Stock Up Small – campaigning to help small businesses survive and thrive

While shoppers flock to supermarkets to stockpile loo roll and pasta it's easy to forget about small businesses - many of which are finding new innovative ways to keep serving customers with necessities and more.

25 March 2020

Joe Taylor, who founded Real Handful snacks with his wife Carly in 2016, is flying the flag for small businesses in the UK. They make award-winning fruit, nut and seed trail mixes, and healthy bars. His campaign – #StockUpSmall – is a call to arms for small business owners. He’s raising awareness of the role that small businesses can play in this crisis, encouraging consumers to look beyond supermarkets.

“It would be really sad if in six months, we live in a world of pasta, ketchup, tinned beans and not much else,” says Joe. “That’s not what the UK food and drink scene is about – it’s an exciting, thriving, really positive entrepreneurial space that we can all try and support in the weeks and months to come.”

In a video posted on Twitter, Joe encouraged small businesses in the food and drink space to serve their customers however they can. Delivering direct-to-door and tagging their marketing content with #StockUpSmall – an upbeat message compared to the daily news.

“Ultimately, it’s about survival for as many small businesses as possible,” says Joe. “What’s happening is impacting people and it’s entirely out of their control. There will be a time beyond coronavirus when we all start getting back to shopping as normal, and hopefully in this interim period we can inspire people to try a few new things that they can add to their repertoire.”

Combining forces

Joe isn't the only one who's keen to support small businesses. By chance, Andy Allen, commercial director of Biff's Kitchen and start-up business advisor had a similar idea. Unaware, they began working in parallel on what would ultimately become one project.

"There's a fair sized group of food founders in the community – we're all in a WhatsApp group," says Andy "I asked who was still selling products because I wanted to buy from friends rather than just go to the supermarket. I was really surprised by the number of people who replied, lots are still selling and even offering discount codes. It made me think – we should create some kind of list."

Andy set to work creating a way that consumers could discover local businesses that were still open. Finding time where he could, the project began as a collaborative spreadsheet and eventually became a fully fledged website.

"I posted it on LinkedIn and across social media. We had 70 or 80 brands in just a few days. Then the question of how we'd share it came up. That's when Joe from Real Handful popped up and told me about #StockUpSmall – it was only a couple of days down the line that I caught up with Joe and realised how much he'd done in parallel."

Community powered

Andy and Joe's website now boasts over 300 independent brands – all keen to share their experiences and make themselves known. So far, the feedback has been incredibly positive.

"It's been really good so far. If this was a commercial project it probably would have happened in two weeks, not two days," he says. "When I put it live there were a few mistakes here and there but the reality is it doesn't matter. The best thing is that when someone's offered a suggestion, they've also offered to fix it or help with the solution."

Sign up and support small businesses

With small businesses accounting for 99.9% of businesses in the country, it’s crucial that we support them during this hard time. We want to help shine a light on as many as possible which is why we’re encouraging small businesses owners to register what they do and let customers know they’re open for business.

"Collectively, small isn’t small," says Andy. "When you put it all together SMEs are such a vital part of the economy – they employ a huge number of people and give the opportunity for someone to grow far quicker than they would in a traditional structure."

What can I do as a small business owner?

  • Sign up to be featured on our #stockupsmall directory
  • Post on social media using the #StockUpSmall hashtag to help customers find you and raise awareness of the campaign
  • Share how you’re adapting during these times with other businesses

What can I do as a consumer?

  • Stock up small! Don’t forget about small businesses. Often, they’ll have a better range in stock and by choosing to shop with them you’ll be helping them survive this difficult time
  • Share your experience on social media using the #StockUpSmall hashtag
  • Use the directory to find small businesses that need your support and encourage others to do the same

Real Handful snacks – 'hustle like crazy'

After a successful career history working with the likes of Innocent, Kellogg's and Heinz, Joe founded Real Handful in 2016 in an attempt to make healthy snacks “more fun, more accessible and more flavour focused.”

“I’ve worked in the food and drink industry for nearly 15 years now and my wife has worked in it since leaving university too. It’s in our blood – something we love,” he says. “I used to do ironman triathlons and I just got fatigued by heavy energy bars. I was looking for more natural alternatives.”

It’s clear that Real Handful are doing something right, as their popularity has led to supply deals with Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Tesco and Ocado, as well as in Holland and Barrett and Asda too. On top of this, Joe and his team are valued members of the community – organising quarterly food and drink meetings for start-ups in their home city of Manchester.

But Joe and Carly have experienced their fair share of disruption as a result of coronavirus, with future events and deals with new customers being postponed or cancelled.

“Ultimately, what coronavirus means is that the rug has been pulled out from under us, but what’s important is that we now hustle like crazy to ensure we’re exploring every avenue for people to get their hands on our snacks.”

Andy Allen – Biff's Kitchen and more

Andy Allen is a self professed food start up and scale up geek. Alongside his role as a start up advisor for great food brands such as Olly's Olives and Oggs, he's a director and partner at Biff's Kitchen. Biff's is a jackfruit-based fried food chain that boasts tasty vegan food without compromise.

"Me and Biff are friends of friends and three years ago we got talking. I loved what he was doing – I'm your quintessential flexetarian so you have to get me on taste and texture and Biff's food succeeded on both," says Andy. "I helped pivot the brand to providing really high quality frozen food for restaurants and bars that want to sell plant-based and vegan food. We've just launched a partnership with Brewdog and have some really exciting things coming with those guys!"

"Aside from that, I'm an advisor for a number of different food businesses. I try to keep busy on that side of things because I love getting involved in the community."

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Dan is part of the content team at iwoca. He writes articles explaining financial topics, as well as guides on the best support for small businesses during coronavirus.

Article updated on: 18 June 2020

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