Posted: Fri 30th Jun 2023
The Small Business Goes Big competition is an exciting initiative to unleash small businesses' creativity and help business owners update their brands to reach more buyers and customers.
In the competition's latest phase, 10 small businesses were given the chance to sell their products from an exclusive pop-up space on London's prestigious Oxford Street.
Here, we talk to three people who took part in the pop-up to find out what the experience was like and how selling on Oxford Street has benefited their businesses.
First off, tell us about your business and what you do.
Nele Wessels: Naeo Nutrition is a personalised supplement brand whose mission is to help people improve their health and hydration and inspire them to live a holistic lifestyle while doing good with every purchase they make.
The idea came from my personal struggles with acne and Long COVID that led me to spend hundreds of pounds on generic pills and tablet supplements that never really worked and just crowded my cupboard.
Doing some more research, I realised I wasn't alone, and that seven out of 10 people want to become healthier but just struggle with the abundance of generic options available. I wanted something that would finally show results and was enjoyable and affordable to take, so I founded Naeo Nutrition.
We use AI to determine what type of vitamins people need, then personalise those vitamins for them in the form of 'Haribo-style' gummies. We also donate for every vitamin and complementary item sold – we have a holistic approach to health and wellbeing rather than just giving people another pill to swallow.
Jessica Hay: Bare Kind was founded in 2018 by Lucy Jeffrey, with the aim of giving back to the planet. We endeavoured to create a product capable of protecting endangered species from various threats. We started with turtle socks, and we've now grown to offer more than 40 unique designs, proudly supporting over 25 global charities.
Our colourful and vibrant bamboo socks donate 10% of profits to charities that save the animals on our socks. People want to make a positive difference to the environment. With Bare Kind socks, they have the opportunity to be a part of something impactful with every purchase.
With our customers' support, and the significant work of our charity partners, we've been able to fund initiatives such as protecting land for orphaned elephants, funding transport for children to take part in the KEEP program in Namibia, and planting mangrove trees. With every purchase of our socks, customers can join us in contributing to these worthy causes.
Protecting and investing in our future is an important part of Bare Kind's mission, while our vision is to accelerate the restoration of a biodiverse planet while bringing joy to the everyday. We truly believe that we can change the world with something as humble as a pair of socks.
Serina El Mufti: We're a skincare and wellness brand that draws inspiration from the ancient spa rituals of the Dead Sea.
I co-founded the business with my two siblings Laith and Hana – all three of us have a deep connection to our Jordanian heritage and a profound appreciation for the skin-boosting and therapeutic properties of the natural minerals found in the Dead Sea, which are up to 80 times higher than those found in other seas.
The philosophy of The Dead Sea Co. brand is rooted in the belief that skincare is not just about improving the physical appearance of the skin, but also about promoting holistic wellbeing.
We see everyday activities like showering, bathing and using face masks as opportunities for mindfulness and self-care. Our mission is to help our customers not only look their best but also feel their best, inside and out.
Why did you decide to enter the Small Business Goes Big competition?
Nele: Starting a small business can be challenging without the marketing power to promote your products. As a direct-to-consumer (d2c) brand, Naeo relies solely on digital campaigns for conversion, which means there's a constant pressure to create viral content 24/7.
When I learned about the competition, it seemed like a unique opportunity to expose the brand and idea to a whole new audience through a channel we wouldn't typically target, namely at the physical point of sale (POS).
While selling products online has many advantages, selling them in person allows you to capture valuable feedback, target customers' senses, and physically observe where people linger or have questions.
Jessica: When we heard about the competition, we knew it was an amazing opportunity to showcase our socks to a bigger audience and share our mission. As an online business, we were excited to meet our customers in person for the first time.
And to have a pop-up shop on Oxford Street alongside so many other amazing small businesses was an opportunity we couldn't pass up!
Serina: Being granted the chance to showcase our products and services on such an iconic street has not only elevated our brand presence but has also served as a valuable trial for venturing into the world of retail. The foot traffic, diverse customer base and invaluable feedback we received have provided useful insights and confidence in our potential to thrive in a physical retail environment.
How has the pop-up shop helped you develop your brand?
Nele: It was our first experience of opening a pop-up shop – and on the most iconic shopping street in Europe as well! While the preparation was a little chaotic at times, the time in store was truly amazing and invaluable.
We met a lot of new customers, tried out different concepts, and got first-hand feedback on our gummies at our tasting bar. At the same time, we met other inspiring founders and got to share our experiences with them, which made it even better.
Jessica: The pop-up shop was a great two days for our business. We had our loyal customers visit and show their support, but we were also able to meet many new customers who were discovering Bare Kind for the first time.
It was incredible to see people connect with our socks and mission for the first time and their feedback gave us great insight into how we can progress our business further when connecting with first-time buyers.
As a result of the pop-up, we featured on a radio show and we're now looking into doing more pop-ups in the future around Christmas time.
Serina: Meeting other inspiring brands and connecting with like-minded entrepreneurs has ignited new ideas and possibilities. The networking opportunities that arose from this experience have the potential to lead to exciting collaborations, cross-promotions, and mutual support.
We're grateful for the connections made and the doors that have been opened, as they have the potential to shape our business trajectory in significant and unforeseen ways.
What advice do you have for small businesses that are struggling with their marketing and design?
Nele: If you're struggling with marketing and design, don't be afraid to experiment and try new things, and always be open to feedback from your customers. You know your brand better than anyone else.
Especially in the early days, it's so important to create and keep a strong brand identity. Trying to create assets yourself first can really help to strengthen that identity.
Jessica: If you feel like your content isn't connecting with your audience, or you're struggling to come up with designs and branding ideas, here's my advice. Set aside half a day, or even a whole day, to brainstorm how you want your content to look and feel.
Don't try to please everyone with your designs – find your unique style and stick to it. Create a colour palette that reflects your brand and establish guidelines for your content. It's all about finding your niche and creating content that adds value and resonates with your audience.
Serina: Having the right tools in place is crucial for early-stage businesses. The ability to wear multiple hats and handle various tasks is a common reality during this phase.
Investing in the right tools and automating processes wherever possible not only makes your work more efficient but also helps you maintain a cohesive and visually appealing brand presence. It frees up valuable time to focus on other aspects of your business.