Platform: We're simply the best... now go prove it

Lynne Rainey

NOW more than ever, business needs good news - and we want to help you tell it.

There are many signs of the pandemic’s toll on businesses in towns and cities across Northern Ireland, with shuttered shops and boarded-up restaurants.

It’s important to recognise the scale of the issues we face and the need for fast, smart and significant support to protect jobs and livelihoods. We must continue to raise awareness of the challenges for different businesses.

But there is a balance to be struck. Speaking to business owners here, many are looking for signs of optimism - they want to be inspired and buoyed by others. Many have their own fantastic stories to tell of resilience and innovation and reward.

In order to gather and share positive stories of business, PwC has launched Business at its Best (#BestofBusinessUK), a collaboration with the Confederation of British Industry, Federated Hermes, the Inclusive Economy Partnership, PwC ReGenerate and the School for Social Entrepreneurs.

One of the Northern Ireland-based businesses that’s being featured is Community Calling, which came about after its founder’s initial plan for an event tourism start-up was shelved shortly after Covid struck.

Sarah Scullion instead, along with co-founder Danielle Mills, launched a digital platform to connect community groups around the UK such as collaborating with regional food banks and charities and matching urgent requests for volunteers. The organisation, which received Lottery funding, also helps to set up training and networking. Since March it has helped more than 5,000 vulnerable people.

Telling the story of local success and innovative entrepreneurs can have ramifications beyond these shores. At a time when people have more choice over where to live and work, leading to an exodus from cities like London, Northern Ireland can position itself to take advantage.

Last week PwC published a survey of 4,000 people in the UK which revealed how they felt about their region during the pandemic. It was fantastic to be able to report that more people in Northern Ireland felt their home was the best place to live and to start a business compared to people living elsewhere in the UK.

Combine this with the change many companies are making around supporting remote working in their future plans, as well as our growing technology sector and the opportunities that stem from this - Northern Ireland is an attractive option for people looking to relocate.

We’re calling for businesses, employees and customers to nominate businesses with a good story to tell - from small acts of kindness to major endeavours. We’ll use our networks to share as many as we can, amplifying and promoting the best examples to support those businesses and inspire others.

Clearly not all businesses have been able to survive and thrive, and there are difficult days to come.

But with vaccine roll-out under way, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Many businesses are raring to go and want to make a positive difference - help us to hear about them.

Lynne Rainey is partner and NI head of place & purpose at PwC

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