Friday 6th December is a day I will always remember.
The morning arrived. A spectacular winters day in London. Bright, cold and clear with some pale sunshine and blue skies.
We were tremendously honoured and proud that Foot Trails is one of 100 small businesses chosen to represent and be part of The Small Business Saturday UK campaign. 100 small businesses from all across the UK and from all sectors and industries. Online and high street. We were all making our way to Downing Street to celebrate the first Small Business Saturday on 7th December.
This campaign started in the USA in 2010. There it generated £5.5 billion of trade for independents and was bought to the UK in January this year by Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna. He wanted to celebrate the British dream. The idea that people in the UK can start a business, grow, generate wealth and employment.
There are a few myths surrounding the campaign. Firstly it’s not saying there should only be small business and not big business. Both are needed and should work together. Secondly it was not about encouraging additional needless spending for the sake of it. It is about saying let’s focus on our small businesses and independents. If you are buying anywhere do it in a small shop or local business online.
I believe the campaign is vitally important. Asides many independents and small businesses being the lifeblood of high streets, and successful online, reports show that SME (small and medium sized enterprises) generate 60% of private sector jobs and 50% of GDP. Small isn’t adequate to describe our impact!
As I walked up Whitehall and towards Downing Street the big black gates were soon in front of me. A policeman let me through and before I knew it I was through security and standing in one of the most famous streets in the world.
It was so inspiring meeting up with the other 100 businesses and talking about life in business and what being part of the campaign meant to us all. There was a strong spirit of pulling together.
We took pictures in front of the famous black doors and soon it was my turn to stand in front of the Prime Ministers house and those very famous numbers.
And then we went inside number 11, house of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr George Osborne. It was a special moment. I met and spoke to many different people. As many as I possibly could. I initiated a conversation with Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture and Communications about rural broadband and its impact on rural business. Matthew Hancock Minister for Skills and Enterprise asked who Foot Trails are and what we do and spoke about plans for small business.
I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet Chuka Umunna, Shadow Business Secretary who had initiated everything. And to meet the fantastic team from Ingenious Britain and Small Business Saturday many of whom had put in tremendous hours to get everything started.
Endless chatter and conversation hummed in a room full of optimism and ambition and were only really punctuated by the occasional chink of cups of tea and munching of cake (pretty and dainty of course). Wish I’d had time to chat less and eat a few more.
Then news passed around. George Osborne was coming to meet everyone. He spent time generously speaking with as many people as he could and posing patiently for countless photographs.
We were very proud to be invited to take part in such a special day, ahead of the first ever Small Business Saturday on 7th December. And I appreciated the opportunity to meet with and talk to the people who shape our policy. And who knows. I think some new associations for business may have started that afternoon.
My visit to Downing Street and number 11 is certainly something I will always remember being part of.
And for those who know me well, yes, those are walking boots I am wearing.
Warm regards Alison
With thanks to @number10gov @bisgovuk @SmallBizSatUK