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Shining a spotlight on independent businesses

Posted onPosted on 20th Oct

A Newark woman who champions independent local food and drink companies is celebrating a double success for her own fledgling business.

Leisa Pickles created a Facebook group at the start of the coronavirus lockdown in March to raise awareness of local businesses still offering a service that could be used as an alternative to supermarkets.

Now it is celebrating a six-month anniversary with new branding, a registered trademark and a weekly schedule of regular content.

The group, originally called Behind Closed Doors and now renamed To My Front Door UK Newark, has also been given national recognition in a campaign to support small business.

To My Front Door is among the selected #SmallBiz100 as part of the #SmallBizSatUk initiative. Small Business Saturday UK is a campaign to support small business, on the first Saturday in December each year. Small independent businesses are encouraged to apply for the #SmallBiz100 – 100 businesses that are profiled nationally, one a day, in the run-up to Small Business Saturday.

It is a fine accolade for the group, which has been connecting small and independent cafes, food producers, restaurants and caterers with customers for more than six months now, helping them to continue trading.

Leisa is also looking for ambassadors from other towns in the East Midlands and beyond to roll out the platform in their area.

Already she has one volunteer on board, who will be flying the flag for independent food businesses in the Vale of Belvoir.

Leisa explained: “On 23rd March, right at the start of lockdown, whilst out walking my dog I came up with the idea of creating a Facebook group that would aim to provide my local community with alternatives to the major supermarkets for their essential food items.

“I rushed home and created the group, Behind Closed Doors, invited a few friends to join and let them invite their friends to join.

“I set about creating and building a platform to showcase independent food businesses in my area that were continuing to trade via home delivery, click and collect or takeaway ‘behind closed doors’.”

Leisa already worked in the food and drink industry, typically with independent businesses, prior to lockdown, but lost most of her customers very quickly.

But the Facebook group and promoting local independent food and drink businesses became her main focus.

“The group really took off and within six weeks we had over 2,000 members,” she continued. “I worked tirelessly on the group, it was my motivation during lockdown.

“The group became an important and essential platform for my local community with some members referring to it as a ‘lifeline’.

“As lockdown restrictions started to lift (in the summer) the focus of the group shifted from businesses doing home delivery to businesses reopening, with our weekly update showcasing newly-opened businesses and what they were doing.

“At this point it seemed right to change the name of the group to reflect the change in trading status of the businesses featured and so, To My Front Door came to be.

“The group has just celebrated its half-year birthday with new branding, a registered trademark and a weekly schedule of regular content.

“I am hugely proud of this group and the profile it has given to local independent food businesses.

“The group will continue to bring offers, insights, ideas and information on and about these businesses directly to the front door of our community long into the future.”

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