'Small business is my bag' by the Jacksons

Why are small businesses becoming so popular? The big new brands are small

shopping purposefully
By Team Holly & Co


Find out why small businesses are becoming so popular these days and Holly & Co’s view on it.

Small businesses: the new ‘must-have’ brands and why we love them

Small businesses are starting to compete with big name brands and fast becoming the most highly regarded labels to own. “Oh this? I got it from Denim and Bone. She only makes a handful of them and each one is different. It’s actually upcycled from vintage denim jackets that she collects herself, then she hand sews her patches onto them. Fearne Cotton’s got one.” Or "My print? It's a Dave Buonaguidi. I bought it because it spurs me on. I’ve just listened to his Conversations of Inspiration podcast episode too and now I know the story behind why he creates these, and how he stuck two fingers up at the rat race to pursue a career in art, I basically want everything he makes.”

That’s the sort of thing we’re starting to hear more of and it’s easy to see why. There are now around 5.5 million small businesses in the UK, offering a vibrant range of the most wonderfully niche products and services between them. On the more artisan end, you can invest in limited edition, heritage craft items that are the ultimate luxury.

Also, rather than just selling you something, these artisans can help you become your most creative self. Whether you want to create your own artwork, design your own wall hanging or buy a piñata of someone's face, you can. Plus many small businesses make a social impact too. So by shopping with them, you are becoming an activist and changing the world in a positive way. You could buy joyfully designed chocolate by Let Us Pretend — a female founded company that sews majestic ‘fuck cancer’ capes amongst other things. And surely that’s got to be infinitely more satisfying than paying your hard earned money to fund a CEO’s new sports car?

Why do people love small businesses?

There are many reasons for this…

  • Because they make such innovative, unique products. You can count on independent businesses to find something one-of-a-kind that you haven’t seen before (and potentially be the first to have it, too).
  • Because they create quality, often handmade items, crafted with love and care and made to last. You also support artisans rather than mass-produced fare (which many designer items are).
  • Because it means you can give something back. Supporting small businesses helps put money back into local communities (63p in every pound) and backs those striving to make a living doing what they love.
  • Because it shows you have values. You are prepared to vote with your money for the kind of world you want to live in.
  • Because you’re more likely to get an authentic experience from a human being. From handwritten notes in orders, to the ability to message the maker or learn more about them, in an age of automation, there’s a lot to be said for the personal touch and having a story behind what you buy.
  • Because it’s a rock star thing to do. It shows independent thinking and that you’re happy to be your own person rather than following the crowd.

How to find the best small businesses

The hard part isn’t choosing to support small businesses above traditional retailers though it seems. It’s discovering them. In fact, in an independent survey, customers said they’d shop with independent businesses if they knew where to find them¹ — which was part of the reason we made it possible to shop from all the best small businesses in one place at Holly & Co.

The power of curation

It’s one thing preferring small businesses, but another thing having the time to go looking for them. You need someone with a magical eye and an obsession for shopping with colourfully creative independents and that’s why this marketplace is our founder Holly Tucker’s dream come true. After setting up notonthehighstreet in 2006, and having championed small businesses for two decades, she knows what makes a good one. She said, “I like to call it ‘truffle hunting’ — it’s a special skill to sniff out the real treasures. Very few people can do it well but I take great pride in it and so does my team. We love saving women time and energy because as busy mums, carers and workers, we’re no stranger to the mile-long to-do list ourselves. It’s an honour to help them connect.” It’s not just the discerning customer who appreciates UK independent’s either…

Why celebrities are choosing independent businesses: small brands we love

As well as Harry Rocks’ necklaces. Dawn O’Porter sports Flingo & Swollop and when Liv Tyler’s daughter wore a The Oak & Rope Company when people spotted the Prince and Princess of Wales and the children on their customised, hand carved wooden swings, like the one shown here. More and more famous faces are turning to small businesses for something special.

Small businesses are the new black

The point is that where once people flocked to wear recognised labels and logos, or buy gifts or homeware from well known brands, there’s a growing movement for choosing more niche, up-and-coming businesses that hand make items using true artisan skills, and outshine the more traditional retailers. And if you’re an independently minded person who lives by their values and likes to be creative, then independent businesses might just be for you. No wonder they’re getting so popular…

Source: 1. Independent ‘Shop Small’ Survey 2021.