Chamber Blogs   
As we are becoming more aware of sustainability here in the Royal Borough. When we found out that Filling Good, a new, focused, sustainability business was coming to Maidenhead, we decided to interview them to find out more about their business. 
 
Tell us about your business 
 
Filling Good is a not for profit community zero waste shop, run by volunteers, and owned by locals. Nelly Semaille started Filling Good as a pop up in 2019 but then decided to make it a community project which is when Sophie came on board. Our aim is to inspire a sustainable lifestyle, providing products which are the most eco-friendly, local and ethical as possible. We sell loose foods, cleaning liquids, and other sustainable and ethical goods without packaging; the idea is that people bring their old containers rather than buy products in new containers, thus reducing the amount that ends up in landfill. Many of our suppliers take back the containers to use again. 
 
What’s been your biggest achieve since launching? 
 
Making more people aware of the benefits of shopping in a more environmentally friendly way. Being told how wonderful our shop and volunteers are and how pleased they are to see us in Maidenhead. 
 
What excites you about your industry? 
 
It is growing and more people are following this way of living. We are definitely part of the future way of doing your groceries, bringing more sustainability in the whole supply chain as well as in the individual lifestyle that people choose. This is absolutely key as we are now in the middle of a climate emergency and biodiversity collapse. 
 
What excites you about being in the centre of Maidenhead? 
 
Maidenhead is changing and we are delighted to add a friendly, welcoming shop with lovely foods and gifts to come and visit. Our unique offer makes the town center more attractive to many people so we help the local economy thrive and the high street to be more lively. 
 
What advice would you give someone who’s interested in starting their own business? 
 
Persevere, if you believe in it then make it happen. It has been a struggle with Covid and lots of delays, but we were determined to see Filling Good on the high street to help the people of Maidenhead live a more sustainable, eco friendly lifestyle which will lead to a better environment to live in. As a cooperative run business, we can definitely underline the benefits of a social enterprise, and confirm that there is a great sense of community in Maidenhead, which is a great ally against tough economic times. 
 
What top qualities do you think you should have as a business owner? 
 
Understanding the needs of your customers, being friendly, welcoming and listening to them. Taking the people you work with along with you, create a nice work environment. Business planning and benchmark within the industry is also key to prevent you from failing. 
 
Who is your biggest inspiration in business? 
 
David Attenborough is one of our biggest inspirations, as is Suma, a cooperative with high sustainability and human values. The Waltham place is another inspiration of ours because they are a local and ethical biodynamic farm, selling gorgeous products and inspire more people to regenerative agriculture and gardening. 
 
Generally, all the businesses who are making tremendous efforts to protect our planet. If your own business is willing to take a step in a sustainable direction, don’t hesitate to contact us for a collaboration! We have a lot of options on how to help on this journey, here in the Royal Borough.  
 
Follow Filling Good 
 
 
On Behalf of the Maidenhead & District Chamber of Commerce, Pointis Solutions Ltd recently delivered a very successful virtual e-Commerce Accelerator Programme for 20 extremely attentive attendees. 
 
The programme was a result of a collaboration between Maidenhead & District Chamber of Commerce, MyWorkSpot Ltd, London Bridge Project and Pointis Solutions Ltd. Pointis have written the following guest blog to share news of the aims, how the programme was run and share feedback from those involved. 
 
“Our aims were to introduce e-commerce sales for local shops who are hesitant to start selling online or would like to improve their sales offering and reach out to new markets across the UK and even into new countries. 
 
Our High street is suffering from dramatic changes in shopping habits accelerated by the pandemic! e-commerce is becoming a threat to the conventional shops who have not engaged with new customer expectations. Shop owners are often not sure where, how and which platform to start, and what to do to survive or grow in the new, changing economic ecosystem. 
 
The e-Commerce Accelerator Programme commenced on 14th April by introducing participants to the different e-commerce business models which include Dropshipping and Print-on-Demand, Retail Arbitrage and Private Labelling. Our participants also had an introduction to the largest marketplaces in the UK which include Amazon, eBay, Etsy and Wayfair. 
 
Week two was all about building an e-commerce business model and participants learnt how to narrow down their niche, by thinking about key elements such as type of product and source-ability. We then went into detail with Marketplace Ads and the advantages of using these and how to use them effectively. 
 
Finally, in week three we covered how to use social media for e-commerce business, branding, the importance of trademark, accounting and tax matters. It was important for us to give programme participants an introduction to the e-commerce world and to give them the confidence to create their own business model to get stuck-in. 
 
Feedback from one participant, Yasin said “Thanks for your team's time in the preparation and presentation of such valuable information about e-commerce.” 
 
Aaron Sarac, CEO of Pointis added “It was really joyful for me to see people benefit. We went over how to start, how to list, and how to spread the word across Social Media. Being a part of MDCC is really a great thing to reach people.” 
 
Pointis, is an e-Commerce company with it's own brand, products, operations team, logistics and production. We are able to offer a partnership, allowing you to sell your products within the UK and EU through our know-how and expertise when it comes to setting up operations, the purchasing power to get you started and finally, the suppliers to help meet your demand. You can find out more about our company by visiting our website.” 
 
We are excited to announce that the DWP have approved our Kickstart Gateway application and we are very much looking forward to welcoming young people into work placements and supporting them with their career path and goals. 
 
Our role within the Kickstart scheme will be to coordinate and monitor the scheme’s execution. We will: 
• Administer Kickstart member reimbursement 
• Guide and support the designated in-house champions 
• Source and present workplace orientation programmes; including the onboarding of beneficiaries 
• Facilitate the placement of Scheme beneficiaries where participant members are unable to accommodate them as permanent employees 
It’s all change again for everyone as England has moved into a second lockdown and in particular for small local businesses. All is not lost though as there are many ways in which we can come together and support our local businesses during this challenging period and on an ongoing basis. 
Turning to Social Media 
Supporting small local businesses through social media is critical during this time. Here are a few different ways you can do this: 
Follow them on social media (if you don’t already). 
Leave a Facebook review on their business page. 
Leave a Google review. 
Recommend them to others e.g. a recommendation request in a Facebook group. 
Share their business page to encourage your friends and family to ‘Like’ their page. 
Top tips on supporting a small local business 
Support your local high street, a lot of shops are selling essential products and therefore still able to open. 
Many businesses are offering click and collect or delivery services. So check-out their website, drop them an email or give them a call to see if you can still get what you need from them. 
Now is the perfect time to discover new brands, with the Christmas season on the way, a lot of businesses are promoting online events such as markets and food festivals. 
Turn to online marketplaces such as eBay and Etsy, so many small businesses sell on these sites. By buying on these sites you can also leave a review after your delivery. 
Tips on how to keep your local business going 
Carry on marketing your business and let people know you are still open or still taking orders. 
Communicate and engage with your customer base. 
Promote special offers for your customers. 
Celebrate your achievements. 
Spend this time writing a few blog posts that you can post out over the next couple of months. A blog post can be share through your social media and can really help engage your audience and tell your customers about your business. 
Review your business plans, consider whether there are alternative products or services you can offer and ‘pivot’ what you currently do. 
If you are unable to operate or demand is lower than usual right now, perhaps it is time to tackle that mountain of admin or those tasks that you have been putting off or streamline your processes. 
 
Your Chamber is always here to support our members and at the present time we are willing to extend that support to any business in or around the RBWM area too. If you would like to talk through your business issues with somebody who will understand and provide good advice, either write to president@maidenhead.org.uk or telephone 01628 670573 and our President, Mike Miller or one of the other directors or executive team will contact you. 
 
A warm welcome to the Maidenhead Chamber of Commerce blog. To kick start our blog, we felt it was only right that we interviewed the President of our Chamber of Commerce Mike Miller. Mike has worked and lived in both South Africa and England and is one of the founders of the South African Chamber of Commerce (SACC) UK and is now an honorary life member of the SACC having retired as a director last year. Mike is Managing Director of Business Fit International Ltd, working with a team of consultants to assist entrepreneurs in successfully launching their businesses into the SA or UK markets. We wanted to find out more about his journey as president and how the Maidenhead Chamber of Commerce has adapted since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. 
 
Welcome Mike, thank you for joining us, tell us about your upbringing? 
 
I was born in Hillingdon on the outskirts of London. I’m what’s known as a “baby boomer”. My father was a telephone engineer and he moved the family to South Africa on a South African government engineering contract when I was nine. He renewed his contract several times before taking up a permanent position in South Africa. It was seventeen years later before I returned to England on a corporate working trip with Beecham, now GSK. I was educated at New Forest High and then the University of Natal in Durban, now part of UKZN. After I graduated my education continued when I joined Unilever’s marketing department in Durban before joining Beecham five years later. 
 
Tell us about your journey with The South African Shop and how this led to your involvement with the Maidenhead Chamber of Commerce? 
 
I was keen on setting up and owning my own business using the skills that I had learnt in the corporate world to train and help people. In 1997, while working in South Africa, I was approached by retailers in the UK who wanted to import South African consumer goods. They gave me a combined order for a wide range of South African consumer products and on May 30th 1997 we packed our first container at Makro in Woodmead in north Jonannesburg. I then set up South African Products International (Pty) Ltd in South Africa and registered a similar company in England which subsequently became SAJE International Ltd t/a Sapro. We opened The South African Shop in Maidenhead in August 1999 and then successfully expanded online as www.southafricanshop.co.uk. In 2011 we sold the stores to Jumbo Importers who own several other stores around London. 
 
As owner of The South African Shop I was invited to become a member of the Maidenhead & District Chamber of Commerce and join the Chamber Executive Committee. This showed me how effective a local Chamber could be in representing members, providing information on local initiatives, supporting members in disputes with central and local government, providing educational opportunities to members on new technology and boosting employment. I was asked to join the Presidential team by the then President Cllr Andrew Jenner and Took over as President myself in 2010. The Chamber was incorporated a few years later and I became a Director of the Chamber. Upon the resignation of Mark Jones as President in 2019 I took over as President again. 
What’s been your  proudest moment  as President of the Maidenhead Chamber of Commerce? 
 
Re-forming a Chamber Executive that focuses on RISE, Representing, Informing, Supporting and Educating the Chamber members by using the expertise available to us and our close relationship with the RBWM Leadership, working in partnership to achieve common goals. We now have a tight knit cooperative team. We have been very instrumental in helping RBWM businesses to find their way through the Covid 19 minefield. Working closely with RBWM and FSB. 
 
What inspires you as President of the  Maidenhead Chamber of Commerce? 
 
Helping businesses in RBWM to develop and grow to the benefit of the local community and other members. 
How would you like to work with local businesses in the future? 
 
To continue what we are already doing but build the membership to enable members to focus on and offer their expertise when dealing with both other members as well as non-members. We have recently launched our “Trust Your Chamber Members” campaign which is to encourage both Chamber members and non-members to find the goods and services they need via the Members’ Directory on the Chamber website. 
 
What’s your favourite thing about Maidenhead? 
 
I have lived in Maidenhead and surrounding areas since the early seventies, working in South Africa in the interim. I returned from South Africa in late 1997 and set up The South African Shop in Brock Lane because Maidenhead provided easy links to Reading and London via the M4 motorway, the M40 and Wycombe via the A404, and the fast, regular train service to London as well as Reading and the west of England. In addition an easy link to Heathrow Airport and surrounding towns led to customers coming to the store from all over England as well as Europe. We realised that we had chosen the Maidenhead location well. Other companies both large and small have been able to take advantage of these benefits too. The closeness to the Thames and the new Waterway has been a major drawcard for the town. 
Since Covid-19, how do you see the Maidenhead Chamber of Commerce adapting in the future? 
 
We will be continuing with the benefits of the RISE model for our members and local businesses in general. We will be assisting businesses to recognise their strengths and giving them the support and strength to believe in themselves when rethinking their business strategy with the help of the Chamber experts. 
 
Finally, how has the Chamber supported members and businesses over the last few months? 
 
We have helped businesses to make contact with RBWM to get their grants and other business support during the lockdown and beyond. I have had frequent video calls with RBWM trying to work through the Business Grant minefield, and have met and communicated with Theresa May MP and her team. Our new Members Directory initiative, “Trust Your Chamber Member” will help the Chamber to become the business conduit that it needs to be. 
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