Telling the truth about SME life today

Space Qube MD Alison John suggests the way we shop and the look of the high street will change

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Alison John

Role and company: 

 MD of Space Qube Ltd

Company turnover (and most recent ebitda/most relevant profitability metric):


Employee numbers:


Growth forecast for the next three years: 


In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace: 

We are planning the first permanent space for PopUp. The space will include a quick fit shop fitting system making it easy to change from one stage set to another,  allowing brands to take their pop-up to other planned Space-Qube stores on a pop-up Roadshow.

What’s the big vision for your business? 

To have a network of spaces across the UK within three to five years, with the first six open and trading by the end of 2016.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations: 

No current international business, but we plan to take the concept outside the UK in the future.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it: 

Not acting on some of my ideas in the past and learning that you only have one go at this life so make the most of it. If you have an idea and it seems like it might be a good one, run with it.

What makes you mad in business today? 

Big business that use the Internet to shield themselves from their customers, making communication almost impossible. Ironically, the worst offenders are in the telecoms (communications) industry.

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years? 

The way we shop and the look of the high street. The shopping experience has already changed over the last two years or so and will continue to change for the better, I believe. I see the high street becoming more diverse and an exciting place to be. Some high streets will not recover in a retail sense but become something else altogether.

Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow” If not, what can be done to improve things? 

No, they can’t easily access finance by the conventional route, but more creative ways of funding are making the banks less relevant for SMEs. We are currently crowdfunding with Seedrs to raise funds for our first location.

How would others describe your leadership style  

Inclusive, I hope. I love to be working with a good team and enjoy coming up with plans that we have created together.

Your biggest personal extravagance  

I dry clean my bedding!

You’ve got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper: 

I believe that we need to break down the barriers to entry as it is enormously difficult to enter the retail sector as I?m sure it is with many other industries. Money not only buys you a prominent high street location but also provides access to key events with some of the top retail events costing thousands of pounds to attend. Some of the big players are now looking for inspiration from the smaller independents, with the less scrupulous players plagerising ideas from the smaller more vulnerable SMEs. 

If we can make it attractive for big business to help and mentor rather than hinder small business then maybe some of these barriers could be broken. Incentives to encourage collaboration would be one way and we are beginning to see this with the likes of Pop-Up Britain getting support from John Lewis and Intuit. Most small businesses don’t want hand outs but legitimate support that is sustainable for the long term. The culture we have created encourages us to be secretive about our ideas and for good reason much of the time. So my key message would be incentivise collaboration and develop a culture that embraces the best of both big and small business for the benefit of the overall economy.



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