The day was designated in April 2017 by the General Assembly of the United Nations to raise public awareness of the contribution of such businesses to sustainable development, and to encourage UN member states to support such businesses.
The reason the UN decided to recognise these businesses annually is that they’re the backbone of most economies worldwide and they play a key role in developing countries. But what is a Micro, Small or Medium-sized Enterprise (which I’ll abbreviate to MSME to save on my blog word count)? The answer is that MSMEs generally employ fewer than 250 persons, they make up over 90% of all firms, and they account for between 60% and 70% of total employment and 50% of GDP.
Breaking that down further, while we’ve all heard of SMEs, according to the FCA, a ‘micro-enterprise’ is one that employs fewer than 10 people and has a turnover or balance sheet of less than €2 million. We recognise the names of international giants such as Disney, Starbucks, Shell, Apple, Amazon and HSBC, but we’re probably much less familiar with the micro-businesses right on our own doorsteps. I know that I am (or I was until Covid-19). When I was walking to the office every day, before lockdown, I used to have my head down and not really take much notice of the micro-businesses that I was passing; I bought my morning coffee from one of the international giants right next to the office and went to work. Since I started working from home, however, I’ve been trying to get in my 10,000 steps a day and as a result I’ve become acquainted with a number of micro-businesses within half a mile of my house: a couple of small independent coffee shops, a butcher, a baker and a fishmonger (but sadly no candlestick maker) to name a few.
As a professional adviser my default position is to wonder whether these businesses need some legal advice: do they have employment contracts for their staff, when is their lease due for renewal, are they trading as a limited company and if not, should they be? However, since lockdown I’ve decided that the most useful thing I can do is buy something from them, and I’d urge you all to do the same. I have nothing against the international giants and they have a crucial role to play in a well-rounded economy. When I needed a 30m ethernet cable two weeks into lockdown, Amazon did me proud and my local computer shop was (and still is) closed. However, if I fancy a coffee, a bacon buttie, a fresh chicken, a loaf of freshly baked bread or a fillet of haddock, I now go for a stretch of the legs, put some money into the pocket of a local micro-business and generally pick up a morsel of local chat at the same time.
Although there is certainly an element of altruism in my ‘shop locally’ campaign, I must stress that I probably wouldn’t feel quite so altruistic if my local micro-businesses didn’t sell good quality products. However I can say hand on heart that the quality of the produce is as good as in any of the big retail multiples, and in many cases, better.
So as we approach Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day ask yourself whether you could spread your spending around so that more of it supports a local micro-enterprise. It may not always be obvious, but the people who founded, run and make a living from these businesses are real entrepreneurs and they have skin in the game. They’ll have invested in stock, equipment, decorating their premises and generally getting themselves ready to welcome you to their business. If you don’t buy a sufficient number of coffees, bacon butties, fresh chickens, freshly baked bread or fillets of haddock, one day the businesses won’t be there, the micro-business entrepreneur will very possibly have taken a significant financial hit, and in future your shopping experience will be that little bit less varied.