The high street is dead, long live the e-high street! The rise of online small businesses

Starting a business is difficult. Or it isn’t. From what I’ve been told all it takes is a good idea and you’re off. From what I haven’t been told, it takes a monumental amount of time, effort and often money.

Fortunately, there has been a phenomenon brewing for some time now that has placed our generation in, for once, a stronger position when it comes to prospects. If you have a good idea, or even an idea you just think is good (you can convince other people later) an opportunity has presented itself. With the UK in lockdown for the third time it could be argued that we can already tick the first criteria to starting a business off the list: Time.

We have plenty of it on our hands. Secondly, effort, coming with a drive given by an idea, if you believe it’s a good one it’s difficult to be unmotivated (for better or for worse). Now we just have the small problem of money, but no one said anything about a very big business. Cheap is good. 

Throughout this third lockdown, I’ve seen a multitude of smaller businesses cropping up, and those I’m in contact with on social media. From Jewellery making to dried flower arranging, the diligent and the industrious are showing themselves. And it’s working.

This is a fortuitous time for anyone with a good idea, thanks in part to social media, making it easier to share and advertise this idea to an astoundingly broad audience. An audience that, if captivated by the product on display, will hopefully make a purchase. And a business is born.

This online marketing strategy is made possible by the many useful websites currently available  such as Etsy or Depop that make it easier than ever to set up a personalised shop. These websites only take a small cut from sales (Etsy: 5% and Depop: 10%). Small businesses are on the cusp of being completely transformed by a comprehensive saturation of product availability, a good idea fighting its way to the top on stand-out quality alone. Being ahead of the curve feels almost too cliché, yet it does apply here. Access to an online platform for advertising and selling highly individualised and personalised goods is much needed, especially in a world living in an increasingly virtualized reality. 

I make it sound very simple because in essence it is. Unfortunately in practice there will always be complications and more often than not an idea turns out to not be such a triumph. Yet still, there are always more ideas to be had and in a lockdown you have all the time you need to try things, because you never know. Maybe you could make something this lockdown, or maybe not – either way, it’s a very fulfilling thing to be able to say you’ve started a business, however small. 

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Harry Hunter

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September 2021
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

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