Chris Giddins is the founder of Local Support Vouchers, a new initiative that launched in the wake of the pandemic.
The platform provides small, independent businesses with a simple way to offer vouchers, to help them get back in business after lockdown. Customers can buy vouchers from their favourite business, pledge support to a business when it reopens, or gift a voucher to an NHS worker.
What do you currently do at Local Support Vouchers?
As the founder of Local Support Vouchers, I’m responsible for the day-to-day operations and strategic decision making. As the initiative is still fairly new, my focus at the moment is on reaching out to the businesses that we feel would really benefit from our platform. The businesses who sign up tend to be small, independent shops that don’t have the systems in place to offer vouchers, which is where we can help. We’re there to provide an extra revenue stream for them, so that they can get back to business with confidence.
Our mission is to support the brilliant local businesses that are the lifeblood of our towns, communities and high streets by empowering loyal customers to invest in their future. Thousands of small businesses are struggling in the face of this crisis. By enabling the public to back them by purchasing gift vouchers we hope we can provide a lifeline to those in need of support. We’re also really encouraging the public to nominate their favourite businesses to join the platform, so that loyal customers can show their support by purchasing vouchers to use down the line. It could make all the difference.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
Thousands of cafes, restaurants and small businesses have had to close their doors and we want to make sure they open again.
The early days of this crisis saw many of us encouraged to ‘buy vouchers’ for the businesses we knew to be struggling. But for most independent shops or restaurants, it’s not that simple. Setting up the processes and payment systems for vouchers is actually quite technical; beyond the current capabilities of most small businesses who have a lot to deal with right now. As a company, we’re struggling too, but we didn’t want to sit idly by and do nothing. The tech expertise of my team meant we could help these businesses and support the NHS at the same time.
Who do you admire?
I really admire all of the small businesses that have continued to push through the crisis. We’ve seen businesses pivoting and adapting to keep their business thriving, showing just how resilient Britain’s small businesses are. Some of the businesses that have signed up to Local Support Vouchers have such optimism and resilience and I think that’s what everyone needs at this time.
To add to that, I’d say the sense of the community that’s come out of the crisis is really inspiring. With people helping each other. So many people and businesses are lending their resources, time and money into supporting each other, which is really uplifting in such a difficult time.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
As we’re still a very fresh company, there’s not much that I would have done differently. Retrospectively, there are some minor changes I would’ve made to the website’s user interface but nothing hugely significant at the moment. We’re really happy with where Local Support Vouchers is heading and excited to see the initiative grow.
What defines your way of doing business?
I would say that my business style involves having confidence in my idea and overall I take a very practical approach. I’m also a little bit of a risk-taker. To make things work, sometimes you have to take risks and as a business owner, you wouldn’t get very far if you never tried something new or took a chance every now and then.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
For those who’ve just started out I would say that the crisis presents many challenges, but where there are challenges there are also opportunities. Make sure you’re doing something you’re passionate about because when you experience failure (and you will!) your passion will remind you of why you started. It’s a really tough climate at the moment, especially for those who are just starting out, but if you can weather a storm like Covid-19 then think about what you’ll be able to do when it’s over.
Local businesses can register to join Local Support Vouchers or find out more about the platform by visiting www.localsupportvouchers.com