Small businesses in Swindon and Wiltshire should not be afraid of bidding for government contracts. That was the message from Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation and co-founder of Start-Up Britain, in her South West Business Expo address yesterday (Thursday).
Emma – who won an MBE for services to enterprise in 2012 and in 2016 was appointed by David Cameron as Small Business Ambassador, before being dropped from the post by his successor, Theresa May – joked to delegates at a Swindon Chamber of Commerce-hosted breakfast, that like the Queen she measured her tenure by the number of prime ministers she had seen come and go – she's about to be on her third.
"Politicians come and go, but small businesses remain relentless," she said.
Emma said she wanted July 4 – marked by Americans as Independence Day – to be a celebration of small businesses, and the independence and freedom that being your own boss brings.
And she told networkers that government contracts were a great opportunity for growing businesses.
The government, she said, has set itself a target of spending £1 in every £3 with small businesses by 2022.
"That's £15bn of stuff that government has to buy from small businesses – whatever you are selling, government is probably buying," she said.
The government's Contracts Finder web portal is a good place to find and bid for contracts, said Emma. But another route to business is through the large companies from which government procures goods and services.
In April last year, cabinet office minister Oliver Dowden announced that preference would be given to large providers that subcontracted to SMEs. "Those companies are increasingly looking to buy from small businesses," she said.
The seventh South West Business Expo attracted around 600 business owners to STEAM in Swindon, to exhibit, to network, and to hear from guest speakers including entrepreneur Paul Waite, British Olympian Naomi Riches, and Dragons Den star Ed Hollands.