In December 2020, during one of the hardest times for small businesses, including Meticulous Ink, we somehow beat the odds and became the very first winner of the People's Choice in the Independent Awards. The real question is, how does a tiny stationery shop in Bath do that, up against much bigger companies with a boat load more followers on social media? Well, I shall reveal all my secrets below!
The Independent Awards were brought about by Holly Tucker MBE (co-founder of Not on the High Street no less!) to celebrate the very best small businesses across the UK. In the year of the pandemic, these awards were HUGE, as unlike many other awards they had a proper amazing cash prize up for grabs for the 7 winners.
Over 50,000 businesses were nominated by the public through Instagram, and Holly and her team whittled this down to 118 businesses, including (you guessed it) Meticulous Ink!
When I received the initial email about being one of the shortlisted companies I was incredibly and surprisingly emotional. Having been through such a turbulent and stressful year of pandemic, closing the shop, financial worry, furlough, lockdown, and pivoting, the nomination came at the perfect time for a business confidence boost.
I proceeded to laugh-cry over instagram stories because of the hilarity, shock, surprise and gratitude for the nomination, to all the people that purchased from us and to everyone that has come through our door.
Me requesting votes via Instagram Stories.
Meticulous Ink had been nominated in the High Street Shop awards, up against 18 other stores. The winner in my category would win £10,000 to spend on the business. There was also a separate award for the People's Choice, which placed all 118 businesses up against each other.
Here's how on Earth I won against 118 other amazing, brilliant, fantastic small businesses:
• Stay optimistic and show gratitude. I was so totally blown away by even being nominated and making the shortlist. It really did wonders for our social media following, particularly on instagram. I have always been a fan of Insta stories - I like checking in quickly with my humans, so I did lots of posts about how grateful I felt for being nominated, plus was totally honest about how emotional I felt. I literally couldn't help my eyes leaking and always felt comfortable sharing the realities of running a business - the good and the bad - with my audience.
• Research. Yes, I did indeed scope out my competition. I wanted to see who I was up against and what kind of chance I would have. Most of the competition was run through Instagram, so I looked at how many followers there were to gauge who was most likely to win. It was also really fun seeing other niche businesses doing their thang. Don't get me wrong, I didn't obsess and go full stalker mode, I just had a peruse of the other shops. Honest!
• Scale the unscalable. I am an avid follower of Gary Vaynerchuk (He's a VERY enthusiastic entrepreneur that swears a lot. He's GREAT!) and in lots of his videos he talks about this. I think of it as the opposite of what a larger company might do. I knew my number of followers was not insignificant, however, lots of the other shops in the competition had 30-50k more followers than I did, which makes a huge difference when you need votes. I did the usual things you might think of - posting on Insta, Facebook, TikTok, LinkedIn and Twitter. I put a poster up in the window of our shop. I put a note requesting votes in all our online orders. I'd ask every customer in the store to vote for us too. I printed some cards and posted them through doors, gave them to friends to give the their friends. I posted flyers over the whole of Bath! Then I thought, what less easy thing would Gary Vaynerchuk do? The answer came to me. I started to individually message every follower I had on Instagram. With every spare minute of my life - walking to work, sitting on the toilet, during my lunch break, on the bus, on the train - I would be looking at every follower, address them by their name, note something specific about them if I could, and sent them an ask in the kindest way possible, to see if they might like to vote for me. For two and a half weeks solid I did this and managed to get to around 1700 (this method takes much more time then you would think!).
• Try your very best. There was a moment during the competition that I thought 'there is really no way whatsoever that I will win this." I'm sure lots of the other businesses thought the same, plus I had a pretty good idea of who would win in my category (and it wasn't going to be Meticulous Ink). I immediately realised that if I didn't try in every way I could possibly think of, even with the odds of winning being so slim, I would be disappointed in myself, and that is just not my vibe. It made for a hilarious quest, thinking of other ways and other people that I might not have mentioned it to, and getting them to vote.
During the Instagram Live Awards ceremony I showed up and was so delighted to see the reaction of the other winners. The other businesses that had worked equally hard all year and that had made beautiful, creative things. It was such a joy to be part of as an audience member.
The final award of the evening was the People's Choice Award, given to the business that had collected the most votes overall out of the 118 competitors. It was a tense moment. There was much build up. Holly Tucker did a dramatic pause… then said the magical words METICULOUS INK! I burst into tears and laughed hysterically. It was flipping BONKERS. We won! We bloody won! I was then invited to join the Instagram Live and could not stop laugh-crying. I'm not sure Holly knew how to react. It was hella funny to watch back. Wow, we had really won. It was so great!
Here's when Holly said we'd be winning £10,000, which was the most absurd thing EVER!
Being nominated for the competition gave us a real boost and increased our followers on Facebook and Instagram, as well as increasing the number of subscribers to our newsletter (are you subscribed?!). Even if we hadn't won, having that recognition and acknowledgement from the small business community really did wonders for me personally and for the business. The awards definitely served as a very welcome distraction to an impending lockdown and the stress of the year that had been.
The only question still on my mind is I wonder how much I won by. Was it by five votes? Was it by 500 votes?? So, Holly, if you are reading this, please spill the beans for my own curiosity.
If you know an amazing small business that deserves some recognition I highly recommend nominating them for an award. You never know, they might just win and you could put an enormous smile on someone's face.