‘Local businesses are key to the city’: An interview with small business advocates Popber

‘We want to let people know there are many hidden gems in the city’

With online shopping becoming increasingly popular and many stores facing difficulties due to the pandemic, it is more important than ever that small businesses have the support of local communities in order to ensure they can survive. Percy and Josh, who studied at Lancaster University, realised that there was a need to raise awareness of the variety of independent shops in Lancaster and highlight how crucial it is to support them.

We spoke to Percy and Josh to ask them why they set up Popber and why it is so important to support local businesses.

‘We love the community here’

When asked what inspired them to set up Popber, Percy and Josh told us about how they had spent three years in Lancaster and had grown to love its community, however during the pandemic they realised that when they searched up Lancaster “most of the information was about the university and not much was about the city itself”.

In order to change this, in June 2020 they started to film videos interviewing local shops to let people know more about Lancaster and give businesses promotion. They told us that they had learnt that businesses had suffered due to lockdowns as “people had changed the way the way they shopped and [shops] needed more help”.

They told us that their aim is to help the city develop in positive ways and to grow the economy. They said: “We believe Lancaster is a lovely city with many nice people and businesses in the community”. Having lived in the city as students, they said they would do everything for the community to make it a better place for everyone.

‘We would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who have supported us’

They explained that whilst in the beginning it had been hard to find shops that would accept doing a video interview, they said: “We were new to the aspect and not many people in Lancaster had done it before”.

The overall response has been incredibly positive. Recently they won the young person award from the Lancaster BID (Lancaster Businesses Improvement District), and they’ve made around one hundred videos which have been published to YouTube. They said: “The local businesses and people have supported us and given us positive feedback”, going onto say that “we treat our recognition and feedback, either positive or negative, as a way to improve ourselves and to remind us why we set up Popber initially”.

‘The relationships between the shop owners and local people are irreplaceable’

For Josh and Percy, the reason it is so important to support local businesses and the community is because “local businesses are one of the keys in the city”, continuing to say that, “we want to let people know that there are many hidden gems in the city, all of us should explore it before it’s too late!”

Popber shows that community support is vital as the rise in people shopping online or mainly at bigger companies puts a strain on local businesses which make up the city.

When asked how they are looking to expand Popber, they told us that when they asked students, locals and local businesses on what can be improved in Lancaster, many of them replied saying “they wanted more exciting events in the city centre”. To cater to that they are in the works of organising a Chinese New Year Festival over January and February with “lanterns, Chinese culture related performances, lion and dragon dances and local shop promotion”. More information will be released leading up to the event.

Their long term goal over the next five years is “to build a stronger relationship between the university and the Lancaster community, we are only two people who just graduated, we need everyone who loves this community to be part of it”.

When asked what students can do to help, they said: “The easiest thing to do is subscribe to our channel and follow our Instagram“. Anyone who loves the local community and is experienced in marketing and media can contact Popber if they’re interested in joining.

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