As part of its
Think Small programme
, Earnest is interviewing a variety of small businesses to understand the changing business models, challenges and ambitions that they face.
This month they spoke to Martin Harman from Your Bike Shed in York – a fusion between a bicycle café, coffee shop and repair workshop.
Earnest met Martin over a cup of coffee, where he told them the idea for the business came from a concept he had seen while travelling in Bangkok.
When he brought it to the UK, it was the first of its kind in York and one of only a handful in the country. While Your Bike Shed was a new and innovative idea, failure – and particularly the failure rate of small business – that was Martin’s biggest obstacle in the set up and growth of his business.
The banks were reticent to loan money, not only because he was a small business, but because his business model was unproven in the UK. Due to the noise around small business failure, many wrtote off his business before he even got going. Support was hard to coem by and funding even harder.
Big businesses not looking after small businesses
Thankfully, despite these obstacles, four years later Martin’s business is thriving. His passion is his driver for doing so well.
But Martin still thinks that big businesses and brands are not pulling their weight in looking after their small business customers.
“Not once has anyone come to see how hard I actually work, and what running a small business actually means,” he says.
When Earnest asked him if he thought marketers’ obsession with digital channels is making this worse, he agreed completely: “I think digital channels are ruining communications between people in general, as no one wants to interact person to person anymore.”
What can marketers learn from Your Bike Shed?
It was a stark insight into the world of a small business owner – big businesses will treat you like a king when they need your custom, but be happy to sit behind a computer screen the rest of the time. And if you dare to innovate, it’s the risk of the big F word that will stand in your way, because while it may be glamorous to talk about, it’s just far too risky for businesses to bet against.
If we want real innovation and new small businesses that break the mould and disrupt industries in the UK, we need to celebrate more successes, rather than talk about and glamorise failures – it will give everyone more confidence (most importantly the banks) and allow us to progress at a much more rapid rate.
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