Local Hero 
Ross Lowe - 10th October 2015 

Say "local business" to someone and the various responses you get in return are quite fascinating.  Some people initially picture a shop - say a butchers or a florists. Quite often they'll throw in a smiley proprietor with rosey chops and an apron, welcoming you inside. Say local business to someone else and they'll picture someone working out of their living room, hunched over a keyboard and with a slightly stressed look upon their face. Others will picture a similar scene, differing only by placing the central protagonist nearer to the fridge and television. And how bloody dare they.  Local business has meant a number of things to me throughout my relatively short lifetime on this crazy planet. My grandpa, a wonderful chap by the name of Arthur Hutchinson, used to run a hardware shop called 'Homecrafts' in Long Eaton, the town in which I went to school. Grandpa was an incredibly kind and generous individual and my Grandma, Una, worked alongside him. There was a pet store next door, and my Aunty Betty looked after that.  I used to love going to the hardware shop with my sister; it was a real rabbit warren of old wooden shelves crammed to the ceiling with screws, bolts, hooks, timber, tools and goodness knows what else. Grandpa was a bit of a hero to me and great fun too, but what I really loved was his reputation in the town. People genuinely loved the bloke. His hardware shop was one of those places where you could guarantee to come away with what you went in for, no matter how trivial, because all those little boxes and all the drawers and shelves within which they were stored were all neatly labelled. Arthur would always have the answer.  He was a key figure on the local business scene in Long Eaton, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire too. He was a keen member of the Rotary Club - Master at Arms in fact (I don't think that meant he had to get violent with people who hadn't paid their subs - I think it was more of an administrative role, but a pretty cool title nonetheless) and he was a member of a number of local trade federations.  Arthur Hutchinson was a great supporter of local business and knew countless shop owners by their first names. There was 'Toffee' Austin who ran the sweet shop in the square (okay - 'Toffee' wasn't his first name), Gerry the butcher, Bill the accountant and many, many more. They all knew him too and all worked together to keep each other going. Long after he retired, Arthur continued to help out at the Rotary Club and support his fellow local traders.  Sadly, my fantastic Grandpa passed away a number of years before I went into business for myself and I was never able to pick his brains on the subject. He sold his shop and it's now a backstreet bar. Most of the other local businesses have gone or have been passed down to sons and daughters. However, the Rotary Club remains and newer local businesses continue to work alongside more established ones to support and champion one another.  As for me, I realised the value of working with and supporting local business as soon as I set up and followed my Grandpa's lead. Business networking has introduced me to some fantastic people who have become trusted suppliers, collaborators and friends. The fortnightly or monthly breakfast meetings are a terrific way to start the working day and get business done. I immediately joined 4N Nottingham once I'd set up for myself and am now proud to be the Marketing Co-Ordinator for the group. I'm also the Group Moderator at BforB Burton-upon-Trent. Both groups are very different in style but both are designed to enable a flow of business and support for local traders in a huge variety of fields - and they work.  If you're starting out in business then I highly recommend that you get yourself along to a local networking group. Once you've been a few times, got to know other businesses and given them the opportunity to know you, you'll be amazed at the difference it makes. My Grandpa was a proud local business owner and I am now too - passing on referrals and leads to trusted businesses and suppliers across Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire. Getting myself established locally has enabled me to broaden my horizons and look further afield too, but I'm still very much a proud supporter of local trade.  I hope Grandpa would be proud of me and what I'm doing.  4N Nottingham meets every alternate Tuesday morning at The Boathouse/Beefeater, Castle Marina, Nottingham. It runs from 8am-10am BforB Burton-upon-Trent meets every alternate Thursday morning at Branston Golf Club. It runs from 6.45am-8.30pm.  If you'd like to know more about 4N Nottingham or BforB Burton-upon-Trent, or even if you have a question about local business networking in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire then I'd be only too happy to tell you more.  Drop me a line via my contact page and I'll get in touch.   

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