Hundreds of visitors flocked to an enterprising Ryedale town for a full day of festive fun as retailers celebrated their first ever Small Business Saturday.
More than 50 independent businesses decided to get behind the event on Saturday, December 7, which saw towns around the country encourage people to use their local businesses.
And for one business owner, the initiative sparked a “surreal” day where she was invited to Downing Street to take the “small business” message to the Government and listened to a speech from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.
The fun in Helmsley, which attracted people from across North Yorkshire, included a dog fancy dress show, a “man crèche,” Father Christmas and his sleigh, a festive photo booth, street food tasters and dozens of competitions encouraging people to pop into local businesses.
The event also coincided with a Festive Teddy Bear Trail and Helmsley’s second annual Christmas Tree Festival at All Saints Church, which features 30 individually decorated trees and will still be open today and tomorrow, 10am to 4pm.
Carolyn Frank, owner of Libby Butler Jewellers alongside her partner Andy Mardle, was part of the Helmsley in Business Christmas committee which planned the event. “Small Business Saturday was a huge success in Helmsley, because everyone got behind it – businesses and visitors alike,” she said. “It’s brought the community together and it’s reaffirmed how much people actually care, which is fantastic.”
Carolyn added: “Visitors were amazed that everything was free on the day and grateful for a full day out being entertained. People liked the fact that we offered an authentic, friendly, Christmas experience which is far removed from the commercialism of big town centres. Visitors to our lovely Christmas Tree Festival told me it brought back the true meaning of Christmas to visit such a beautiful Church and see the care and time which businesses and organisations had taken with their trees. People were able to do their Christmas shopping without any stress and full of inspiration, and hopefully left feeling happy and very festive! We have had lots of offers of help to organise next year to be bigger and better – so watch this space!”
Carolyn was also invited to 10 Downing Street on Friday, December 6, to take the small business message to government. She travelled to Brixton where she met with the #smallbizsat bus which has been touring Britain, including a stop in York, and drove in to Downing Street.
Carolyn said: “We were welcomed by the Business Secretary Matthew Hancock MP, and then went in to No. 11 for afternoon tea. We listened to various speeches before Chancellor George Osborne came upstairs to chat with everyone. The secretary to the treasury described small businesses as the “engine of Britain”, which was applauded.
“The whole day was quite surreal, standing alone on the steps of Number 10 for a photo, looking out, not in, from the gates of Downing Street and meeting George Osborne, but it was amazing to speak to businesses from up and down the country. Many share the same positive feeling we have in Helmsley, that our small businesses are booming and the towns we live in are working hard to compete with the ‘big boys’.”