My Road to Being a More Aware Consumer

by Claire Arnott August 25, 2015

Okapi Home co-founder Claire talks about her new found love of buying small

Coming from a family full of entrepreneurs we have seen first -hand the joys and travails of starting a business, but what I definitely did not expect was the introspection it would result in. Since founding Okapi Home I have found myself becoming much more aware and questioning my own buying habits. Where do I buy the bulk of my products and services and where is that money going? Or perhaps more importantly where should it be going?

There are currently c.4 million British small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in operation, accounting for 99.3% of all private sector businesses, 47.8% of private sector employment and 33.2% of private sector turnover. In 2014 SMEs employed 15.2 million people and had a combined turnover of £1.6 trillion [Federation of Small Businesses]. And so as we emerge from recession, it is small business that is going to drive much of our recovery and I as a consumer am starting to realise my own role to play in this.

This is particularly poignant for Okapi Home, living and working in Brixton, as we watch small local businesses, many of whom have been in the area for decades, face obstacles and challenges that threaten their future. While there is a lot of discussion in central government about the important role of small businesses, this does not appear to be translating on to the streets around us. The economic and social benefits of buying small need to be recognised and protected and that includes educating new generations about the value of these businesses. Value that surpasses slickness of websites and functionality. The diversity of our communities and the originality of thought that come with small businesses is not something that can be recreated by chains. Customers cannot be served in the same way, relationships cannot be built and inclusive growth cannot happen without small business.

But buying small is not just about being a more active and responsible consumer, it can also be a lot more fun!

What I have found about buying small:

1. It takes more time and effort but is usually worth it – Without a one stop shop for all your needs you do have to work harder for what you want, plough through more pages and sift through sites, but it is worth it for when you find the gem you have been looking for.

2. Your world can reflect you – As I build my home, I have found that shopping small has enabled me to create a place that truly reflects me, allowing me to bring together my styles and quirky interests (in my case a love of pirates) in a way that no one else has.

3. Not everything is online – And finally my biggest obstacle. I am an inherently lazy shopper and am not a big fan of crowds, which means I am an internet shopping aficionado. I am slowly trying to get out of the house by telling myself I am missing on some great stuff by keeping my shopping only to the internet.

For now, while I am trying my hardest to practice what I preach, I am definitely still on the road to my destination. There are many more stop-offs before I arrive at my destination, including exploring supply chains, ethical beliefs and company politics, but I am enjoying the journey and the new places it is taking me.

We’d love to hear about your shopping habits, experiences and/or thoughts on buying from small businesses.

Brixton Arches

Claire Arnott
Claire Arnott