Businesswomen hit road to boost state of independents

Two Yorkshire businesswomen are attempting to promote as many independent businesses as they can in just 36 hours. Chris Bond reports.

Tina Boden
Tina Boden

NEXT month, Tina Boden, along with fellow businesswoman Kath Turner, will travel across Yorkshire visiting as many independent businesses as she can in 36 hours.

The idea is for Boden, co-founder of Enterprise Rockers, and Turner, chairwoman of the North Yorkshire East Coast Branch of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), to help raise the profile of independent shops and businesses and highlight the benefits they bring to the local economy.

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The pair will leave the Eat Me Café in Scarborough at 9am 
on July 9 and head separately across the county, with Boden heading to South and West Yorkshire and Turner covering East and North Yorkshire, before returning to Scarborough by 6pm on July 10.

As part of the challenge the pair can only use independent businesses for their travel, food and accommodation, and in preparation for the event, local business owners across Yorkshire have been invited to get involved and offer their support, either by giving them a lift, or providing them with a meal, or somewhere to sleep.

Thanks to the power of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook Boden is already pencilled in to visit independent businesses in 25 towns, cities 
and villages, and Turner 20. “The idea is people can promote their own business as well as highlight the benefits of using independents, whether they’re coffee shops, design companies or solicitors.”

Boden believes passionately in the importance of independent businesses and the key role they can play in boosting local economies.

“I’ve taken steps to increase my support to independent retailers on a daily basis, but I wanted to extend that further to hopefully encourage others to follow in my footsteps and shop locally whenever and wherever they can,” she says. “Through this challenge, Kath and I hope to help show just how strong the indie community is in our region and why we need to give them all the help and support we can to survive in these tough economic times.”

Turner agrees. “Small businesses are the heart of the local community. They generate wealth, employment and opportunity. I want to encourage people to keep trade local, to use the independent businesses on their high street, and celebrate the uniqueness and flavour that they bring to their communities.”

For Boden, though, it’s not just about promoting independent retailers in individual towns and cities. “It’s not just about shopping locally in your own town, it’s also about shopping in your neighbouring town, too. If you live in Scarborough and you can’t find what you want then 
you can go to Whitby, that 
way you’re still supporting your local area.”

She says the response to their 36 hour challenge has been overwhelming. “People in Haworth have said if I go there I must go to Slaithwaite and the people in Slaithwaite then say I must go to Netherton, which is great because it shows people collaborating and working together. There’s one guy, who has a motorbike trike service for weddings and funerals, and he’s offered to take me from Wakefield to Leeds, as long as he doesn’t have a last minute funeral,” she says.

It’s the kind of generosity of spirit that Boden believes good independent businesses are all about. “There are around 4.5 million micro-businesses [those that employ less than 10 people] in the UK and they account for 20 per cent of the national economy. A lot of independents are this size and they want to promote their businesses and help support their local area at the same time.”

We hear a lot about the importance of shopping locally and supporting independent shops, but aren’t the bigger chain stores actually cheaper?

“There’s a belief among 
some people that the big multiples and chain stores offer the best value, but I don’t think that’s the case. With independent businesses you can strike a deal and then there’s the whole shopping experience on top of that – people are more likely to be friendly because it’s their own business.”

Boden says she’s had support from all over the country. “I’ve had people contacting me from Wales and Scotland asking if I can do the same thing there, so I might be looking for funeral trikes all over the UK.”

Ultimately, she believes we can all play a part. “If we all give £10 a week to independent businesses then that can make a huge difference to the local economy and help create more self-sustainable communities, which is what we’re striving for.”