Small Business Network Muswell Hill Meeting Report December 2012 Meeting

December 11, 2012 in Business Networking, Muswell Hill Meetings, Small Business, Small Business Networking by lizbygrave

by Marcia MacLeod

At Christmas time, here at Small Business Network, it is now traditional for us to have a little christmas fair at the meeting. This December we had five tables of gift items.

There was Lubica Art, selling the most stunning hand-painted silk scarves, with a special offer to all Small Business Network members of £40 in honour of Christmas, and the fact that this was the first time Slovakian mum and daughter – both named Lubica – had attended the networking meeting. And on the other side of the room, another kind of artist, Natasha Barton, also a Small Business Network debutante, displayed beautiful screenprints of London views. For those who couldn’t afford a piece of original art, however impressive, she also had greeting cards and postcards of some of her work.

A couple of tables down, established networker Amanda Eatwell had Christmas cards and general greetings cards featuring her photography, as well as photographic prints: I’ve long had my eye on the deck chairs. Another regular at the Small Business Network meetings, Vicky Williams, showed off her Jewels of Distinction – hand-made earrings, necklaces and other items, all at the sort of prices that make them ideal presents.

Jo Tocher, of Your Healthy Heart, rounded up the Christmas gift tables, selling organic toiletries and scented candles.

This year saw more traders than ever at the Small Business Network’s annual Christmas meeting, but one thing was missing: Liz Bygrave, founder of Small Business Network, came without the very moreish natural chocolates she makes under the banner Sweet Sensations. How could she do that to us chocaholics?!

Still, the other small business owners attracted a lot of interest, and even those who had no products to sell benefited from the marketing and networking opportunities all small business owners need to exploit. Paul Rumball of Niche Creative Services is now selling golf vouchers in which people can buy a voucher for any golf course, which allows them to pay one green fee for two players; SBN members could get double the vouchers for the same price – just £12 for 10 vouchers. He also continued his free Creative Clinics for members: in depth sessions in which he will review your website or printed publicity and give you some key tips on how you could improve on how you’re presenting your business to the outside world.

Nichola Charalambou of Creative Writes, which runs creative writing workshops, offered gift vouchers and an early bird discount for all bookings for workshops from January to March, if made by 3 January.

First-time networker Milan Sveda, a Slovakian native, is a graphic designer who also teaches piano, while Alix Woods, another first time visitor to the Small Business Network, runs Fussy Nutrition, offering dietary advice, energy checks and other nutrition-related services.

Other special offers included painting rental of just £2.50 per week until the end of December from artist Isa Levy, who now has a permanent showcase for her work at Archway Emporium, Archway Road, Highgate; Veronica, who has discounted insomnia treatments by 30% in January; and Rebecca Fishman, business coach, who gives Small Business Network members a half-hour consultation for free and 50% off their first full session.

All 22 attendees seemed to be in the Christmas spirit, a time where small businesses everywhere are trying to drum up business and finish the year on a good note. But what does Christmas really mean to small businesses and sole traders? Sales and offers are great, but there’s more to it than that. Christmas is an ideal time to stay in touch with customers past, present and future, to thank them for their support, to send out Christmas cards to remind people your business is still alive and kicking and able to help with their needs, to invite them to a seasonal drinks evening or other event – a great way of making people feel special – and, in turn, to support them where relevant.

Does all this bonhomie work? I think it does. What warmer feeling can there be than knowing the small business owner you buy from really does value your custom, that they treat you like a VIP, that they’ll pull out all stops to help, if they can, that they want to work with you to provide the best possible service at the lowest possible price? And the same works with suppliers: let them know you value their product or service, that your business would be less successful without them, and they will smile more favourably at you during the coming year.

And you know what? It’s all a part of effective networking. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. But networking groups like Small Business Network help to make it so much more personal. And Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the personal touch. So raise a glass to your customers, suppliers and fellow small business owners. And have a wonderful, happy Christmas and successful New Year.

See you at the next Small Business Network meeting on 21 January!