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Small businesses need to connect and collaborate to survive says business networking expert

PUBLISHED: 08:58 12 February 2019

Penny Wilby at a Sudbury Business Expo event

Penny Wilby at a Sudbury Business Expo event

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Retailers who offer a personalised service or a place where people can have an "experience" stand a greater chance of surviving the shake-up of the high street.

Despite the hard trading climate for retailers, there have been some business sucesses in Sudbury. Pictured is Sudbury North Street shopsDespite the hard trading climate for retailers, there have been some business sucesses in Sudbury. Pictured is Sudbury North Street shops

So says Penny Wilby, owner of the Best of Sudbury marketing network, which works with businesses in around the town in west Suffolk. She recently held a competition to find the local businesses of the year based on ratings from customer reviews.

The winning business was Mandy’s Jewellery on Station Road, which offers bespoke jewellery for sale alongside jewellery-making classes. Runner-up was Duck and Boots on King Street which sells gifts from local artisans and hosts craft workshops.

“You can go to both of these shops if you want something original and you don’t want to pay a fortune,” said Ms Wilby.

Duck in Boots success story. Picture is Sarah Underhay.Duck in Boots success story. Picture is Sarah Underhay.

READ MORE: ‘People have moved on - they don’t just want burger and chips anymore’ says owner of new restaurant that replaces town’s Wimpy bar

“Because of the internet and out of town shopping, the high street is changing - people want an experience and to connect with other people.

“The bigger high street department stores have not identified this but small businesses are able to adapt.”

Penny Wilby with South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge at a a Sudbury Business Expo eventPenny Wilby with South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge at a a Sudbury Business Expo event

Other shops in the area to get a mention from Ms Wilby include Modifier clothing on Sudbury’s North Street where “a young man has identified a niche market for mod clothing and going there is an experience” and Woolpatch, a haberdashery and fabric shop in nearby Long Melford.

“This business is brilliant, especially if you love knitting like I do” she added. “He doesn’t stock loads of things but if have a problem he will sit down, put the kettle on and help you work it out.

“I could get my wool online but he is so helpful and I have formed a connection with the shop.”

Ms Wilby has also noticed a trend towards collaboration between small businesses.

Sudbury Business Expo 2017  PIC: Ranson & West PhotographySudbury Business Expo 2017 PIC: Ranson & West Photography

She continued; “Collaboration is way more powerful than competition. In the past business has been about competition, but when you are in a rural area it makes sense to pool resources.

“One example, would be a website design business I work with called Polyspiral in Sudbury. Owner Abbie Thoms created a website for both a local B&B and a beekeeper and ended up putting them in touch with each other so that the honey is now served for breakfast at the B&B.”

Ms Wilby is also founder and organiser of South Suffolk Expo - a business event due to be held at Stoke By Nayland Hotel on May 7.

Formerly Sudbury Business Expo, the initiative has grown since it first started in 2016 and this year 300 visitors are expected at the afternoon event. The Expo will have over 30 stands, a speed-networking lunch plus a number of seminars including a talk by Paralympian turned business coach Wendy Smith,

Sudbury Business Expo 2017  PIC: Ranson & West PhotographySudbury Business Expo 2017 PIC: Ranson & West Photography

Visit www.southsuffolkexpo.co.uk for more details.

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