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.

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.

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