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Vodafone launches new ‘Shout Out for Small Businesses’ competition offering bespoke mentoring session with Dragons’ Den star Steven Bartlett

Entrepreneur and new BBC Dragons’ Den star Steven Bartlett

@VodafoneUK has today (10 Nov) launched its second Shout Out for Small Businesses campaign, offering one lucky small business owner the opportunity to win a bespoke mentoring session in London with entrepreneur and newest addition to the BBC’s Dragons’ Den programme Steven Bartlett.

  • Vodafone has launched its second Shout Out for Small Businesses competition
  • One winning business will win a bespoke, face-to-face business mentoring session with entrepreneur and BBC Dragons’ Den star Steven Bartlett
  • Ten runner-up businesses will receive free social media marketing boosts on Facebook and Instagram worth more than £3,000 per business, and a digital business strategy session with a Vodafone V-Hub advisor
  • Entries will be assessed by a panel of judges including Steven Bartlett, Enterprise Nation Founder Emma Jones CBE and Vodafone’s Head of Small Business, Andrew Stevens. 

Having started his own successful business at just 21 years old, Steven – who is just 29 – will meet the winning entrepreneur in London to provide a tailored assessment of their business and identify growth opportunities.


In addition, the winning business will also receive a dedicated Facebook and Instagram social media marketing campaign boost worth in excess of £3,000 – giving the business exposure to a potential audience of millions – and an in-depth digital business strategy session with a Vodafone V-Hub advisor.

Ten runner-up businesses will each receive the dedicated social media marketing campaign boost and an in-depth digital business strategy session with a Vodafone V-Hub adviser.

Shout Out for Small Businesses celebrates those businesses who are using digital skills and technology to drive their businesses forward in innovative ways and within a challenging business environment.

The first competition, launched earlier this year, attracted entries from small businesses across the UK and gave winning businesses an audience of millions thanks to the social media marketing boost they received.

“It’s obviously a tough environment for small businesses right now, but it’s also inspiring to see the skill and tenacity of so many people shine through as they navigate the ongoing impact of the pandemic,” said Steven Bartlett, Vodafone Ambassador and Entrepreneur.

“Digital is one of the most important tools available to small businesses to compete and succeed in challenging circumstances. It’s one of the reasons why I set up Social Chain – to help businesses connect with their communities and reach customers in more meaningful and creative ways. I know we’re going to see plenty of creativity on display from the Shout Out for Small Businesses entrants, and I’m really looking forward to sharing my insights and guidance with the overall winner.”

With record numbers of start-ups being launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, small business owners across the country are now leveraging more digital tools and techniques than ever to stand out online. More than 400,000 new companies were formed in 2020 alone, according to figures from the Centre For Entrepreneurs.

Andrew Stevens, Head of Small Business, Vodafone UK, said: 

“After the huge success of our Shout Out for Small Businesses campaign back in February, we’ve launched a new competition to help even more companies across the country. The shift to digital during the pandemic created huge new opportunities for small businesses, and we want to hear the amazing stories of tenacity, bravery and innovation through these very tough times. We’re excited to be able to use our own online presence and experience to give them a boost.”

To enter, businesses should head to the Vodafone V-Hub here, where they can share their stories on how they’ve used digital tools, skills, and platforms in innovative ways to help supercharge their business. Entries will be assessed by a panel of judges including Steven Bartlett, Enterprise Nation Founder Emma Jones CBE and Vodafone’s Head of Small Business, Andrew Stevens.

The winning businesses will be selected based on the impact of their actions on the performance of their business. Entry is free and open to all UK small businesses (fewer than 50 employees) across the UK until 26 November 2021.

Emma Jones CBE, Founder Enterprise Nation, said:

“’I’m delighted to be involved in this competition that celebrates amazing small business owners who have embraced digital skills and platforms to power their business. Every day I am motivated by the incredible stories of people who turn a passion or idea into a way of making a living and this competition will be full of such stories – it will be tough to judge!’

Social media boost enabled Yorkshire based business to help keep learning fun through the pandemic

Play Makes Sense, a small business specialising in sensory play phonics activity cards for children founded by former primary school teachers Alice Spencer and Abbie Chisnall last year, were previous winners of the last Shout Out for Small Businesses campaign.

The free social media boost they received, helped exposed the business to an audience of millions across Instagram and Facebook. As a result, they received significant engagement from parents, enabling who were looking for ways to keep home learning with their children entertaining during the pandemic.  

Alice Spencer, Co-Founder, Play Makes Sense said: “Winning the last Shout Out for Small Business campaign really gave our business a boost. The added exposure we received on Facebook, Instagram and Vodafone’s own social channels opened us up to a huge audience, which helped us reach more parents so that they could make learning fun during lockdown.

Scottish businesses can use digital to reach new customers across the country

Scottish restaurant and pie shop The WeeCOOK Kitchen realised that the internet and social channels were a shop window to the world when lockdown hit, trebling pie sales and targeting a host of new customers across the country.

Hayley Wilkes, Chef/Owner, The WeeCOOK Kitchen, said:

“We had no option but to adapt and evolve in March 2020, and online was really the only direction we could go. We tried a lot of new things – from fun things like online pie making demos and virtual kids cooking classes, to practical measures like monetising the website to drive significant increases in traffic. We also collaborated with other small independents like ourselves, using digital channels to connect and promote each other’s events and offers. It taught us that whatever your business and wherever you are, you have to think both locally and beyond these days. We’re still deeply rooted in the local area, but we’re now making the most of our digital presence to reach new customers right across the country.”


Vodafone recruits leading entrepreneur and newest BBC Dragons’ Den star Steven Bartlett to reach more small businesses that will benefit from the business.connected free training initiative 

  • The program has so far provided free guidance to 46,000 small businesses, and Vodafone has today increased its commitment by a further 50,000, set to provide help to 150,000 small businesses in total by summer 2022
  • The business.connected initiative is now expanding with Cisco set to join as partners and provide exclusive training courses

Vodafone has today (2 Nov) revealed entrepreneur and new BBC Dragons’ Den star Steven Bartlett as an ambassador for its vital small business training initiative.

Steven will play an instrumental role in creating awareness of Vodafone’s business.connected program, a joint commitment with leading small business support network Enterprise Nation to deliver free business training to 150,000 small businesses as part of the V-Hub by Vodafone SME support platform.

Launched in May 2021, business.connected was created with the aim of helping 100,000 small businesses enhance their digital capabilities by summer 2022. Based on the success of the program so far, Vodafone has increased that target to 150,000.

Steven – who is now 29, will provide valuable insights into managing an online business, and the importance of small business owners enhancing their digital capabilities to unlock opportunities.

The initiative is a joint venture by Vodafone and leading small business support network Enterprise Nation, providing free, expert training to small businesses to help them adopt technology, boost digital skills and stay safe online. Courses are accessed through the Vodafone V-Hub and cover everything from setting up a business online, to digital marketing, and cybersecurity.

Steven recently shared his own journey of resilience, describing what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur on Vodafone’s Business Unusual podcast with the hope to inspire the next wave of UK entrepreneurs. 

Steven Bartlett, Entrepreneur and business.connected Ambassador, said:

“I am so proud to be working with Vodafone as an ambassador. The business world, especially now, is moving quickly and this isn’t going to stop anytime soon – it’s important that businesses adopt a ‘designed for change’ ethic and keep up with emerging trends.

“I also know first-hand that making the most of the digital tools that are available to you and your business can really make a difference – not only when it comes to growing your business, but also when it comes to building your ambition, passion and confidence to continue doing what you love.

“Vodafone’s business.connected campaign hopes to do exactly that, and I can’t wait to see what else they have in store.”

As the country looks towards a future of work that is defined by technology, it is imperative that small businesses are supported with the digital skills they’ll need to help them survive and thrive, post-pandemic – especially with the end of government support from initiatives such as the furlough scheme.

Offering a vast array of e-learning business modules, business.connected courses are resonating particularly well with the UK’s SoHo (Small Office, Home Office) community – defined as those businesses with one to nine employees – who currently account for nine in ten sign-ups to the programme.

Cisco joins business.connected program

With the business.connected initiative well on its way to achieving its goals having supported more than 46,000 small businesses to date, Vodafone has confirmed Cisco is joining the business.connnected initiative as a new partner to deliver digital training.  This training will cover everything from managing digital security to helping business owners choose the right connectivity options. Cisco will also participate in business.connected webinars and workshops.

Andrew Stevens, Head of Small Business, Vodafone UK said: 

“We are delighted to welcome Steven as an ambassador. He has amazing experience in building a successful company from scratch, and he’s a source of inspiration for our SME community. A strong foundation of digital skills will be crucial for small business owners to compete and succeed in a post-Covid landscape, especially as many business owners remain short on time and knowledge when it comes to leveraging the right digital tools.

“It’s been great to see the business.connected initiative gaining momentum and proving a real catalyst for SME growth. We’re excited to be helping our nation’s bustling small business sector and to be extending our initial goals to now look to support 150,000 SMEs by next summer, thanks to our new partnership with Cisco.”

Emma Jones, CEO and Founder, Enterprise Nation said: 

‘It is clear from the levels of engagement we have seen with business.connected that the thirst for digital education and training in the small business community remains strong. Founders are looking for top tip content on how to implement technology and they want to hear from fellow business owners too. This programme answers those calls and will continue to deliver what small businesses are asking us for, evidenced by searches on the Enterprise Nation platform and business owners voting with their feet through attending events.”

Aine Rogers, Director of Small Business, Cisco UK & Ireland said: 

“The last year and a half has shown us exactly how important accessible resources and tools are for businesses to stay connected, particularly in the SME community. With Vodafone and business.connected, we’re excited to be helping to provide businesses with key insights and information through bespoke e-learning training modules, webinars and workshops to help businesses manage their digital security and optimise their connectivity.”

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