Jane Pritchard, Enterprise Director, reflects on the Shortlist and Winning companies of the ASDA Enterprise Growth Award.
As the UK begins its economic recovery, it is the private sector that is expected to drive economic recovery and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have an important role to play. Defined as having up to 249 employees, these businesses account for 99 per cent of businesses in the UK and are the backbone of the country's economy. In 2011 they employed 13.8 million people and had a combined turnover of £1,500 billion – almost half of the turnover in the UK private sector.
All this makes SMEs extremely important to the economy and the communities in which they operate. Yet they are struggling to win public sector contracts, access finance to start-up and grow, and get into company supply chains.
There are many advantages to large business of working with SMEs, including strengthened supply chains, engaged employees, access to innovation and creativity, enhanced reputation and expanded business growth.
The ASDA Enterprise Growth Award recognises those companies that are leading the field in this arena. In this, only the second year of the award, we were excited to such great examples of best practice, and of large businesses investing time and money in understanding small businesses and creating mutually beneficial long term partnerships that go way beyond the traditional customers/supplier relationship.
Our 2014 shortlisted companies should be justly proud of all that they have achieved. Hogan Lovells' Social Enterprise Practice has engaged over 100 lawyers within the firm to support 30 social enterprises with pro bono advice and enable £1.4m of investment from Unltd’s Big Venture Challenge, as well as introducing these enterprises to supply chain opportunities. Circle Housing’s Enabling Enterprise programme has created new jobs and apprenticeships through offering direct skills support and adapting its procurement processes to create access for SMEs.
This year we saw two businesses receive the accolade of Winner. Firstly, Large Business Winner Blakemore Fine Foods has supported around 180 SMEs in delivering £13.5m in sales to its customers, in the process opening up new markets and demonstrating its culture and values in action.
And Small Business Winner Camden Town Unlimited has established Camden Town as a hub for creative industry start ups.
These companies are from a wide range of sectors and took a wide range of approaches. Each and every story is an inspiring example of what companies, companies like yours, could be doing to support enterprise to regenerate communities and create local growth. Please do take the time to read these inspiring stories.
For information about what BITC can do to help your business support SMEs, contact me at Jane.Pritchard@bitc.org.uk.