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Festival season: why it’s great for small businesses

As festivals move from alternative to trendy, a strong opportunity has arisen for small businesses to market themselves to their target audience.

20 years ago festivals weren’t the fashionable, Instagrammable scene they are now. There were nowhere near as many of them, and the ones that did exist were often visited by those who weren’t averse to a spot of mud.

But as the sheer number of festivals in the UK has reached saturation point, there are a number of clever small businesses taking full advantage


The street food revolution

You’ve heard of street food right? No, not the type you get for 50p on a less than glamorous corner in Bangkok, we mean the artisan type. We’re talking pulled pork, bao buns and sourdough pizza, the new breed of street food.

Much like festivals the street food market has started to become rather bloated in recent years. And with spaces at London’s most popular markets getting more and more difficult to come by, the newer kids on the block have had to look elsewhere to get people to try their food.

Festivals have provided an amazing platform for us to get people trying our food, especially because the vast majority of modern festival goers are exactly the demographic we’d like to market our food to,” says Sam Gregson, AGM at Nordic smokehouse, Rok.

“Despite the fact that we now have a small restaurant we still rate the summertime festivals as hugely important to growing our following. The time of dodgy burger vans at festivals is long gone – the modern festival goer wants a higher quality meal and they’re happy to pay more of a premium for it, so it’s an opportunity that small catering businesses such as ourselves can’t pass up.”


Network to get ahead

As well as providing an invaluable platform for small businesses to reach new customers, festivals can also help owners learn new things and form partnerships with others in a similar position to their own.

“Our time at festivals wasn’t just spent meeting and serving new customers, it was also an amazing chance to network with other people just starting out in the street food game like us. We were able to work alongside them and swap stories on how to run a small business,” says Sub-Cult partner Ben Chancellor.

“Rather than feel as though the other street food guys were our direct competitors we were able to collaborate with a couple of the other vendors that we met, creating exciting new recipes for us and for them, helping to enrich and grow both of our businesses.”


A world of opportunity 

While street food vendors could well be credited with leading the way for other small businesses to flourish at festivals, they certainly aren’t the only ones mucking in amidst the music.

The slightly more alternative festivals like Secret Garden Party, Shambala and Boomtown have welcomed a plethora of new and interesting businesses onto their fields, with acupuncture, massage, yoga, T-shirt designing, cocktail making and reiki all making appearances at one or all of these festivals in recent years.


As the festival circuit continues to grow and become more popular with brands, sponsors and the general public buying into the hype, there has never been a better opportunity for small businesses to join the fun on the festival scene.

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