This Saturday was Small Business Saturday in the UK. This annual non-commercial campaign does good work highlighting the contribution small businesses make to the economy and the character of our town centres. Held on the first Saturday of December, it’s also a key day in the retail calendar. The day many people flock to the shops to do Christmas shopping after the all-important November payday.
This time last year, I was running a small business, Time Lifestyle Boutique. It was a gift shop in Dundee city centre, on the street that connects the civic centre of the City Square to McManus, the city’s current star museum ahead of V&A Dundee opening in 2018. I closed the business for good in March this year after a whirlwind adventure where I chased my dream, achieved what I always wanted to do and learned very valuable and hard lessons. Ultimately the business was not to be sustainable one but it was the start of a new chapter for me where I faced fears and made things happen in life. It’s in this spirit I have continued on my journey.
The reason I bring up Time this week is because I thought about the shop more this weekend than I had for the last few months. Small Business Saturday was the day we would take the most money each year. I did a lot of promotion of the event and wrote and spoke a lot about how important it was. In 2014, I also coordinated a campaign for other city centre businesses to get involved with. We offered discounts and shared information about the other participating businesses in the spirit of collaboration, rather than competition. I hope that this awareness campaign has at least resonated with a few people who include small businesses in their buying habits to this day. It might just save other small businesses from the same fate as my own.
In the 17(!) years I have been working I have had many, many jobs. For the purposes of this post, I will list them.
- Avon lady
- Weavers Café Saturday girl
- Debenhams Sales Advisor
- Debenhams Supervisor
- WH Smith Sales Assistant
- Libra/ Jenners Sales Assistant
- Waitrose shelf stacker
- University of Dundee jobs
- IT Receptionist
- IT Clerical Assistant
- IT Communication and Information Assistant
- Innovation Portal Marketing Assistant
- Dundee Clinical Academic Track Administrative Co-ordinator
- IT Communication & Information Officer
- Time Lifestyle Boutique Founder & Director
- Discovery Credit Union Marketing & Communication Officer
- The Circle Facilities & Services Development Manager
Alongside the first half of this list, I accumulated qualifications: Standard Grades, Highers, Advanced Highers and an Honours Degree in Biological Sciences.
Let me start with the conclusion, that each of those experiences has shaped who I am today. I have experience, skills and knowledge that I use every day that I started accumulating a very long time ago.
Most businesses are at least on board with having a website now. Some will run their whole operation via a website. Others will use it as a place to find the address and contact details with maybe a brief description of what they do. I use business websites a lot in my work – I ran my website in my own business; when I was targeting some partner businesses in my last role I would research them beforehand; and as a buyer in retail, I used them to find suppliers. Websites I commonly encounter usually have a home page, about page, contact page and some sort of services page. There may also be a link to a Facebook or Twitter presence. Frequently now, though, we are seeing blogs on websites.
For this reason alone, other people are doing it; people are bolting on a blog to their website with some vague notion they will write the occasional article about their business. Your nephew might have told you, you need a blog. Your friends who know something about marketing all have blogs and you have heard that some businesses even have blogs that create their own revenue stream.
You think it’s worth a shot and send an email off to the web guy or girl to add a blog to the website or think about signing up to one of the many blog platforms and ‘have a go’. But before you do, I ask you to think about these points.
It wasn’t so long ago I wrote about preparing for an interview and a new job. A little over two months, in fact. But here I am, ready to start again. I have been offered the most wonderful opportunity to make a big difference to communities in Dundee and I am really excited about taking it. I am going to work for Circle Scotland CIC, or more informally, The Circle.
I know how hard it is to build Facebook reach for a business page. It’s something I have worked very hard on in the past. Like most things worth having, it’s right that it’s difficult and it’s right that you have to do a good job to get results. If it was easy then everyone would be doing it and how would you stand out from your competition?
Understanding how media companies work
Facebook offers a huge opportunity to reach an audience with no cost to entry. For FREE you can start a business page, share content and reach people based on their age, gender, geography, and interests. Facebook, however, is a business. It has to pay salaries and create a profit for its shareholders. Just like yours. It also has a duty to its members to serve content that they find interesting. This is why they regularly change things. Facebook want to offer a better experience to its members, keep members logging in and to encourage interactions. Otherwise, they have no platform at all.