Small businesses are the essence of the UK.
From the oldest traditional manufacturer to the newest tech startup, their values of hard work and self-reliance are an inspiration to us all.
Their economic contribution is not to be sniffed at either, as they generate a combined annual turnover of £1.8 trillion. So I have always supported Small Business Saturday, set up by a group of entrepreneurs as a way of recognising the important position they hold at the heart of our economy.
Read more: This was a mixed Budget for British SMEs
Tomorrow is the fifth Small Business Saturday, and it is a campaign I’ve backed every year because of the huge boost it gives our independent companies and the country as a whole. This year is no different – as minister for digital, I’ve seen the endless opportunities that technology can offer small businesses.
In the past five years, the number of digital tech businesses has swelled by 28 per cent, with growth more than twice as fast as their non-digital equivalents.
And with each advance in technology, small companies are able to take their business in new and exciting directions.
We are increasing the amount central government spends with small business. Central government contracts above £10,000 are openly advertised on the government’s procurement website, Contracts Finder, and by 2022 the government will spend £1 in every £3 on goods and services with SMEs.
Our digital strategy, published early this year, is designed to get the conditions right for these businesses to grow, from infrastructure to skills training. Its requirements are being met via a whole range of initiatives, such as Tech Nation, the Digital Skills Partnership, and the tech talent visa.
More than four million free digital skills training opportunities will be created as part of our landmark strategy. We are always keen to hear from the business community on what their needs are.
As a consequence, we are continually developing and adding new measures, in partnership with industry. Recently we launched a pilot scheme whereby local companies will be offered vouchers by broadband suppliers to pay for gold-standard full-fibre connections. This should help revolutionise our digital infrastructure, and make it fighting fit for the future.
Our goal is to make the UK the best place in the world to start and run a digital business, be it large or small. Every day millions of small business owners make an invaluable contribution to the UK economy. Some 75 businesses are started every minute in the UK, and we should take every opportunity to support and champion them.
We must recognise the invaluable contribution that they make to high streets all over the country.
Small businesses deserve our support all year round and what better way to start than on Small Business Saturday this weekend.
With the Christmas shopping season upon us, please do drop in to your local independents.
And, even more importantly, return to work on Monday with ideas for innovative partnerships and initiatives that will ensure prosperity for our small companies, the wider business community, and the nation as a whole in 2018 and the years ahead.