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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Small Business Saturday aiming to put Carlisle entrepreneurs in shop window

Carlisle is gearing up for the first Small Business Saturday, an American initiative that is being taken up enthusiastically in the UK.

Small Business Saturday photo
Lisa Wheatcroft, of The Sweet Dream Company, with one of her creations, will have a stall in Carlisle’s Market Hall

The event tomorrow aims to throw the spotlight on smaller, independent businesses by urging people to “shop local” and support home-grown enterprise.

December 7 was chosen as it is one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

In the US in 2012, Small Business Saturday brought $5.5bn (£3.4bn) in sales to small firms, and boosted their long-term custom.

Within Carlisle, the city council and Cumbria County Council have joined forces with the Market Hall, University of Cumbria, and Cumbria Chamber of Commerce to back the event.

Fifteen empty stalls in the Market Hall will be handed to small businesses – many of which do not have retail premises – and to schools to promote entrepreneurship among pupils.

The Sweet Dream Cake Company, based at Carlisle Enterprise Centre in James Street, is one business to take advantage.

Owner Lisa Wheatcroft is baking a cake in the shape of a snowman for the occasion.

She said: “It will provide a showcase for us.

“Ninety per cent of our business is online so this gives potential customers a chance to see us.

“It’s an excellent opportunity because we can’t afford the rents in town.”

Gill Dearman, a textile artist from Brampton, is also taking a stall. She said: “It’s particularly useful for me because I’ve only been in the area for a year having moved the business from North Yorkshire.

“It’s an opportunity to meet the public and get together with other traders.”

The other businesses taking stalls are Adore Button Bouquets, Half Moon Whole Foods, the Heathlands Project, Paperbox Films, Protouch Valeting Services, Steve Blake Photography, the Wedding Warehouse, and Warwick Tower.

The stalls will trade between 9.30am and 4.30pm.

University of Cumbria, Carlisle City Council’s environmental health team, the Federation of Small Businesses, Cumbria County Council’s trading standards department, and Cumbria Chamber of Commerce will have a presence too, offering advice to businesses.

The initiative has support from politicians across the political spectrum.

Carlisle’s Conservative MP John Stevenson is hosting is an export event for small firms today as a prelude to Small Business Saturday.

Colin Glover, the Labour leader of the city council, said: “I am urging everyone to support the city’s small businesses. Make a special effort to shop and buy services from small local, shops and independent businesses and eat in [independently-owned] cafes and restaurants.

“Small businesses are what make us stand out from everywhere else and make Carlisle special. They add character to our city.”

Carlisle City Centre Business Group will use Small Business Saturday to promote a contest to find the best Christmas shop window.

Seventeen businesses have entered. You can vote for your favourite on the website of our sister newspaper, the News & Star.

The Market Hall is launching its Christmas voucher draw, which has a total prize pot of £800.

And Brampton Business Association is supporting Small Business Saturday by organising a ‘shop local’ Christmas prize draw, with another to follow on Saturday December 21. Each has a top prize of £100.

Shoppers who spend £10 or more in any of 11 participating businesses will be entered into the draw.

Thomas Brodie, chairman of the association, said: “We want to see people supporting independent retailers and businesses in high streets and market towns. So this Christmas our association is running two free prize draws.”

In Penrith, Eden council is offering free car parking tomorrow.

Celebrity entrepreneurs such as James Caan of Dragons’ Den, high street guru Mary Portas, and Karren Brady from The Apprentice, have endorsed what will be an annual event.

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