We are living in interesting times! And for small businesses, these times continue to be tough, with every area of business currently under strain.
Inflation, rising interest rates, falling consumer confidence, supply chain issues, and the impact of industrial action – there is a long list of challenges that are keeping business owners awake at night.
Many small firms are back in survival mode. They urgently need a big dose of support, but also of hope. While it was positive to see entrepreneurship at the heart of the recent mini-budget, particularly the intervention around spiralling energy prices, the broader economic uncertainty needs to be stabilised for small businesses to be able to take advantage of the policies announced.
The UK’s 5.6 million small businesses are vital for delivering the growth the Government wants to see. They are the drivers of innovation, employment, and community. But they need immediate help to face this difficult winter head on and make the necessary adjustments to weather a challenging economic climate.
To ensure that businesses have the opportunity to recover and grow, the Government, policy makers and the private sector need to be pulling all available levers to support small businesses and take the pressure off wherever possible.
Building confidence is key; it is the secret ingredient in the alchemy of growth. How do we create it? I always think back to when we brought Small Business Saturday to the UK, following the positive impact of the US campaign founded by American Express in the wake of the financial crisis. Over the ten years that Small Business Saturday has been running in the UK it has engaged millions and seen billions of pounds spent with small businesses across the UK on Small Business Saturday.
But one of the most impactful things it does is boost confidence, by shining a giant public spotlight on the incredible contribution that small businesses bring to our lives, and making those small feels feel that sense of pride, recognition and support.
I was reminded of this when we gathered for this year’s Blue Tie event, for our first in-person celebration of SmallBiz100 past and present, since the pandemic. The SmallBiz100 are chosen from across the UK to represent the campaign and the inspiring vibrancy of the small business landscape. However, when you speak to businesses that have been selected, they often say the same thing. That they can’t believe they were chosen, and it felt amazing to know someone is watching and noticing what they are doing.
Take Lara Omoloja, owner of Greenwich Pantry a cookery school that teaches healthy eating. She won the Francesca Kemp Award for Small Business at the Blue Tie event, for the inspiring way she runs her business and her boundless enthusiasm and community spirit. Lara was stunned to win this award, but mission-driven business owners like her need more recognition for their dedication and wider contribution. Of course, small businesses can’t get by on this alone, but it goes a long way and can help them to keep going when times are really tough.
Ten years on the Small Business Saturday campaign is as vital as ever, and I continue to be proud of the impact it makes. The campaign is about many things – celebration, innovation, people, communities – but above all, it is about hope. Hope is what drives entrepreneurs – the slightly crazy people that start something and dream big – and hope is what will keep us going.
Despite what is going on in the world, we remain filled with hope as we head towards 3rd December this year. Helping small businesses remain optimistic and ambitious, and giving them the support they need to achieve their hopes and dreams is how we find a way through the challenges of today and into growth.