Keep calm and innovate: the UK’s SME lockdown heroes

No matter how you look at it, lockdown has not been good for most businesses in the short term. With GDP growth in 2020 forecast at between -7% and -13%, and many small businesses only surviving thanks to the £14 billion issued in government-backed Bounce Back Loans (PWC), SMEs across the UK are preparing themselves for the worst.

While highstreets stand eerily vacant and shopping centres pose a depressing, abandoned facade, some small businesses are busier than ever.

At Qadre, we are working on a suite of technical solutions to assist SMEs in running their businesses more efficiently, so founders can focus their time on securing revenue or funding, growing their company, and improving their business model. Knowing of several SMEs across the UK who have used the opportunity of lockdown to try out new business ideas, logistical models, and charitable efforts, we set out to write an article series showcasing these lockdown heroes. Here I have summarised some of the key findings from this series, but if you would like to learn more about the SMEs featured in our Turning lemons into lemonade: heroes of the COVID-19 lockdown series, you can read the original articles on the Qadre website.

The events catering company Lean Lunch of Leeds had initially opted to protect their bottom line, but quickly realised that they had an opportunity to pivot their business model to a home-delivery service. Through diversifying their product offering to include boxes of fresh produce, alongside their preexisting nutritious ready-made lunches, they were able to reach their existing and new customers.

While the restaurant turned farm-shop 24 The Oval of London was able to keep its existing customer base of loyal local residents, they were presented with a large but daunting opportunity. They decided to not only provide a marketplace for many UK farmers who had no other means of selling their produce, but to expand their business model to include an in-house brewery, bakery, and socially-distanced restaurant, based in their edible-garden behind the farm-shop. They continue to support many independent agricultural supply chains and expand their business across new premises around the south-west of London.

The gin-distiller Dyfi Distillery of Wales decided to sacrifice a commercial opportunity and support their local emergency services by making and donating large quantities of hand sanitiser to those most in need While they have seen some greater activity in their online gin shop, their selfless charitable contribution was a demonstration of how all businesses can embody their CSR values, no matter their size.

Many health, wellbeing, and fitness outlets have opted for an online offering, amongst them the Maidstone Yoga Centre of Kent. While the challenges of filming, editing, and hosting their yoga sessions proved daunting, they have been rewarded by a global audience attending their virtual classes. They may not have initially explored this avenue of distribution, but this foray into web-hosted classes has led them to plan for a combined online and in-person class format.

The one unexpected positive outcome that all of these founders mentioned was the joy that came from engaging with and helping their local community. The enthusiasm and feedback they received from their customers has only added to their determination to contribute to thrive in a post-Covid world.

When ordering food or drinks, picking a platform for exercise, or purchasing a new item, it is all too easy to default to well-known brand names. But a quick Google or social media search can turn up a whole host of home-grown SMEs, helping you to shop small, shop local, and support our SME lockdown heroes.

If you know of an SME who deserves to be profiled for their innovative approach to business during lockdown, please feel free to email me on and nominate them, or yourself!




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