EOW Reflections 01/12/2023

Small Business Saturday is on 2nd Dec.  We’re hurtling towards Christmas and even I am feeling that prickle of concern at the thought of all the things I haven’t even written on a list yet. Small Business Saturday always focusses my mind.

Shopping isn’t one of my life priorities. I do anything to avoid it, ace decisions when I do have to do it, and reduce angst by opting for well-loved favourites (lazy shopping friends call it!). Whatever. I prefer small shop shopping.

I do occasionally venture into a supermarket but only if needs must. Where I live there are wonderful Asian, Turkish, Eastern European, International, and more, small supermarkets catering for every need. I’m trying to cut down ‘stuff’ and use less but sometimes presents are a must. I search on a big, well-known gift platform but the commission charged to the small businesses is high, so I find a small business making lovely things and buy direct. For my friend’s birthday in January I ordered earrings direct from the maker’s website. A few hours later my friend phoned to say she’d just had a box hand-delivered. It turned out the jeweller not only lived on the same Scottish island but in the next street. The earrings were boxed up and delivered in person straight away. You can’t get that kind of service from a big firm.

I have several friends, artists, fashion designers, PR people, who run their own businesses. Some work alone. One comes from Aberdeen to London to hand pick rubies and diamonds for his original jewellery designs, to match the specifications of his customers, and we catch up on how business is going. The mad rush is on to get stunning, handcrafted pieces ready for Christmas stockings. There will be a lull until Valentine’s Day, and then a steady stream of birthdays, engagements and weddings. I asked a couple of weeks ago if he’s paying himself what he’s worth. He’s eating and heating, but I suspect the assessment of worth, of reward for his huge talent and skill, is lower down his list of priorities than keeping his customers happy and delivering jewellery he can be proud of. Money’s not the motivator; creation is.

Other friends have grown their businesses. They’ve started out on their own and developed their products and brand, build their customer base and then taken on people. Your people enhance your business and help you build, so they need to be skilled, or trained to be as skilled as the business requires to keep the customers happy.

Customer expectations are growing rapidly and small businesses have to keep up or lose out, so there’s the dilemma: stay small and feed the family or grow and create jobs and improve skills.

Who deserves respect most? The single person business producing goods to be proud of two satisfied customers, making a fair income, or the small and growing business dealing with all the challenges of producing a fair income for several people and their families? Both are essential to their communities, wider society and the economy and deserves just as much respect as the big corporates and part of that respect is paying them quickly so they can carry on doing what they do.

They’re putting heart and soul into it. They deserve support on Saturday and all year round. I’m going to the small firm recycling fabrics, left over paint and timber, the cobbler/key maker (you won’t get far without shoes and keys) and hope to call in for food and warmth to a few family cafes and restaurants. Those small supermarkets are on my list and the huge street market is for every day, not just a Saturday. Support Small Business Saturday; but shop small throughout 2024.