The Rise of Small Business: Cornwall and beyond
**Originally posted 15th December 2020**
A 2020 Success Story?
There is no doubt that 2020 has been an exceptionally challenging year, and in particular, an absolute roller coaster for small businesses. The closures, adaptations, pivoting and general thinking on your feet have created a whirlwind of emotions and challenges for owners of small independent businesses like mine, whether government support has been available or not.
Small Business Saturday
I've only been a small business owner since 2017 and in that time I have seen several incredible national campaigns grow and flourish. Somewhat ironically, Small Business Saturday was started by not-small business American Express back in 2010 but has gathered momentum over the last decade. It's timing of encouraging consumers to 'shop local' on the first Saturday of December each year couldn't have been better in here in 2020 as the second English national lockdown lifted.
Campaign Shop Independent
Holly Tucker's Campaign Shop Independent is back for a fourth year, shining a spotlight on small businesses who have taken the plunge to follow their passions or fill a gap in the market. I always refer to myself as an "accidental shopkeeper" and being able to connect with like-minded individuals following similar twisted journeys of fate has been a huge boost.
As one of the founders of Not On The High Street, Holly has a formidable network of small business champions and I would urge anyone, whether an existing business owner or even just with the kernel of one to give her a follow, her Conversations of Inspiration are called that for very good reason!
Just A Card
For several years I have been a supporter of Just A Card, a grassroots campaign on a mission to encourage people to buy support, value and buy from artists, makers, independent shops etc. As per the name, every sale, whether just a card, just a coffee, just a print, just a mug, just a pair of socks (you get the idea...) is so important to the prosperity and survival of these small businesses. The campaign also takes great pains to emphasise that you don't even have to actually spend any money to support small business. Instead you can write a positive review online, tell your friends and family and follow small businesses on social media and engage with their posts by commenting, liking, sharing, saving and signing up for their newsletters to see what's coming next.
Cornish Businesses for the Win
On a more local level here in Cornwall, and no doubt elsewhere across the country and maybe the world, I've been so impressed how smaller communities have pulled together during Covid-19 to try and regain some semblance of normality. The fabulously festive Fowey Christmas Market Weekend obviously couldn't happen this year but rather than give up hope, the events company who work with Fowey Chamber of Commerce to run the market instead switched to an online marketplace model which actually had the effect of opening up the event to other small local businesses who might not have traded at the market previously. No, it's not quite the same as walking along the cheerfully light streets and mooching around festive marquees with a mug of mulled cider whilst listening to Christmas tunes but it's a great way of engaging with small local businesses nonetheless. Hopefully Santa arriving by tugboat and leading a parade of drum banging horn tooting elves will be back for 2021!
However, in my view, the biggest success locally has been an amazing Facebook group set up by an enterprising lady, Amelia Lawrence. Cornwall Christmas Buy Local was started as a way of enabling small local makers, crafters and traders, who normally rely so heavily on the footfall of Cornwall's brilliant array of Christmas markets to advertise their wares. The group gathered traction at the most astonishing rate during the second lockdown and now has in excess of 25,000 members! I did a lot of my Christmas shopping in a panicked morning running around all my favourite shops in Fowey the day before Lockdown 2.0 but I still had quite a few smaller bits to buy. Well, did the Cornwall Christmas group ever come good in that respect. My present stash is now busting at the gills with gorgeous, locally made and in some cases personalised gifts which I know my friends and family are going to absolutely love. I've also made some great new contacts with local makers and have several new suppliers lined up for 2021. If you use Facebook then do give the group a follow, it is going to evolve into a permanent marketplace and I'm delighted as it's search box is absolutely my first port of call these days to make sure that where possible, I shop small and shop locally.
Onwards and Upwards
So whilst there is no doubt that 2020 has been the most difficult year in living memory for many of us, there have been some real wins. I've been delighted by the amount of online orders I've had this year, a side of the business I'm really looking forward to developing further. Having been through some really dark times earlier this year it's wonderful to see small businesses triumphing as we (hopefully) start to move closer to the end of this Covid nightmare. Retail as we knew it is changing, partly a return to old-fashioned shopping values and partly a new breed of online shopping which isn't quite so heavily reliant upon the likes of Amazon Prime. Either way, 2021 is looking promising and I can't wait!
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!