Taking a stand for small businesses in Leeds

Tom Flynn, Director of operations of Small Business Saturday, stands in front of the bus.
The Small Business Saturday Bus Tour visited Leeds Kirkgate Market this Monday.

Small Business Saturday UK, a nationwide campaign to support the country’s small businesses, visited Leeds today.

By Alice Nordevik

Small Business Saturday is a non-commercial campaign which aims to promote and highlight the UKs 5.7 million small businesses. They encourage consumers to shop local and to support the small businesses in their community.

Tom Flynn, director of operations of the campaign, said:

“Small businesses make the community really. They employ and pump money back into the local economy, they offer something different. And they often have slightly better service, because it is that person’s business, it is their reputation and they have chosen the products they sell themselves.”

Sixth year in a row

The day itself is held the first Saturday in December every year and has been for the past six years. But the campaign aims to have a lasting impact on small businesses, and a way of doing that is their work with the Small Business Saturday Bus Tour. For the sixth year in a row, the bus travels over 3000 miles, visiting 30 locations in 25 days.

“We do events all year around with workshops, but everything comes to a peak the first Saturday in December. The main purpose of the bus is to promote this, it is like a massive, mobile billboard,” said Tom Flynn.

Closeup of Tom Flynn, Director of operations of the campaign.
“I do not even know where to start,” says Tom Flynn about why small businesses are important.

Visiting Kirkgate Market

This Monday the bus visited Leeds, setting up camp in Kirkgate Market for the day. The programme included free mentoring sessions for the business owners inside the bus, and a selection of local businesses exhibiting their products outside.

Cllr Asghar Khan, Leeds City Council’s deputy executive member with responsibility for markets, said to Leeds Council News:

“The Small Business Saturday Bus Tour is a great opportunity for small businesses across Leeds to access free business mentoring sessions. We have so many dedicated small businesses across Leeds and having such a wealth of them within the market makes it a perfect location to host the tour.”

“It is a big support network”

Jo Smedley was one of the business owners setting up her table outside the bus. She founded Red Herring Games, a company making dinner party and murder mystery games, 11 years ago. This year was her third being involved with Small Business Saturday.

“They do such a fab job, they really raise the bar and get small business up at the front. There is an awful lot of focus on big businesses, even with Brexit the focus is always how it will impact big businesses,” she said and continued:

“But the team here are strong advocates of small businesses and provide help throughout the year, not just on the first Saturday in December. It is a big support network that is really useful.”

A picture of Jo Smelder, wearing a Sherlock Holmes outfit, in front of the table with her products.
Jo Smelder runs her own murder mystery company since 11 years.

Most successful campaign in the country

Jo Smedley was one of 15 business owners participating during the day in Leeds, with nine exhibiting their products and six partaking in the mentoring sessions. Tom Flynn, director of operations, said the campaign had gotten “fantastic response”.

“There is actually a lot of support for small businesses, but in a lot of cases it is hard to know where to find it. And there is not a lot of opportunities where it is free either,” he said.

Small Business Saturday is the most successful campaign in its area in the UK. In 2017 an estimated £748 million was spent with small businesses on the day, and the expectations for this year is even higher.

“All signs are pointing towards growing even further. More and more businesses are enrolling, and we are gaining attention from more and more local authorities. It should be a big year,” said Tom Flynn.

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Purple Tuesday highlights the needs of disabled shoppers

Tuesday 13 November was the UKs first “Purple Tuesday”, an initiative to spread awareness of the importance and needs of disabled consumers.

By Alice Nordevik

Holly Scott-Gardner was born with the rare eye condition Lebers Congenital amaurosis, which makes her almost completely blind with only light perception remaining. This affects her entire life, including going shopping.

“I travel using a guide dog, read braille and access technology using a screenreader. This means I rely heavily on accessible information as I can’t read print,” she said.

This Purple Tuesday was the UKs first ever accessible shopping day, with over 650 organisations and companies involved. The campaign, founded by the disability organisation Purple, aims to highlight the experience of disabled costumers on the high street.

Companies such as Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and Asda were among the big names involved in the campaign.

A spokesperson for Purple said:

“Purple Tuesday is all about instigating change to make UK high streets and shopping centres more inclusive. All supporting organisations are asked to make at least one commitment to change or introduce an initiative which will improve the accessibility of their services.”

Several people turned to Twitter to write about the campaign, sharing experiences that Holly-Scott Gardner recognised.

“The more people who are aware the more likely we are to see a change regarding how businesses treat disabled people,” she said.

However, the goal with Purple Tuesday is not only to raise awareness for one day. Mike Adams, CEO of Purple, said in a pressrelease that the campaigns “awareness drive, and steps taken by retail partners, must continue over the next 365 days and beyond”.

Holly Scott-Gardner emphasized the importance of this as well.

“It is vital that businesses recognise that we need access every day, but as activists we can use the momentum of today to start conversations and contribute to a movement that has captured the attention of the media,” she said.

What impact does international students have on the UK?

 

Final reflection

What problems did you encounter producing the main assignments and how did you solve them?

The main problem for me has been coming up with ideas. Since I’m not from  Leeds or the UK, I felt a bit lost living in a new country and being expected to find local stories here. Karls lecture on proper use of sources really helped with that, since he included a list of tips on how to find sources. That list included Leeds City Council News, where I actually found the information about the Small Business Saturday tour coming to Leeds – which I later wrote my first article about.

With my second article, the curation piece, the problem was instead finding primary sources. Initially I wanted to write about a different topic, but after unsuccessfully trying to get sources for it for a week I had to give up. I then switched topic, and used another technique Karl had showed us: using social media to find sources. My main primary source for that article was a woman I found on Twitter, who I contacted via private message to ask if she wanted to do an interview with me.

What new skills did you acquire?

I  have learnt more about adapting my writing for the web. Before this module I did not really reflect on the differences between writing for the web and for print, but figured it would more or less be the same. I now have a deeper understanding of the importance of knowing your audience, and adjusting to the way they read and use different types of media. I have also learnt how to work with curation and how to make news stories on instagram, which I had never done before.

Evidence post

Interviews for assignment 1:

Jo Smedley, founder and managing director of Red herring games.

“11 years of running a small business, third year with small business Saturday.

They do such a fab job, they really raise the bar and get small business up at the front. There is an awful lot of focus on big businesses, even with Brexit the focus is always how it will impact big businesses. But the team here are strong advocates of small businesses and provide help throughout the year, not just on the first Saturday in December. It is a big support network that is really useful

We are based in Grimsby and do murder mysteries, dinner parties, events, custom writing.”

Tom Flynn, director of operations of Small Business Saturday

“It is a campaign to promote and support the UKs 5,5 million small businesses.”

Why is it important?

“I do not know where to start. Small businesses make the community really. They employ and pump money back into the local economy, they offer something different. Often when you walk down a high street in the UK it is just the same shops, everywhere. So it is nice to find something different.

They often have slightly better service, because it is that persons business, it is their reputation, they have chosen the products they sell themselves. Someone who only works at a bigger store might not feel the same loyalty.

We do events all year around with workshops, but everything comes to a peak the first Saturday in December. The buses main purpose is to promote this, it is like a massive, mobile billboard. In the bus we have mentoring sessions with the businesses, free of charge, and outside a selection of local businesses get the chance to exhibit their products.

A lot of them are just online, operating from their livingroom, so it is nice for them to get a chance to chat to the public, especially in a a busy place like this.

We have gotten fantastic response with thousands of requests for us to visit certain places. It is nice to feel so welcomed. There is a lot of support for small businesses, but in a lot of cases it is hard to know where to find it. And there is also not a lot of opportunities where it is free.”

In Leeds: 9 businesses exhibiting, six booked in for mentoring sessions.

What are your expectations for this year?

“All signs are pointing towards growing even further. More and more businesses are enrolling, more and more local autorithies gaining attention. It should be a big year.”

Interviews for assignment 2:

“Hi Alice,

Thank you for your email and for being interested in Purple Tuesday!

Please find below answers to your questions:

Why is Purple Tuesday important?

Purple Tuesday was established by disability organisation Purple to raise awareness of the barriers disabled people can face when they go shopping or try to access services. All supporting organisations are asked to make at least one commitment to change or introduce an initiative which will improve the accessibility of their services. Purple Tuesday is all about instigating change to make UK high streets and shopping centres more inclusive.

What do you want to accomplish with the campaign?

We are looking for support from retailers across the UK, for them to action their commitments over the next 364 days, and to build on what was achieved this year for Purple Tuesday 2019.  We hope to see a real change in the attitude and approach towards disabled customers.

What response have you gotten from the campaign?

We have had over 650 registrations of interest so far, with events taking across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. On the 13 November, it really felt as if the UK had turned slightly purple and we were on the brink of seeing real change across the country.

Best wishes, Kristine”

“Hi, 

Thanks for these questions, I have copied them into the email with answers below. 

Would you like to tell me about your disability and how it affects your daily life?

I have an eye condition called Lebers Congenital amaurosis, a rare inherited form of blindness. I am almost totally blind, with only light perception remaining. I travel using a guide dog, read braille and access technology using a screenreader. This means I rely heavily on accessible information as I can’t read print. 

Why is Purple Tuesday important, both to you and in general?

I believe purple Tuesday is important because whilst disabled people often talk about the importance of equal access today we were all raising our voices at once. I feel like this made it harder for people to ignore us or say that they aren’t aware of the barriers we face. It is important to me because I spend a lot of my time talking to individuals and businesses about how they can become more inclusive, particularly in regards to digital accessibility, so it was nice to see many other people also speaking about this. 

What do you think about the campaign? Do you think it will make a difference? If no, what would it take to make a difference?

I think the campaign is valuable but it won’t suddenly make businesses accessible. This will take time, further advocacy efforts and unfortunately in some cases legal action. I do believe it has value though because today I have spoken with several individuals who work in customer facing roles. They have asked me how they can personally ensure they give blind and visually impaired customers the access they need. As individuals they may not be able to change an entire company, but the more people who are aware the more likely we are to see a change regarding how businesses treat disabled people. 

I hope one day we won’t need an event like purple Tuesday, it’s also vital that businesses recognise that we need access every day, but as activists we can use the momentum of today to start conversations and contribute to a movement that has captured the attention of the media. 

I hope this was useful, let me know if you would like to know anything else. 

Holly”

Interviews for assignment 3:

Mailys Auffret, Erasmus student studying a Masters in marketing and supply chain management:

The best thing about going on exchange has been to meet new people, discover new places, speak a lot of English and just learn more. I think that’s one of the best things: that you learn more about yourself. You come here without knowing anyone so you are forced to learn how to be alone, which I think is important.

Since coming here, I have improved my English so much, now I can speak three languages fluently which is really good for me. So I really don’t regret to come here. And actually, it was like a test for my relationship as well. I was really afraid to see what happened when I left my boyfriend at home, but now I know we can do it which is a big relief.

I chose the UK because I wanted to go to an English speaking country, and Leeds was then the only choice on my course.

Personally, I don’t like Brexit. It’s not one of the best things happening, and it will be complicated for English people. I think they will lose both money and people coming here. I think it’s gonna be both harder and more expensive for exchange students to come here.

Luke Lambert, spokesperson for Universities UK:

 

Hi Alice,

Thanks for getting in touch. An interesting subject and one we have worked a lot on.

I can guide you to our calls for a new student visa for international students, which is our most recent update on the matter. That can be found here, including quotes and statistics.

For information on how exiting the European Union may impact on international students, see here. Please note these lines were last updated four months ago.

Additionally, see the attached image for the economic impact of international students, with more information here in our latest patterns and trends breakdown (international students p14).

Hope this helps and best of luck with your studies,

Thanks, Luke

Hi Alice,

No problem. The best I can offer you on this score is the information found here on International facts and figures. Pages 6-11 focus on international students in the UK, with pages 17-19 looking at international staff in the UK. The first part of the analysis looks at where international students study and how many international students the UK receives, among other things.

I hope this helps,

Luke

Article 3 Research

What are some ideas you might use for your assignment piece?

With Brexit leaving the future of the Erasmus programme uncertain, I want to write an article based on statistics explaining why international students are important to the UK.

Come up with a list of primary source contacts for your piece. Find their contact details.

Universities UK, pressoffice@universitiesuk.ac.uk

Mailys Auffret, Erasmus student studying at Leeds Beckett University, +33 667 73 76 77

Research their backgrounds and the background of the story with secondary sources

Information about how Brexit will affect Erasmus students

https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/brexit/Pages/brexit-faqs.aspx

Statistics, facts and figures about international students in the UK

https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/reports/Documents/International/International%20Facts%20and%20Figures%202018_web.pdf

Interview questions for each source

Questions for Universities UK: What will happen to international students in the UK and the Erasmus programme after Brexit? Why are international student important to the UK?

Questions for Mailys Auffret: Why did you choose to go on exchange? What has the experience meant to you? How do you think Brexit will affect the Erasmus programme?

Reflection six

How has the feedback you’ve had in workshops changed your approach to the main assignments you’re producing?

It has mainly changed my approach to the topics I chose to write about. From wanting to write about something student-related and “safe”, Karl convinced me to write about something more newsworthy which would actually challenge me to step out of my comfort zone.

How well do you feel you’ve managed your time over the last nine weeks?

I feel like I’ve managed my time well. I have attended almost all of the workshops, and when I missed some I made sure to follow the instructions online and complete the tasks before the next week. That way I made sure that I was always up to speed and wouldn’t fall behind in the workshops.

If you could go back to week one and give yourself some advice to help you out with the module, what would you tell yourself?

I would tell myself to relax and not be so stressed out. Since English isn’t my first language, I was feeling very nervous about writing and producing articles in English – and especially about doing interviews and talk to people. But after going to the workshops and doing the assignments, I feel a lot more confident. So I would tell myself to pay attention to the lectures, and to trust myself.