscape, Wakuda proves that success can be achieved without a physical storefront.
The Small Awards 2023 showcased the vibrant tapestry of small businesses that are the backbone of our economy. From high streets to digital platforms, from family-run enterprises to environmentally conscious pioneers, these businesses have demonstrated resilience, creativity, and a commitment to excellence. 

Their journeys inspire us and remind us that success knows no boundaries. We can’t wait to see what they do next!

Michelle Ovens
Michelle Ovens

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