Getting SMEs online with the help of talented students

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In our mission to help SMEs achieve more online, here at the UK Domain we understand the time constraints and number of different priorities faced by small business owners establishing their business all too well. Getting online is understandability one of the tasks added to the growing ‘To Do’ list of business owners but when we discovered 28%¹ of small business owners would be interested in setting up a website if someone managed the process, we decided to see how we could help.

We have been working with computing students in Lichfield, Staffordshire, pairing them with local businesses, in what is believed to be the first initiative of its type in the world. The UK Domain Swap Exchange partnered these talented students with local businesses to create a simple website.

One of the students involved, Thomas Ali who helped Platters Tapas get online, found the experience great for his confidence, skills, and CV. While business owner, Paul Bailey was looking forward to how the website could help grow his business: “the staff and I are quite excited to have a website as hopefully it will bring more customers in, new customers as well.”

With over a quarter of British small businesses on the high street not having a website2, we hope this initiative will help SMEs reap the rewards of an online presence, from being found to competing with bigger brands on the high street. Having a helping hand from these students allowed business owners to understand how the internet is being used to find retail shops and just how essential it is to be online in this digital era.

“If you’re not online, a lot of people are going to miss you. Personally, if I’m going to find something I’ll generally look online” Thomas, Student

Vintage teashop Devo Tea were also keen to get involved after finding print advertising wasn’t working for them. Manager Jae Ashworth was keen to get online, commenting: “the reason why we need a website is so we can get clear and concise information across to our customers”.

“The benefits of being online is reaching out to younger audiences and getting our name out there as everything is all online now” Jae, Devo Tea

Both websites offer visitors essential information including location, contact details, images and links to social media, all of which will hopefully help the two businesses reach more customers. Not only that but with technology and the power of the internet only set to grow, having the skills and confidence to create websites will be a great benefit to the students involved too.

Curriculum Manager for Computing at Walsall College commented: “This exciting initiative is a win-win for all involved. As well as the freebies, students gain invaluable experience in practical web-building, giving them a step up on the career ladder.  And their work directly benefits businesses in the local community of which we’re a part of.”

If you’d like to hear more you can watch our video case studies below, or if you’re a small business feeling inspired to start your online journey head over to our get online section where you’ll find lots of helpful articles and guides.

¹ Research conducted by 3GEM on the behalf of the UK Domain surveying 335 SME business owners/decision makers without a website. Research carried out in November 2016 through an online survey.

2 Research conducted by Opinium Research on the behalf of the UK Domain surveying 202 small business decision makers. Research carried out between 25.09.15 and 28.09.15 through an online survey.

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Natalie Wood is Digital Communications Lead at the UK Domain. Natalie leads the email and social communication strategy. She is responsible for advising and implementing all online communication strategies to promote brand awareness.

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