A few thoughts on small business & love from Emily x
Most of our blog posts are stories about our brilliant Simply Great Britain members – stand out business owners who have chosen to join us in our dedication to get Great Britain to bring small business into their everyday lives – know them, use them, learn from them, buy from them. We know that sharing stories is inspiring, sobering & real. We celebrate the people who are breathing life into community, providing stand out service, reducing environmental impact, loving their customers & creating magic.
I talk lots to my clients and the businesses I meet about sharing story – I am not special – some of the most inspiring people I know of talk about it all the time. However I have become very aware that I like to hide a little, I am not practicing what I talk about and after taking part in a mind blowing course with The Do Lectures, I was left with the uncomfortable truth that not many people really understood my story and the story of Simply because I haven’t told it clearly or often enough…ouch.
I’m Emily and I grew up with a gnawing feeling that I wasn’t approaching working life in the same way as others were or seemed to be. An offspring of professional parents and Thatcher era teenage years, I thought that I had to go to uni, get a proper job, make some money & I would have it all. Nobody talked about work life balance, how to fit kids in, what day to day life was like in work, the ethics of big companies or that my feelings of major unease were shared.
I flunked my A levels but got into uni through clearing, doing a degree I chose because they took me and because I was good at French – European Cultural Studies and French was a mouthful then and still is today. I floundered, had no purpose and stumbled into a series of ‘proper’ jobs – still with no idea about how to create a life. I tried retail for a while with ideas of working up the ladder to management. I worked for an MP for a while too. Among many other things I eventually landed a job in the corporate world (Parmaceuticals) and worked my way up that ladder instead. I met some brilliant people, I learnt tons but I was still staring out of the window thinking ‘is this it?’.
The big pivot arrived with my first son and I realised that there wasn’t a nursery in the land who would open to suit my hours. I just left. No plans, no plot, no bloody idea.
Around this time that I found a notebook that I used to carry in my handbag. When my corporate job got too stifling I would draw and scribble notes of the B&B I would open one day, complete with chickens, white bedlinen, organic breakfasts and sunshine. I had no idea I had been planting seeds.
My first business was an eco holiday cottage. The kids were little & I was frightened but I started to see and work with people who ran amazing small businesses. It was like someone had finally given me the code to how to live life.
I have now spent the last 16 years working with amazing small, micro, freelance, indie, sole trader businesses directly, through mentoring programmes, as a trainer, supporting them, coaching & more. I found the small business love – they showed me the way.
And yet….the conversation still isn’t loud enough. The understanding isn’t deep enough and the connections are patchy or sector based. Every business that I meet, work with & learn from are breathing life into community, balancing family, animals and passions, providing exceptional care and service, shortening supply chains, ethically sourcing, reducing waste & just loving it. Some are growing, some are static, all put food on the table and are important. The culture of Britain small business is all these things and yet we still hear minimising phrases like ‘lifestyle business’ or assumptions that success can only be measured in millions.
I want to have a much louder conversation about the impact small business owners make, to connect them with the customers who love them and to understand why their stories matter to us all.