Small Business Saturday to promote “British Dream”, says Chuka Umunna

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umanna’s Small Business Saturday, which debuted last year, has had an impact that has exceeded his “wildest dreams”.

A US concept in origin, championed by the current Obama administration, Small Business Saturday will make it’s second UK appearance, celebrating the work and efforts of SMEs from across the country.

The yearly initiative commences at the beginning of the December shopping season to coincide with Festive commerce, offering a contrast to the more commonly known Black Friday and Digital Monday at the end of November, often dominated by larger retailers slashing prices to in an attempt to boost seasonal custom.

Chuka Umunna first became aware of Small Business Saturday through his twitter feed, whilst taking a bus through his local constituency of Streatham. Support for small businesses from celebrities and sports personalities, such as Serena Williams, alerted the shadow business secretary to the potential of a Small Business Saturday for the UK.

He had no trouble convincing the business community to buy into the idea:

“I brought together all the principle small business organisations and said I’ve got this idea – and they immediately jumped on it.”

Umunna has three key requirements for Small Business Saturday:

  1. It must be, and remain to be a campaign with small businesses, SMEs and entrepreneurs at heart. It is not a marketing exercise for larger brands. The shadow business secretary says that principle supporter American Express have been especially sensitive to this.
  2. It must be apolitical in nature, without party bias affecting selections. Chuka Umunna started gaining support from local authorities across the UK of all political persuasions, and took heed of the bipartisan approach in the US that was used to secure the backing of individual states. The “positive reaction” of all UK parties on a local level made it much easier to persuade national powers and politicians to get involved.
  3. The final rule, stated the shadow business secretary, was that the whole concept would have to be very much “bottom up”:

“It’s not something you can run out of BIS [Department for Business, Innovations & Skills].

“We have to provide the tools to make it locally driven, as they need to grab the concept.”

Chuka Umunna is enthusiastic in his evaluation of last year’s event, held on 7 December 2013, and the prospects for this year’s Small Business Saturday:

“I never thought in my wildest dreams when I pitched the idea in January 2013 that in five months we would have been able to pull together a massive grass roots movement of people to then make, in December, Small Business Saturday a reality.

“What we know from the research carried out by American Express was that it helped push half a billion pounds worth of extra trade to them the day, with of course the follow-up benefits of people visiting firms for the first time on the day and then returning.”

This year will see the event take place nationwide on 6 December, with the shadow business secretary confident that this year will build on the successes of the last. The concept has already made its way into the consciousness of a large number of small businesses, and Umunna believes that gives the initiative a head start.

The shadow business secretary has also made it clear that Small Business Saturday is not restricted to “physical” brick and mortar retail establishments and encourages digital and online businesses to get involved.

Larger businesses that may want to explore relationships with SMEs or support the initiative in some way are welcome to get in touch, but Umunna points out that it’s important that smaller businesses are the focus and is particularly interested to reach out to those businesses with high growth potential:

“I want to see more high-growth companies, and Small Business Saturday is as much about celebrating SMEs as it is market traders.”

That said, the Shadow Business Secretary has said that he wants to distance himself from the term “SME”, claiming that the phrase doesn’t do justice to the “rich and diverse” business community’s impact in growing the UK’s economy.

When asked about how he thinks that Small Business Saturday, and similar initiatives, can be used to bring about policy change, Umunna said:

“This is not about policy per se, but recognising the contribution these businesses make.

“I have lots of policies to help them, such as cutting energy prices, cutting and freezing business rates and reforming the banking system, but that needs government action. This campaign is about what each of us can do.”

For Chuka Umunna there is far too much talk of the “American Dream” in terms of commercial business and he urges businesses to push forward the idea of the “British Dream” with initiatives like Small Business Saturday.

For those looking to get involved with Small Business Saturday, the “Get Involved” pack can be downloaded from the campaign website:


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Words: Peter Cribley

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