Helping Small Businesses Achieve Their Big Dreams | A Q&A with Holly Tucker
We spoke to Holly Tucker, co-founder of notonthehighstreet.com and founder of Holly & Co, to hear about her entrepreneurial journey.
Can you tell us about your personal entrepreneurial journey?
The journey of building notonthehighstreet.com was one of many highs and far too many lows. All in all it was an incredible opportunity. 2005 was when it all began, and we didn’t even have smart phones at that time. I can’t quite believe that is how old we are, but we are in our eleventh year now. We help small businesses who are suffering from being kicked out of the high street and created basically a virtual high street online.
We are one of the first curated marketplaces in the world and it has been nothing but amazing – the whole thing! Watching 5000 small businesses grow, building family companies, watching the ins and outs of business development, seeing what happens when they are not supported and the role that creativity plays.
Seeing the uniqueness of the retail space and product innovation grow has been an incredible journey to witness. If you think about it, notonthehighstreet.com has quite an unbelievable scenario where we have 5000 small businesses, 20000 products, and 10000 odd people employed in the UK, and being able to have a bird's-eye view of this exceptional situation has been a real privilege and something that I have taken on to my next step of building Holly & Co, so I am very excited for the next decade.
"I think it is my purpose on this planet to help them realise their dreams and bring ideas to market"
That sounds like an incredible journey - where does your love of small business come from?
People ask me what makes me passionate about small business. I remember when I was three, and I have a picture of myself lying in personal bedding that my mum had made for me – so I think it has always been in my DNA. I like to support the underdog, I love creativity, and I don’t want anything to create barriers for creativity to get to market. So, when I see a couple, a small family, a kid straight out of uni or a 60-year-old with an amazing idea, I think it is my purpose on this planet to help them realise their dreams and bring this idea to market. There is nothing like a small business, well an entrepreneur, but they wouldn’t call themselves entrepreneurs, they all have this never stop attitude. Juggling family, work, life and never stopping for the 24 hours in the day, it is magical to watch them succeed.
It is a passion, and it is my only passion, I don’t do yoga, I don’t do anything else, but I do support creativity and help people realise what’s important to them.
Small business is obviously a real burning passion for you, but can you tell us a bit more about your specific role in this journey?
We started with the first 100 partners, and I helped pull them all onto the site. Now it has 5000 small business, I now mentor businesses like these every single day in my role at Holly & Co – so over the years I have helped hundreds and thousands of small businesses. As I said, they wouldn’t call themselves entrepreneurs, but they are imagineers, and they won’t stop until they succeed.
"By 2020, 40% of the workforce will be freelance"
What I’ve found is that a lot of them need that helping hand; they need to be able to concentrate on what they do fantastically well; they almost need the big business to be taken out of small business so they can feel free to innovate. Right now, there is no one cheerleading them, so that is my role. By 2020, 40% of the workforce will be freelance, as we are now in this day and age of freelance. The first 10 years of notonthehighstreet.com was about saving small businesses that were being kicked off the high street, and now my next decade is looking at increasing the group of people who all want to work for themselves, who want that work life balance which I would call the good life scenario. But no one has written the rulebook yet, so I am hoping, if I can with my dyslexia, that I can write their rulebook going forward.
What do you think about creativity in business?
Creativity is something that is spoken about a lot in advertising and design agencies, but actually when you get to grow a business, and certainly I have had first-hand experience of this, creativity can become the C word. Because the operations, the nuts and the bolts and everything you are trying to drive though pushes creativity out, so I want to share what I have painfully and truthfully learnt from this experience.
It is hardcore when you run a business, so I want to make sure that small businesses remember that creativity has to be at the heart of it all; it has to be the Duracell battery of your company. Far too often we forget about it as process takes over, so when I see small businesses in that incubator stage with phenomenal ideas, I want to help them keep those ideas as a priority throughout their journey. It is what makes me and them incredibly happy so I am trying to bring colour to grey.
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