Business development · 29 November 2016

Chuka Umunna exclusive: Small Business Saturday 2016 is about companies, not politicians

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In an exclusive interview, Chuka Umunna, the MP for Streatham, former shadow secretary of state for business, innovation and skills, and one-time contender for leader of the Labour Party, spoke to Business Advice about Small Business Saturday 2016 a successful grassroots campaign at the forefront of small business in the UK.

We joined him at a coffee shop in his constituency of Streatham, a pit stop on the Small Business Saturday 2016 campaign tour, to chat about why he’s so passionate about it and where he thinks it could one day go.

In four short years, Small Business Saturday has cemented itself as one of the most important dates in the small business calendar, promoting innovative new British firms and encouraging consumers to ‘shop local? to support businesses in their communities.

Falling on the first Saturday in December annually, last year’s campaign saw an unprecedented level of interest. Shoppers spent 623m with small businesses up and down the country on the day itself a 24 per cent increase on the amount spent in 2014 while more than three quarters of the UK’s local councils chose to back the initiative throughout the year.

In addition, last year’s Small Business Saturday received unrivalled support online. With over 100, 000 Tweets sent, reaching over 25m people worldwide, #SmallBizSatUK trended at number one on Twitter all day on 5 December 2015.

Ahead of Small Business Saturday 2016, Chuka Umunna traces its origins

The Small Business Saturday 2016 campaign is set to be no different. Falling on 3 December, Small Business Saturday 2016 will seek to showcase more exciting local businesses in towns and cities around Britain.

Although popular amongst policy makers of all political persuasions, it has been Labour’s Umunna who has thrown his weight behind Small Business Saturday in the UK from the get-go.

it’s always resolutely been a non-partisan, cross-party campaign we’ve sought to get everyone involved with, he told Business Advice over coffee at Batch & Co, a small, independent shop in his Streatham constituency.

when we launched here in the UK, I personally ensured Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat business secretary at the time, and the Conservative prime minister, were on board. But it’s not about the politicians, it’s about the businesses.

Having experienced the success of the initiative in promoting enterprise first-hand in the US five years ago, Umunna has worked tirelessly to apply the same winning formula here in the UK.

Coordinating between the campaign’s US founders and original financial backers American Express, as well as promoting the idea heavily in parliament, Umunna has been Small Business Saturday UK’s champion, providing the platform that’s made it a nationally recognised initiative in just a few years.

Umunna has a clear vision for the campaign, founded on three governing principles, the first of which being that it should be non-partisan. This is something the last Conservative government struggled with, he revealed. Maybe it was because I was the instigator of the campaign, but they saw it very much as a political thing.

Secondly, Umunna emphasised the non-corporate aspect of Small Business Saturday, suggesting that removing big business from the equation had been key to the initiative’s success so far.

And finally, that the campaign’s deliberate bottom-up? approach to small business growth avoids the likelihood of it bending to political influence. This isn’t something that should be managed at the top level in Westminster and Whitehall, it’s a grass roots initiative, Umunna iterated.



Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.

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