On Friday 23rd February I had the pleasure of meeting Theo Paphitis. This wasn’t because we just happened to be in the same place at the same time, but because I had won an SBS award back on the 16th July 2017 and was invited to the 2018 SBS event in Birmingham, run and organised by Theo and his team.
Since SBS launched in 2010, 329,000 small businesses have applied for the award, and I was very fortunate to be one of the 0.68% that won. It is still mind-boggling! It was an absolute pleasure to be invited to this event, sponsored by great businesses, all with the purpose of nurturing and advising us little ones.
Opened by Ryman CEO Kypros Kyprianou, you could feel a buzz of excited energy about the room at the honour of being at such an event with these big names. Sponsored by eight companies, Ryman, Robert Dyas, DHL, iLaw, 123Reg, Square, Western Union and HP, each of the groups introduced themselves and gave some information about how they would like to support us small businesses.
This year’s focus was on brands, so after Theo introducing himself, Stephen Cheliotis, the expert at SuperBrands gave a great talk about the importance of brands within business, but also that a main importance is a customer’s perception of the brand, and how it makes them feel. Colour and shape of the logo is not as important as the feeling behind the brand experience.
As we are all small businesses being spoken to by the large ones, a lot of questions occurred, starting with ‘I know I’m small, so I can’t do x & y, but…’ to which Theo stopped and pointed out that just under 50% of gross value added to the UK economy comes from small businesses, so actually we can! How crazy is that, that this small business is helping contribute to that figure in some way.
One of the most uplifting things for me is that apparently most small businesses will fold in the first 2 years. As some of you may know from my recent 2-year celebration and giveaway, I have just passed that mark! As many doubts and worries for this business run through my mind, something must be going right, and I know that most of that is because of you lovely people supporting me.
The afternoon consisted of a fireside chat from AO founder John Roberts and Theo. Eye opening and so honest. They both emphasised how important it is to be transparent, honest, and admit when you have made a mistake. Don’t grovel, just fix it. But most importantly, be upbeat! You set the tone for your company. Being brand recognised is something but having a positive recognition or experience from a company is more. Speak to every customer like you would your grandparents and look back at your actions and assess if your mum would be proud. Most of all, use common sense, and stay grounded.
The day ended with photos with Theo. As I found out from collecting name badges at the start of the day and having my winners certificate signed, everything had been done alphabetically, but luckily the photos were not! We had been told that we wouldn’t have time for a conversation with Theo as he had over 200 people to take a photo with, and it was only 4pm when pictures started – understandable, as no one wants to head home late, especially on a Friday. As the excited and stuttery person I am when nervous, I went straight for facing the camera for a photo after saying hi, but Theo actually struck a conversation with me instead. His daughter has the same name as me, and as my certificate was the last to be signed by him (being alphabetical and all) he remembered doing it, and asked what my business was, and what I do. He was really positive about it all, and it was great to have a lovely, although brief, talk with him.
One other thing I can take away from all this, is don’t be afraid to ask others for help/ advice/ support / whatever it may be. This event happened because Theo thought of it one Sunday evening back in 2010, and it wouldn’t be possible without all the sponsors he had asked to be on board with him. These companies, and the amazing guests, all give up their time for free to be there. It shows that being a supportive community really does win. As I always like to say, community over competition!
I had a fab day out, I think my mum did too (she was my plus one) and I came home with an SBS branded notebook, goodies, and a lot of great advice.
To anyone out there with a small business, I recommend entering SBS – I did, and the next day found out I was a winner, that has now opened me into a whole world of business support and love.