Since non-essential shops were ordered to close back in March, many independent local business owners have seen their livelihoods threatened, but have risen to the challenge by innovating to make their products available remotely, with very short notice. With many shops due to reopen on 15th June, we chatted to Independent Oxford co-founder, Rosie Jacobs, about supporting these vital local businesses.
Daily Info: Tell us about what you normally do
Rosie Jacobs: I run Independent Oxford which supports and promotes independent businesses in Oxfordshire. I set it up 5 years ago with Anna Munday, as we both felt there was a lack of community for indies locally. It was something we needed for our businesses, so we figured others would too! Since then, we’ve grown an amazing community of indie businesses, and work to support them through sharing knowledge and building their audience.
DI: How have you adapted to the social distancing measures?
RJ: We have doubled down on the support we are providing to members, including weekly Zoom meetups to connect with other businesses and share knowledge, and weekly Facebook live sessions in our Members’ Facebook Group, to help businesses build their online audience, covering topics from Instagram hashtags to networking, and creating a newsletter to planning content.
DI: What are you planning for when things get back to normal?
RJ: We’re dreaming of meeting up in a café! Being able to meet up again will be such a treat, and we’re looking forward to taking our meetups back to awesome indie venues, organising a members’ meal, and you might even see an Indie Oxford Market Place popping up again! We were planning our 5th birthday party in March, which had to be postponed, so we can’t wait to be able to start planning the celebrations again.
DI: How can people support you now?
RJ: At the moment, the most important thing we can all do to support indies is buy local. Many indies have reacted really quickly to the lockdown and have opened online shops, or created takeaway menus. You can also buy vouchers to pay for products and experiences in the future, which really helps with cash flow. You can find our list of which businesses are open, or offering delivery, here.
We’ve been saddened by the number of businesses that are still having to pay 100% rent, where landlords are not willing to share the burden that has affected us all during the lockdown. We are working to help businesses by facilitating connections with agents and business owners, and working with organisations like Hospitality Union to raise the profile of the #nationaltimeout campaign in Oxford.
DI: What are you doing to relax and have fun while stuck at home?
RJ: It’s been really full on with all the work we are doing at the moment to support the independent business community, but I am trying to ring-fence weekends for gardening, running, reading and of course an indie take away too!