Supporting Small Businesses at Spring Fair

Spring Fair welcomed one of retail’s most forward-thinking entrepreneurs on day three of the show, TV Dragon and #Small Business Sunday Founder Theo Paphitis, as part of its continuing drive to support and guide up-and-coming design and retailing talent and nurture the show’s retail community.

Speaking to a packed audience of retailers, Theo Paphitis, interviewed by The Sun’s Business Editor Ashley Armstrong, said, “I’ve had an incredibly vibrant career being an entrepreneur, it was never a career in my day. Hunger and passion is key, but it can’t be taught. There are different levels of entrepreneurial success. Most entrepreneurs are dreamers. I’m still dreaming, the dreams drive us, but you have to make those dreams come true and that’s the difference, having the drive the realise it.”

He continued by discussing the support he gives to start-ups through #Small Business Sunday, saying “#Small Business Sunday came about as I’d just joined Twitter and got all these followers from starting on Dragon’s Den. One Sunday I thought why I don’t I use these 50k followers to some benefit and thought the first half a dozen that tweet me telling me a little bit about their business I’ll retweet. We read them all, picked 6 and left it at that. The following Sunday my phone goes off again and #SBS was coming in. On the third week I took it to the office, retweeted on the Monday. Every Monday morning we did it and now it’s grown to our event, self-help groups, and forums.”

Offering advice to small businesses, he said, “Business is common sense – don’t be shy, stick your elbows out and know your numbers”, adding that “50% of all small businesses fail in the first 2 years because people don’t know their numbers, they haven’t done their homework. Lots who fail the first time, go on to succeed the second. Learning from their mistakes, finding places to get help, understanding the things that really matter in business. The things you need to sweat and the things you don’t need to sweat because they don’t really matter.”

Asked how can small business manage cash flow post pandemic and cost of living? Theo responded, “You’re absolutely right it has been difficult. You couldn’t make it up, with Russia and Ukraine, cost of living, inflation and energy costs, it’s been very difficult for us to plan. We have to build in what we’re doing with some margin for error, but I still believe there is opportunity. As a small business, if you remain agile and survive for the next 3 years and do it in this market you’ll have great foundations.”

Spring Fair continues to champion the most innovative and inspiring start-up businesses who have been trading for less than 18months in its expanding newcomer areas. Buyers were able to discover the latest new talent in Beauty First, Kids First, Fashion First, and Gift First, as well as the GCA Debut area in collaboration with the Greetings Card Association (GCA). Following a successful four-year partnership with Autumn Fair, which has supported around 40 start-up businesses so far, Theo Paphitis’s #SBS Small Business Sunday winners are now hosted in the #SBS Village at Spring Fair.

Twelve new winners and two past winners, who had been unable to exhibit previously due to Covid, presented their designs with some having such a successful show so far that they have confirmed to attend at Spring Fair 2024.

Claire Towers from The Fox Glove Tree said, “This is my first time at a trade show, it’s been brilliant. It’s been a game-changer actually, we’ve got to re-think and expand our production. We’ve had loads of orders, loads of leads, and big organisations that are interested so we need to tweak the packaging for them. It’s been really positive, we would’ve never had the opportunity at this stage to take the gamble and come to this show. Everybody’s been lovely even the huge companies – obviously, we’re new so we’re tweaking and growing but they’ve been giving us some guidance which has been really helpful. It’s actually great because there are so many businesses here, we’ve even found a packaging company that we’re liaising with now.

She highlighted the importance of face-to-face networking and the community environment created by the show, “It’s great to be able to have that face-to-face conversation with people rather than via email or over the phone, you get to know the brands so much better. It’s great to connect with other people in the industry, we’ve developed a little community and everyone helps each other out. It’s been really enjoyable. We’ve had such a positive response and experience. We didn’t have many expectations, but we’ve absolutely smashed the orders. On the first day, we had a lot of small retailers show interest but these last two days all the big retailers rolled in. It’s amazing how two days can completely change your trajectory, we’re really happy. It’s been a life-changing show, all in just two days.”

Tanya Cassidy from Glamavan said, “This is my first trade show, I’m part of Small Business Sunday. It’s been really nice to gauge interest in our products. We’ve taken a lot of orders as well as collected leads and contacts, some even returned today and placed orders. We had licensing companies approach us with opportunities that we didn’t expect, so you really don’t know who’s going to be here. We’ve been getting some really good feedback, so moving forward we’ve collected marketing materials that we’ll use throughout the year, and we’ll follow up with leads. We came here with the objective of making orders and we’ve achieved that, the rest is a bonus. I’d definitely like to attend again now that I have more of an idea of what it’s like.”

Nilu Dona from Fashion First newcomer Elizabeth James, said, “This is my first time showing at Moda and I will definitely come back! There has been a steady stream of visitors passing through and we have made some great contacts. We have a number of new accounts and lots to follow up with. The show has been very successful for us and we’re very happy.”

Ollie Stott from Kids First exhibitor Happy Little Doers commented, “Spring Fair is amazing, the size of it is incredible. We have met lots of new buyers, made lots of new connections and met lots of other new brands – it’s been really exciting. The majority of buyers who have visited us are new retailers, lots of ones we don’t have, and we have seen a few familiar faces. The highlight of the show is being in this environment because there are so many diverse brands, you’ve got the little brands like us, and then you have got some very well-known names, and it is just great to be amongst them.”

Buyers at the show welcomed the opportunity to discover newness. Chris Nethercot from Sainsbury’s says, “It’s a good opportunity to see new products and innovations, and I always encourage my team to come to Spring Fair.”

Alison Mabberley from Gifts Made Easy said, “We have seen our existing supplier Cardology and also found a new supplier Gin Etc, whom we have bought from today. We also found some mosaic craft kits. We like to build relationships with our existing suppliers and also source new products. Both is important for our business.”

David Edmont from Bridge Quirky Emporium, Antrim said, “Every year we get at least 1 new supplier, and we have got 2 today. We are looking for suppliers who are small independent businesses who have a social conscience and ideally who give something back – sustainable and handmade is important to us.”

For more information visit the Spring Fair website.


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