Small Business Support Blog

If you are interested in reading about how to get your business visible online, with regular insights into being an entrepreneur and navigating your way through the business world, then this blog is for you!

We regularly post interesting articles on topics on leadership, management and visibility - with guest articles and features from experts in their field.

If you are interested in collaborating and would like to do a guest feature then please email [email protected] 

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  1. The rise of the Eco-preneur – how small businesses are adopting sustainability practices and leading the way in combatting climate change….

     Ecopreneur eco-friendly small business small

    When you think of climate change activists, your first thoughts would probably turn towards Greta Thunberg, or Jaden Smith,  Anana Grande or even Prince Charles.  They are using their position and celebrity to raise awareness of environmental issues in 2020 like no other generation (or Royal) has done before.  From the perspective of making us all more conscious or being eco-friendly they are doing an incredible job, however it is the UK’s small businesses which are bringing real change to the way we shop, the way we consume, and the way that we recycle in 2020, and the rise of the eco-preneur is showing positive signs of ramping up even further in 2021...

    Eco-preneurs are making more conscious decisions for their businesses...

    Social media has given wave to businesses disclosing a level of transparency which has never been seen before. Content marketing requires businesses to connect with their audience on a deeper level, and give them a reason to shop and choose small in a time when there has never been more choice, and when there is such a focus on price and value. Shoppers are however becoming more conscientious; a recent study featured on Fortune.com showed that sales of sustainability marketed products grew 5.6 times faster than conveniently marketed products.  So basically the world is starting to listen to Greta, Jaden, Anana and Charlie, and this represents a huge opportunity for the eco-preneur small business owners, who put sustainability and environmentally friendly practices at the heart of what they do.

    For some small businesses making more conscious decisions about their packaging, reducing the amount of waste they create which adds to the world’s plastic problem is their way of being more eco-preneurial.  Take Rachael from Little Flowers By Sligo for example.  Rachael has replaced all of her plastic packaging with more recyclable options.

    “I had to ask myself, how can I sell luxury nursery artwork to families with new babies and little people – who are our future scientists, researchers, doctors, meteorologists and geologists – and not take into consideration the impact I am having on the planet right now on their behalf.  Does it cost more to buy biodegradable packaging? Yes! Is it worth it? Yes!”

    Little Flowers By Sligo

    For other eco conscious small businesses, saving the planet has become the very core of the operation, and they have created products and services which serve ever more conscious shoppers - giving them real options to ditch single use and non-recyclable items from their day to day lifestyles.  One such business that has ditching plastic at the core of its brand is Shop Pom Pom.  Friends duo Cecily and Katherine have worked hard to create and build their plastic free children’s gift and toy business which showcases a range of products made from sustainable recyclable and recycled products, perfect for “keeping kids imaginative, while helping the world”  When you speak to Cecily, you can feel her passion for tackling the world’s plastic problem. “Plastic has a devastating effect on the environment, yet it has permeated every part of our lives.  We have done the research to make the plastic free choice convenient without compromising on design, quality or fun.  We are loving the #plasticfreejuly movement on social media and are proud to be identified as eco-preneurs on a mission!”

    Small businesses are developing products that allow for simple swaps.

    Most consumers are looking to make more ethical decisions in their shopping, but still need the convenience that plastic products have given them to be able to manage their busy lives.

    One small eco-friendly business looking to do just that is V-EcoFood Wraps, where Jan has created an innovative, fully plant-based alternative to cling film. Jan has created a solution that most big businesses would not have the courage to do – re-writing the rule book when it comes to making single use into re-usable and changing the perspective of what convenience is.  “I wanted to create an eco-friendly alternative to cling film and sandwich bags. My handmade cotton wraps are waxed with a unique plant-based infusion of just three natural ingredients. I’m really passionate about people not using poor quality single use products and that’s why I created the hashtag #flingtheclingandgrabourwraps”

    Jan is part of a growing community of small business owners that want to make a real difference and give something back to the environment as well as creating businesses which provide ethical alternatives to mass produced plastic items.  Another business which uses natural resources to create her items is Janette from The Lazarette. Janette specialises in creating home decor products from rope, using traditional techniques that have taken her years to hone. Now Janette is taking her efforts to the next level with starting an initiative to collect plastic from Falmouth Harbour, which is also her home, and you can read more about her plastic foresting in her post "Wombling on the Water" which she has recently published.

    Eco-preneurs are transcending generations to create a movement, not just a trend.

    Young Ecopreneurs

    Being an eco-preneur is something that multi generations are interesting in pursuing as the plastic problem the world is facing also impacts our current generations not just future ones.  In a study by Forbes, both “Baby Boomers” and “Generation X” had very similar scores to Millennials when it  comes to being concerned about protecting the environment so even though it is seen as being just an issue the young are interested in, older generations are also becoming more conscious of the effect of climate, and are making more changes in their shopping decisions as a result.

    Recent Graduate Maya Vertigans is one of our younger generation who wants to combine entrepreneurism with helping to save the planet.  Her business Sustainer Container provides boxes of alternative products for everyday use that are eco-friendlier and more sustainable Maya wants to target the gifting market for students and young professionals.  Maya wanted to create a business which helps the eco-warrior on their journey, with sustainable alternatives in convenient boxes.

    Eco-preneurs are taking over the wedding industry too, one sustainable wedding at a time.

    It’s not just product businesses which are becoming more eco-conscious, the wedding industry is also moving towards a more sustainable approach, with eco-friendly wedding suppliers becoming an increasingly popular choice for brides who want to protect the planet as well as celebrate.  From eco-friendly wedding stationery through to full on sustainable wedding planning, couples now have more ethical choices when it comes to being eco-friendly and reducing their carbon footprint with their big day.

    Vaishali Shah from Ananya Cards has incorporated sustainable practices into her business, not only by using cardstock from sustainably managed forests, but also going as far as planting a tree for each of her wedding couples through her partnership with Sankalp Taru – an incredible initiative that promotes bio-diversity, empowers women and makes schools cleaner and greener with a number of projects across India.

    Eco-friendly wedding planner Michelle Miles is on a mission to support couples who want to incorporate more ethical choices into their wedding day.  At Fusion live events, Michelle encourages her couples with making eco-friendly swaps and planting trees to offset the emissions from their event.  The reality of the impact of waste from weddings is vast – when Michelle learnt that 47 blue whales worth of plastic waste was created each year from the British Wedding Industry she knew she wanted to do something about it and she’s not alone as more and more wedding suppliers move towards more sustainable processes, and this even extends to gifts and accessories.

    Businesses such as Pretty Little Personalised, and Dudley and Roo, who create gorgeous jewellery and gifts not just for weddings but for any special occasions have now got eco-friendly practices in their approach, from recyclable packaging to reusing packaging, and creating ranges which use eco-friendly materials. Natalie from Pretty Little Personalised is really proud of her latest launch of an eco-friendly greetings card range. All of our cards and envelopes have been made from 100% recycled materials and they can be recycled again! The cellophane wrappers are made from potato starch and are therefore easily biodegradable. If everyone does their bit we can all help save the planet..."

    est2

    Brides are also looking for more sustainable options are also looking beyond their product and service choices, and are looking to understand wedding suppliers values and approach to trading as much as the end product or service they are buying. In the Midlands, award winning wedding cake designer Sarah from Eat My Muffin Bakery has imprinted her eco-friendly approach across her business. "I want every bride and groom that I work with to know that I want to minimise my carbon footprint as much as possible. Everything from sourcing my ingredients as locally as I can, to delivering the finished wedding cakes in my electric Kia Soul, I'm really passionate about being as eco-friendly as I can be. More and more couples are looking for more sustainable options, and I want to be their go to for their wedding cake, favours and dessert tables - so I have incorporated sustainable and ethical practices where ever I can, minimising single use products and even to the point of using the only vegan approved electricity provider!"

    Recycling, up cycling and re-purposing businesses are having a renaissance...

    Upcycled furniture small businesses

    Recycling of furniture, creating new purposes for old items which are no longer fashionable or fit for purpose has been fashionable for years, but with the growing trend to waste less and make use of what we have, eco-preneurs who specialise in recycling furniture are having a real renaissance, and creating some truly unique and beautiful collections which have sustainability and waste reduction at their core.

    One such business is Godfrey’s Ear, run by ecopreneur Caroline Cullingham based in the East Midlands.  Her mantra is “old is the new new!” and by saving good quality serviceable furniture and transforming it into stylish pieces using eco friendly paint and materials, Caroline is able to give a new life to what was previously going to landfill.

    Making simple swaps to try and reduce waste and make more eco-conscious decisions is something that more and more consumers are looking to do, and they are getting behind initiatives such as #plasticfreejuly which is helping businesses like Loolyn, who run an ethical marketplace for everyday swaps.  Tapping into the opportunity of people looking for more sustainable everyday items, such as toiletries, kitchen items and other lifestyle items, Loolyn have created an online store that hosts a whole range of these swaps and stylish gifts too. 

    How to become an eco-preneur in 2021

    If you are thinking about starting an eco-friendly business, here are the things you need to think about.

    1. Establish the purpose of your business.  Why do you want to start an ethically led business?
    2. Establish who your ideal client is.  What problem do you solve for them or desire does your product or service satisfy?  Tapping into this will help you with understanding the volume of demand as well as the tone of your messaging.
    3. Create a stakeholder map and think about all of the touchpoints for your business and where you make an ethical decisions about your business. This will ensure that you live your values throughout your business.
    4. Create a robust business plan.  95% of small businesses fail in their first two years, and a lot of this is down to not having a thorough plan, and working towards the goals that help achieve that plan.
    5. Create a brand strategy that hangs out where your ideal client hangs out, and craft your messaging that speaks their language.  Not all consumers know or even want to consider themselves as eco-conscious so choosing language, tone and style for your branding is so important.

    With so many initiatives and the focus on being more sustainable being so prevalent in our media and lives there is a huge opportunity for more eco-preneurs to build their online visibility and grow in 2020 and beyond. I’m excited to see the journey for eco-preneurs, and how sustainable business will rise in the future. All of the contributors in this post are part of our fabulous online visibility community SEO Beautiful - if you would like to get involved then why not come and hang out with us there?

  2. The importance of branding in 2021 and how branding photography can help your small business with SEO...

    Importance of branding photography in 2021

     

    Branding is such a hot topic for 2020 and 2021. With every small business looking to get ahead against their competition and stand out from the crowd in a post coronavirus environment; the word brand has become even more popular, and it can be confusing to understand what it actually means - particularly when it is something which is synonymous with pretty logos and a trendy colour palette.

    In this post we will explore the meaning of branding for small businesses, and what branding, including branding photography can do for your online visibility and SEO. If you don't know me already, I’m Pamela, Manchester branding specialist and online visibility expert, and I’ve been helping small businesses for years with establishing their brand identity, defining their brand messaging and developing their brand to support their business growth. I’ve helped hundreds of businesses with their SEO and getting visible online, and I know first-hand how important it is to craft a brand that will give you a firm foundation and platform for success against your competitors.

    What is branding?

     PRW Wine

    Branding is defined as the key attributes of a business that create differentiators to the competition. In the 1950s when branding and advertising started to become the key drivers for product sales, the main focus was on creating an eye catching visual and recognisable slogan - think Shake N Vac and Fairy Liquid as examples.

     shake n vac

    Fast forward to 2021 and the emphasis for a brand is much more of an eco-system that takes into the account all of a businesses functions, its behaviours and it’s stakeholders. Which may seem a bit grand for a small business who is just trying to make their way in their local area, but think again. With the rise of internet usage and social media giving a platform for new businesses like never before, it has never been more important to think about your brand as a small business to give yourself a fighting chance of standing out against the competition. The stark reality is that a new website is created every 8 minutes and there are over 20 million business accounts on Instagram - spending over £25 billion a year on ads. Now there’s a stat bomb if I ever heard one.

    Your brand is defined by your vision, your values, your behaviours and your messaging, which should all be completely centred around your ideal client. And when I say ideal client, I mean a real person that has either bought from you, or you want to buy from you that currently buys elsewhere. Creating a fictional avatar is a bit redundant in 2021 - you want to be focussing on what you know, and going deep into understanding your ideal client so that you can meet their needs effectively, and crafting a message which makes you stand out from your competitors which could become the game changer for your businesses visibility in a post covid world.

    Building and curating your brand messaging should be a careful and considered task - and not just seen as a content creation hamster wheel (because let’s be honest, when you feel like you are creating content for the sake of creating content it can be soul destroying - check out my previous post on this). Having clearly defined your messaging you are far more able to be genuine, authentic and show up for your audience in a way that will help them and motivate them to buy from you. You are integral to your brand, which makes presenting yourself to the world in a way that supports your messaging is important, and it’s why branding photography will be an essential part of a small businesses toolkit in 2021. So how can you craft such amazing brand messaging that will make you stand apart from your competitors?

    Brand messaging for small businesses

    1. Completely immerse yourself in your ideal client and get to know them in every way possible. Their pain points, what brings them joy, how they behave, how they live.
    2. Think about how your business serves your ideal client. How you help, how you solve a problem or satisfy a desire. How do you elevate their life?
    3. Think about your USP. What makes you different?
    4. Think about how you can demonstrate those differences - what will help to create connection, engagement and trust with your ideal client?
    5. Unlock your superpower - what transformation do you bring?

    Going through this 5 step system will give you a couple of things - for one it might give you a heart attack if you are not used to thinking about your business outside of your products or services! What it will most definitely give you though is an understanding of how to connect with your customers on their level, which will inform you of the content you need to create to build the know, like and trust factor essential for anyone to make a purchasing decision. It will also give you a bank of content that your ideal client is searching for online, which means you can create messages which will get your business more visible online...

    What will probably be uncomfortable is thinking about your superpower and valuing your part in the process. Although it may be uncomfortable, this will be what separates you from your competition. It’s often why branding photography (or professional headshots if you want to be more traditional with terminology) are a brilliant way to invest in your business. Not only will they provide you with high quality content in line with your other brand visuals, a good branding photographer will help you to unlock the you in your brand, which will boost the know, like and trust factor exponentially.

    But I thought branding was just a logo and slogan with a pretty website?

    Branding is so much more than a pretty logo and a colour palette that you stick into canva to make some visuals with. Your overall aesthetic, and the visual you create across every digital touch point must support the emotional connection which you are building with your brand messaging. It takes on average 7 times for a potential customer to see your business before they will buy from you, so that’s 7 sets of consistent messages that someone needs to see. In this post we will not delve deeply into the values, community and stakeholder behaviours of branding, however they are incredibly important for building your brand profile beyond what your products and services deliver. Who you procure from, what provenance there is behind your brand, how you operate and who you operate with are all so important for brands in 2021, and with the latest google algorithm update pending, small businesses that are already looking to incorporate this into their messaging will fair better against competitors who aren’t thinking brand rather than business for their long term future.

    Branding photography is something which is really growing in importance as a way of building the connection with the owners and founders of small business with their audience - whether it is to demonstrate expertise with action shots of creating unique products, or lifestyle imagery that reflects the entrepreneurs personality and values; branding photography can elevate a business beyond just a nice set of images.

    Manchester SEO Specialist

    How can branding photography help SEO?

     There are a few ways that branding photography can help with SEO:

    1. High quality imagery makes a brand more discoverable (image search is the highest growing search trend)
    2. Great branding photography adds to the user experience on a website which increases session time - a ranking factor for google
    3. Your branding photography has the power to stop someone from clicking elsewhere, which reduces your bounce rate - another ranking factor for google
    4. Photos with faces are more likely to be engaged with on social media, which can increase the share-ability of content which can boost SEO.
    5. Great photos can give you the confidence to create more relevant content for your audience, which adds to the user experience, which can help with SEO.

    How much should I be investing in branding photography to help my online visibility and SEO?

    The investment needed for creating a great portfolio of images will vary depending on a number of factors, including location, the experience of the photographer and number of images required. Here are some questions to ask a branding photographer when understanding the investment required:

    • How long is the branding photography session
    • How many locations will be included in the shoot
    • How many outfit changes will be included in the session
    • How many images will be taken on average during the session
    • How are images presented post photoshoot
    • How long does editing the photos take

    Will branding photography really help your business to succeed? That question depends entirely on you, and how much you choose to make it part of your overall brand messaging and approach for driving your business. It can be the difference between someone liking your business and trusting your business, so it is definitely food for thought...

    My branding photography was captured by Bolton Branding Photographer Jo Bishop, at the wonderful Chetham Farm Retreat.