Birmingham City University’s Business School lecturer Susan Sisay discusses three exciting research projects her students are currently conducting with micro SMEs determined to achieve growth.
Posted 03 November 2021
The challenge – helping local businesses grow
Susan identified three local SMEs that were in need of adequate support. The first, Venitin FOODS, is a sole trader specialising in vegan dishes.
Its owner was looking to identify trends she could tap into in order to build her venture’s reputation and increase sales.
The second, Open Lens Media, is a social enterprise that performs contractual work for local councils, youth referral homes and the police.
Their owner was keen to build on their business and look at ways to increase value proposition to their stakeholders.
Finally, online supplements company Sash Vitality found that their company’s growth had begun to plateau.
The opportunity – creating new ideas and strategies
Susan Sisay, a lecturer with considerable experience of working with SMEs, paired the three companies with second-year students.
This provided mutual benefits – the company were given a team of students to help develop forward-thinking ideas and concepts, while the students gained valuable, first-hand experience of working with an SME.
The students devised a number of ideas for the companies to pursue, but it would not just be a case of picking and choosing – companies would provide feedback on the aspects they liked and disliked, and from that they worked with the students to devise a whole new concept that satisfied their needs.
Success to date
Susan and the students noticed that while these SMEs had tasted initial success, they had hit a brick wall when it came to growth.
They also discovered that one of the reasons for this was because they hadn’t grasped the fundamentals.
For example, Venitin FOODS were relying solely on word-of-mouth to generate business, but had neglected creating business cards.
The students convinced Venitin’s owner that business cards with a website and number are essential even in today’s technologically-advanced age, especially if they miss out on talking to a potential client or investor at a meeting.
Sash Vitality were concerned about growth. Its founder had hired a company to help him generate more business, but six months and £30,000 later, this partnership yielded minimal results.
The students suggested a number of avenues, including a website, social media campaigns and improved graphic design.
The students also identified that Sash’s owner was not targeting the right market, which is essential for growth.
Looking to the future
There are already possibilities for long-term collaborations. Sash Vitality’s founder has been so impressed with the work Susan’s students have conducted that, upon graduation, he will be looking to offer full-time roles.
All three companies have provided positive feedback and are looking to implement the students’ plans into their strategies.