Small is beautiful

Christmas bauble with lights and tree
29th November 2022
Written by: Mari Findlay and Jackie Wynne, Interface

Small Business Saturday is the perfect opportunity to champion small and medium sized businesses, which make up the majority of Interface’s clients.

Many of the organisations that we match to academics aim to “do good” in one way or another, by supporting rural communities or people with health conditions, to reducing waste, or carbon emissions, and recycling by-products into something of value.

Here are just two examples of organisations which Interface has supported by matching them to the right academic expertise:

Mari Findlay is Business Engagement Executive at Interface for Dumfries and Galloway. Here she explains how four Marketing Masters students helped with a campaign to enrol volunteers for a worthwhile local transport initiative for patients.

“Dumfries and Galloway is a rural area with poor public transport connectivity and sadly, many people need to travel outwith the region for medical treatments at larger hospitals with specialist equipment and consultants. These journeys can be very long and in hard-to-reach destinations, such as Glasgow and Edinburgh.  Public transport links are very limited in some parts of the region and run infrequently, which can be fraught with problems such as cancelled services and delays, adding significantly to stress levels. Very often the people having to travel are elderly and don’t drive anymore or are unable to cope with driving such a long distance and navigating a city. Or they may be seriously ill and travelling by public transport or driving themselves isn’t an option open to them.

“Consequently, Dumfries and Galloway Community Transport (DGCT) and Dumfries and Galloway Council (DGC) acknowledged this important concern for patients and entered into a contract which allows DGCT to operate a patient transport system which sees patients transported from their homes to regional hospitals in Glasgow and Edinburgh for appointments and treatment whilst ensuring that patients are safely transported back home. DGCT operates this service on a volunteer driver basis and charges patients the public transport cost, for example £26 for a train ticket which is then subsidised by DGC to help cover operating costs and fuel. 

“I was able to connect DGCT to University of Strathclyde through their initiative Marketing Works, where four Masters Marketing Students collaborated with DGCT to develop a marketing campaign to help attract and enrol volunteer drivers to operate their own private cars and to use the Council’s mini- buses.”

Meanwhile, Mari’s colleague Jackie Wynne matched students from University of Glasgow to a female-led organisation inspired to the magic of Christmas. Here she tells us more about a collaboration close to her heart.

“Given the current economic climate with rising interest rates and soaring energy bills, you would be forgiven for finding Christmas a little harder this year. The Glasgow Basket Brigade (GBB) is a female-led initiative fully inspired to bringing the magic of Christmas alive through connection, contribution and giving back to the community. 

“The organisation was founded in 2019 by a group of female entrepreneurial volunteers, running a programme dedicated to supporting those in need at Christmas. In 2019, the GBB launched a gift appeal attracting over four hundred volunteers who came together to donate, fill and distribute five hundred food baskets (parcels) across Glasgow. These food baskets provided Christmas dinner for almost 2k people to enjoy at home.

“During the pandemic, the GBB created an ‘at home’ model to ensure the movement continued to support those in need and benefit from the generosity of the community. Volunteers of the GBB were encouraged to fund, fill and decorate a Christmas basket worth £15, before delivering to one of the multiple GBB drop-off hubs throughout the city. A staggering 1,700 people signed up with a network of more than thirty local charities, food banks and community support organisations such as Simon Scotland, Homes For Good and Homestart Glasgow. Each and every basket was beautifully wrapped with a simple message stating ‘from a friend at Christmas’.

“At Interface, we were able to connect students from the Adam Smith Business School at the University of Glasgow to offer solutions on how to develop and grow the GBB business model into 2023 and beyond. The Entrepreneurial Ventures: Management and Growth Idea Sparks programme led by Edward Green, offered great suggestions and solutions for the organisation which they will hopefully implement next year.

“As well as being the West of Scotland contact for Interface, I am also a director in my spare time of the GBB.  If you would like to sign up for the GBB Christmas 2022 Appeal, please register here.”

Do you want to work with academics to solve a problem, or progress an idea for the organisation you work for? Interface’s service is free and impartial – we work with all 19 Scottish universities. Contact your local team member here.