Independent business voices12/05/21
“People need to remember that independents aren’t just for pandemics.”
These are the words of Independent Liverpool co-founder David Williams, who says that although there looks to be a positive summer ahead for Liverpool’s hospitality scene, we won’t see the real casualties until the end of the year when the funding dries up – and it’s then that we need to make sure we are sticking by our independent businesses.
Reflecting on the first 14 months of the pandemic, David says there’s no single mood to pin on the independent business community:
“It would depend who you asked, what day you asked them and what hour of the day it was. The only time I remember us all feeling similar was the day we were all told to close. That’s when panic set in, followed by acceptance, and from then on it’s been a bit of a roller coaster.”
Independent Liverpool was founded in 2013 and is the brainchild of David and his business partner Oliver Press. The pair started the initiative as an online blog talking about local independents and quickly followed with the Independent Liverpool Card, offering discounts and deals at participating businesses, which now has in excess of 10,000 holders.
The pair went on to grow the brand by holding large-scale alternative food and drink events and most recently opened Baltic Market, Liverpool’s first street food market in summer 2017.
“We never expected it to go this far,” adds David. “We just wanted to shine a light on the brilliant independents in Liverpool, and eight years later we are surprised but delighted to still be doing that.” With the light David and Oliver shine on small businesses now being more of a full beam bat signal, they have watched back-kitchen micro business flourish into some of the most-loved in the city region.
“We’ve seen eight street food traders from Baltic market go on to open their own restaurants, and we’ve been able to help so many small independents gain the brilliant attention they deserve. To be a part of the stories of these successful businesses is really humbling.”
Touching back on the COVID pandemic, David says in spite of the incredibly turbulent times, we’ve seen some inspiring success stories; “People have started businesses during the pandemic and they are doing really well. Some people are finally living their dream. It’s important that we find the positives in such a hard year – there is so much to worry about right now, so hearing the stories of small businesses starting or growing over the last year really injects optimism.
“Liverpool has shown its signature grit this last year, and people have really come out (without leaving their homes) to support independents. It’s important to remember that beyond this year, supporting us is more important than ever.
“You don’t have to spend money, or even leave the house, to help bolster a local business. Leave a positive review online from a previous visit, like and share their social pages or recommend them to your friends.
“Try not to focus on all the negatives if you experience any, remember that we are all doing our best as business owners and we haven’t had loads of clear guidance and months to review it. We are getting regulation changes all the time so sometimes we need a bit of extra support from customers to make sure everyone stays safe. Obviously, safety is the the priority, as well as making sure customers are having a brilliant time in our venues.
“As an independent business community, we are raring to go – but we aren’t losing sight of the battle ahead.”
Independent Liverpool’s message is clear – when the funding taps inevitably turn off, and the real business wounds of the pandemic start to show, we need to be there ready to eat, drink and socialise – albeit safely.
For more information about Independent Liverpool visit https://independent-liverpool.co.uk/
Interview by Rebecca Keegan