Supporting local businesses on Small Business Saturday

A recent study has shown that the UK is ranked fifth in the list of nations that offer the best environment for generating entrepreneurs – beating America and much of the European Union. Another interesting statistic was recently published that shows that more than half of Brits are aiming to start their own business.

Michelle Donelan's column in the Gazette and Herald 01 December 16

Michelle Donelan’s column in the Gazette and Herald 01 December 16

One of the biggest barriers that holds back the dream of an entrepreneurial Britain is a lack of confidence in the economy. This lack of confidence could make people nervous at the thought of setting up a business or becoming self-employed, so this statistic is particularly encouraging at this time.

Assistance from our Government could help SMEs flourish in a rapidly changing world and make entrepreneurship more attractive, perhaps with tax breaks or greater availability of business loans for new start-ups. Last week I met with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, to discuss my ideas of making it easier for self-employed people to save for their retirement, with government support similar to the auto-enrolment scheme for employed workers. I hope that we will see some policies emerging in this area.

However, as our nation’s small businesses provide almost two thirds of private sector employment and almost half of private sector turnover, the greatest assistance of all is for each of us to use and support local small businesses. Napoleon once said, we are a ‘nation of shopkeepers’ and it is true that small businesses are the life blood of our local economy, but Britain’s retailers have been in somewhat of a crisis in the last few years with the growth of online shopping heaping pressure on shopkeepers, already squeezed by rising costs.

3rd December marks Small Business Saturday, a grass-roots, non-political, non-commercial campaign that encourages people to support small businesses in their communities. The campaign also aims to support, inspire and promote small business all year round. The initiative started in 2010 in the USA, and has generated a lot of custom for small businesses.

The campaign is now in its fourth year in the UK and on Saturday, as I always do, I will be visiting as many small businesses as possible to buy local produce, talk to them about opportunities for growth and to learn more about some of the pressures they are under.

Whatever is going to happen over the next few years, what is clear is that small business will be the beating heart of our nation’s future and I encourage everyone to use Small Business Saturday to support local businesses, experience the great value that they offer both on Saturday itself and beyond.

[This column can also be viewed on the Gazette & Herald Website by clicking HERE]