12 Jul 2016
Five things we learned at the Guardian Small Business Showcase Awards

Five things we learned at the Guardian Small Business Showcase Awards

Out and about 

Last Thursday, Luminous team members Trudy and Melissa spent the evening at the Guardian Small Business Showcase Awards in London. Held at the trendy Lighterman bar by the Guardian offices in Kings Cross, the event celebrated the brightest and best on the small business scene.

As you’d expect, the standard of entry was incredibly high, and we were impressed by both the winners and the runners up. Click here to read about the award winners in more detail.

In between toasting the winners and taking selfies, the team were of course hard at work, soaking up knowledge from the exceptional startup talent in the room. Here are a few pieces of business advice we picked up while at the awards…


Be proud of your roots

Winner of the Excellence in PR and Marketing Award was Pommade Divine: a luxurious and natural skincare balm.

The Guardian Small Business Showcase judges were impressed with Pommade Divine’s marketing and PR campaign that emphasised the brand’s long history and regal heritage. When chief executive Ania Macadam was first introduced to Pommade Divine, she was told it was a household staple in Victorian Britain, and across the British Empire.

However, when she did a bit of digging, she found Pommade Divine’s history was even more impressive than that. Speaking of her research, Ania said:

“A report landed in my email inbox tracing Pommade Divine’s history back to the Viking era, but revealing that our formula had in fact first been developed by Queen Victoria’s chemist.

“Marie-Antoinette’s great-grandmother had also been a big fan, praising Pommade Divine in many of her letters to family in Germany. Using the wonderful images of old bottles and quotes from 18th century newspapers and letters, we pulled together a timeline for our website, and a presentation for our press event for the relaunch of Britain’s first skincare brand.” 

Pommade Divine incorporated this history into their marketing and PR with astounding results: within a year, the brand received hundreds of pieces of media coverage across blogs, newspapers, and magazines, and over two million impressions on their website.

As Pommade Divine has learned, a brand’s history is one of its biggest assets – it’s something none of its competitors can rival, as all startups have a different story. If your small business has unique roots, be sure to incorporate this into your marketing and PR strategy.


Solve a problem you face in your own life 

Special guest at the Guardian Small Business Showcase Awards was Pip Black, co-founder of fitness studio group, Frame. Pip shared her startup story with the crowd at the awards, and the inspiration behind Frame.

Back in 2008, when Frame was launched, Pip lamented that fitness and exercise was really uncool. Going to the gym was something you did because you felt guilty, and Pip was jealous of her male friends who loved to play a casual game of five-aside at lunch. She wanted to find an equivalent fun and laid back activity she could enjoy with her friends.

That’s where Frame came from. Focussing on providing fun, pay-as-you-go exercise classes, Frame strove to create a fitness model that people wanted to include in their everyday lives. Today, Frame offers hundreds of classes a week, at four studios across London. Pip’s dedication to solving a problem that was bugging her own life has allowed her to work tirelessly and passionately, building a brand she believes in. More of this, please!


Congratulations to all the winners at the Guardian Small Business Showcase #sbsa16

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Invest in your people 

Winner in the Leader of the Year category was Julianne Ponan, owner and CEO of online health food retailer, Creative Nature.

However, our next startup tip comes from John Langley, founder of graduate recruitment service, Higher the Talent. John graduated university in 2008, and saw firsthand just how difficult it was for graduates to find suitable jobs. Along with entrepreneur Simon La Fosse, they founded Higher the Talent in 2014 to help tackle the problem.

John was nominated for the Guardian Small Business Showcase Award by his colleague Linda Norris for his dedicated investment in his employees. A large number of the Higher the Talent team are recent graduates themselves. As well as paying above average salaries, John rewards his team with nights out for a good month of business (as well as bad ones), flexible working hours, and dedicated training programmes.

Speaking about his investment in people, John said: “When you run your own company you realise how valuable investment in your own staff actually is… They are the people that will help you achieve your goals and get you where you want to be. The only way that they can do that is if you help them progress in their own careers.”

We couldn’t agree more.


It’s good to be small 

One thing mentioned by several of the startups present at the awards were the benefits that come from being a smaller business.

In her introductory speech at the opening of the awards, Pip Black emphasised that starting small allowed Frame to be lean, agile, and adapt where necessary. She also stated that small businesses often provide the best climate for getting the most out of employees.

When joining a small company, staff often have the chance to grow with the company, shaping their roles as the scope of the business increases. This can be great for staff progression, allowing them to rise much more quickly than they could in a larger organisation. Startups are often free from some of the red tape and bureaucracy that can come with larger businesses, allowing decisions to be made faster, often with the whole team involved in the decision making process.


Be adaptable

Leading on from the above, another thing we learned from the Guardian Small Business Showcase Awards is the necessity of adaptability.

Anyone who’s ever attended a Guardian event before will know they run a tight ship – their events are well executed, and usually a lot of fun. This year’s Small Business Showcase Awards were no different. Of course, when you’re running a live event, there’s always the chance that things might go not quite as planned.

Thanks to the hard work and flexibility of the events team, the night went without a hitch – none that we noticed, anyway! Smooth events operation requires the ability to adapt, and running a business in general is no different. The only way to survive the unexpected is by being willing and able to change tactics – otherwise a small business can flounder and ultimately fail.


A cause to celebrate 

Each year, we’re struck by the wealth of talented startups present at the Guardian Small Business Showcase Awards. As the year goes on, we’re really looking forward to seeing how these sparky small businesses develop into larger companies.

A final congratulations to all winners and nominees, and we hope to join you again at next year’s awards!

Guardian Small Business Showcase Awards