Ten takeaways from Theo Paphitis’ Small Business Sunday Event 2024


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Each year, Theo Paphitis hosts his Small Business Sunday winner’s event in Birmingham to celebrate small businesses and give them a boost.

It’s a brilliantly inspiring day where Theo and his panel of experts provide a wealth of encouragement and line up fabulous speakers to educate and inspire you.

This year, we had talks on using AI in your marketing from Google and a spotlight session from Susan Bonnar, founder of The British Craft House and a former SBS winner.

NatWest chaired a panel discussion with success stories from their Accelerator programme: Maxine Laceby, founder of Absolute Collagen, Sanjay Agarwal, founder of Spice Kitchen, and Shalom Lloyd from Naturally Tiwa skincare.

The fireside chat this year was with Stacey Solomon, who brought the house down and was mobbed by fans bringing her gifts and sharing how she had transformed their businesses with her endorsements.

In this podcast episode, I’m sharing my ten takeaways from the event.

Listen in on the player link below or continue reading as a blog post.

Takeaway 1 – Keep getting up – there will always be setbacks.

Kypros Kyprianou opened up the event by discussing the challenges faced by business owners over the last few years.

Lockdowns, the cost of living crisis, inflation, wars, and the aftermath of Brexit were all highlighted.

He emphasised the need for resilience, quoting Rocky Balboa from the 80s film:

“It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.”

Kypros added: “This epitomises small businesses and your attitude to keep going, keep working, keep focusing, and keep getting up and going the distance.”

Takeaway 2 – Stop and sense-check your activities.

Theo spoke about the reality of running a business – describing it as both a ‘great feeling’ and a ‘scary feeling’ because of the responsibility it entails, often leading to a sense of isolation.

This highlights why SBS is so important as members are part of a supportive community.

In a rapidly changing landscape, Theo stressed the importance of regularly evaluating the activities within our businesses:

“Are they the right things for today? Are they the things for tomorrow?”

He highlighted the remarkable achievements of SBS winners, which defy Government data on small business struggles:

  • 65% of SBS winners grew their business in 2023.
  • 56% of winners are actively looking to grow in 2024.
  • Notably, 25% have a turnover of £100k or more.

Takeaway 3 – Don’t be afraid to change.

Ryman, Theo’s stationary company has just launched a new range of personalised greetings cards you can collect in 60 minutes.

He shared this as an example of doing things differently and being innovative and urged the community to be disruptive.

  • Adapt your business
  • Create new lines
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things and disrupt your sector

Takeaway 4 – Why it’s important to plan and look forward.

SBS originated from Theo planning his week in his kitchen on a Sunday night. It was during one of these sessions that he had the idea of giving a shout-out to six business owners each week.

On the importance of planning, Theo said: “Plan, please, please, please, please, please plan, plan, plan, plan, plan plan.

“If there’s just one word that I keep hearing or not hearing, as much as I’d like to talk in small businesses, it’s the ability to take that time out to plan rather than just relying on the enthusiasm that we all have.”

He then shared a quote from Simon Sinek: “Focus on where you’re going and you’ll know the steps to take. Focus on the steps you’re taking and you won’t know where you’re going.”

Takeaway 5 – Use AI as inspiration and a helpful assistant and not to do everything for you!

Kirstie Kavanagh and Darryl Partridge from Google Digital Garage talked about how SBS winners can use AI in their marketing.

  • 77% would love to know how to use AI in their business
  • 80% would do a free course on AI

AI gets rid of the blank page and frees up your time to be creative. It’s a powerful tool but the output it creates depends on you and your expertise.

When it comes to AI, the message is to try new tools, get things wrong and learn from it. Theo added: “Use it as inspiration, not a word-for-word cut and paste.”

Takeaway 6 – You have to be in business to make money.

Susan Bonnar, founder of the British Craft House told how she took her idea to have a platform for sellers into a £1 million turnover business.

Susan was an air traffic controller in the Navy for 22 years then set up Dottie Designs making greeting cards and gifts when she had her three children.

She sold on Etsy but felt couldn’t be seen or be visible enough so she set up social media pages for British Crafters – collaborative accounts where she would showcase businesses.

This grew to a community of 40,000 and she’d spotlight brands on the pages, and because, she’d built the trust, they made loads of sales. But she had nothing!

“I making magic for other people, creating sales but making no money myself,” she explained.

Susan had the idea to build a platform for British Crafters, a trusted place where she could monetize her work.

When she heard Sir Tom Hunter speak at SBS in 2019 and say, “You can overcome every obstacle,” she recalled: “It was like everything had faded away and he was talking to me.”

The next day, Susan went for a run, wrote a business plan, and started The British Craft House platform nine months later.

Now, it has a £1 million turnover. She’s had bumps in the road, her website company and her parted ways in lockdown just as people were spending on handmade and were stuck at home.

Dorset Tech jumped in and saved her website and The British Craft House continues to thrive.

Takeaway 7 – Say yes to things even when it feels huge and scary.

Susan went from starting her platform and having 200 sellers who were her early adopters sending her items to put on there to meeting with the Prime Minister and the website soaring.

“The big lesson is that sometimes you have to say yes to an opportunity, even if it’s huge and really scary, because you don’t know what’s going to come from it.

“And so yes, it would be so much easier to say no, but say yes to the opportunities.”

Takeaway 8 – Let yourself off the hook with social media, be social and put your community first.

Stacey Solomon joined Theo for a fireside chat and started by talking about social media and why caring about your community will make a difference.

She said: “I don’t look at it (social media) as something I’m growing. And I think that’s probably the best way to look at social media.

“I look at it as a community of people like-minded people, and when I’m on there, I’m talking to my mates.

“It’s like a place where I can just talk to people who get me basically and I love to turn up to every day and check in.

“Talking to everyone and hearing people’s feedback and asking opinions and ideas. And I think that’s the real way to grow social media.

“From what I can see online, there are only two ways you could just be your 100% authentic self and open yourself up to people and hope that you find a community.

“Or you just chase viral moments and clicks.”

Takeaway 9 – You need to be seen!

We learned about the impact of a shout-out from Stacey Solomon which led to £100,000 of sales for Emma Alleyne from Stamptastic.

And Stacey talked about how she loves to give small businesses a leg up. “The reality for small businesses without huge sums of investment is to be seen is so so hard, so there’s incredible tech and products that are innovative but because they don’t have a profile, they’re not being seen, and massive part of what I want to do is get those people seen.”

Takeaway 10 – It’s ok to ask for help.

The message from all of the speakers and the entrepreneurs from brands Naturally Tiwa, Absolute Collagen, and Spice Kitchen is that it’s ok to ask for help.

Susan Bonnar highlighted the invaluable support she received from a myriad of sources including Natwest, Virgin, Small Business Britain, Google, Small Business Sunday, and many more.

Whether it’s Stacy Solomon championing you on stage or any other pet professional, the message is clear: you don’t have to go it alone.

Key topics and timings:

0.20 – What to expect from this episode.

2.00 – Why the SBS community is such a special place to be a part of and how Theo gives you the reassurance we all need.

2.30 – What is SBS and how it started.

4.45 – How the SBS network can help you and provide support.

5.34 – Takeaway 1 – Keep getting up – there will always be setbacks.

7.30 – Takeaway 2 – Stop and sense-check your activities.

9.05 – Takeaway 3 – Don’t be afraid to change.

10.35 – Takeaway 4 – Why it’s important to plan and look forward.

12.20 – Takeaway 5 – Use AI as inspiration and a helpful assistant and not to do everything for you!

16.11 – Takeaway 6 – You have to make money. Susan Bonnar from The British Craft House.

20.11 – Takeaway 7 – Say yes to things even when it feels huge and scary.

23.45 – Takeaway 8 – Let yourself off the hook with social media and be social put your community first.

26.57 – Takeaway 9 – You need to be seen and the impact of a shout-out from Stacey Solomon – leading to £100,000 of sales for Stamptastic.

29.41 – Takeaway 10 – Why it’s ok ask for help.

Links mentioned in this episode:

How Theo Paphitis’ Small Business Sunday award can raise your pet business profile

Theo Paphitis launches SBS invest

How the NatWest accelerator can help your pet business

Finding support for your pet business in Pets Get Visible

The rollercoaster that is running a small business


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