When it came to looking towards the future, it was clear all the small business owners we met had big ambitions with their sights set firmly on what their business could become.
A big part of this for many was the need for diversification. This was certainly something that was on the mind of Chris Wildman who runs Town End Farm in the Yorkshire Dales.
Town End is currently a farm shop, a tearoom and producer of beef, lamb, pork and charcuterie for chefs and hotels across the Lake District.
Chris knows from experience the importance of keeping up with current trends and moving with the times.
I was born a butchers son, so I was born a butcher. Its what Ive always known. Its born into you, so I dont see it as being anything out of the norm.
We used to have a long-running family business until changing shopping attitudes basically crushed that business and it became defunct.
We had two butchers, a deli, a frozen food shop. It was fantastic and would have survived, if only it had been in Dulwich in London.
Chris now is keen to pass this business and the farm down through the generations, but knows it needs to keep evolving and growing.
The only way to continue is to have it passed down from generation to generation. We dont want to move, and the kids dont want to move.
And diversification is so important, especially with any farm – you need to be constantly on the look out for new ideas and innovation. My head is buzzing with new ideas and extensions to what we are doing. Weve built the butchery on the farm and are now running butchery courses. Now Im thinking about camping pods, glamping, anything new! There are just not enough hours in the day.
Its clear that small businesses want to keep diversifying, but they need help from big business to do this. Take, for example, the basics of connectivity:
We fought for ages to get fibre broadband here and that has changed the business and helped us set up ecommerce stores. But when it comes to phones we dont have 4G, we dont even really have 3G. Mobile networks arent interested in rural areas. They just dont seem to want to bother with it.
The same goes for bigger businesses offering products and support that is simply worlds away from their price range. One thing you really do realise when coming out of London is that many larger businesses have their price points completely wrong when it comes to selling to small businesses. Something that really frustrates Chris:
Were a small business. We cant afford £7000 on a new website. Some of these businesses have to understand small businesses arent going to spend £10,000 on marketing or whatever. Its just a different world.
Bigger businesses have time and money and energy to get the grants, but I just dont have the time. The whole grants system needs looking at – until then its just the money that comes from customers to help us move ahead.
Its a clear sign that marketers need to better understand the small businesses they are talking to – not only their hopes and dreams but also what it really means running a business in difficult conditions. If ever we saw a business that was disadvantaged by the London bubble, it was Town End.