Introducing ‘Ingenious’

ingenious Alastair Lukies and Anfrea Gilman

Pollinate and Mastercard’s filmmaker competition to spotlight small business ingenuity

Even before our world was turned upside down by COVID-19, small businesses were the beating heart of communities – on all corners of the globe. Following the onset of the pandemic, their importance was only amplified, as small businesses showed remarkable resilience and ingenuity to pull together, pivot operations and ultimately keep those same communities and economies moving and safe.

Ingenious‘, an international competition by Pollinate in collaboration with Mastercard, has been launched to applaud this ingenuity by asking filmmakers from around the world to share stories from their communities. To celebrate the achievements and ideas that will build the future prosperity and community recovery that we all rely on.

To delve deeper into the competition’s intentions, Alastair Lukies CBE, Founder & CEO of Pollinate and Andrea Gilman, Global SME Segment Lead at Mastercard, shared their thoughts on Ingenious and how they’re hoping to propel small businesses forward in a post-pandemic world.

So, just how important have small businesses been to communities during COVID-19? 

Alastair: COVID has demonstrated/reinforced the importance of SMEs. They have been instrumental in supporting local communities. When supermarket chains ran out of the essentials, local pubs and restaurants opened their doors as stores for residents to buy produce, flour, eggs and toilet paper.

Similarly, when we faced PPE shortages, it was the tailors and seamstresses that pivoted from making clothing to making masks and local breweries switched from producing beer to producing hand sanitiser. Many of whom did so while facing their own financial difficulties, with little-to-no information on what was around the corner for them.

Andrea: I completely agree with Alastair. Small businesses are the economic heartbeat and backbone of societies everywhere. As well as employing two thirds of the world’s population, they’re the emotional spirit of communities. You can see a smile behind the mask, and just being able to go in and have those interactions has been so, so important for people everywhere.

What are your personal favourite stories of ingenious SMEs during this period? 

Andrea: The stick-to-it-iveness of small businesses along with their ability and willingness to pivot has been amazing. A great example of this is Thelma Martinez de Anda, a small business owner in Honduras.

Before COVID-19, she supplied food to restaurants and convenience stores. When the pandemic hit and shops were forced to close, her time at LEADS Mujer, a partnership between Mastercard and Costa Rica’s INCAE Business School that helps female entrepreneurs strengthen their business skills, meant she knew what she had to do.

She was able to pivot her business by selling direct to consumers. She also worked out money could be saved buying supplies straight from farmers. So, while she pivoted out of necessity, she also made her business stronger. That spirit of ingenuity is inspiring, as is that willingness to change – not just to survive, but to thrive.

Alastair: Thelma sounds like the true embodiment of Ingenious! And just to add to that, I think the entrepreneurial spirit in our global SME sector is unmatched, and we continue to see it transformed and reimagined every day. What makes SMEs so special is how they have worked with their communities rather than simply selling at them.

There are so many examples of this, but one that personally resonated with me was the ingenuity of meat suppliers to restaurants. These wholesale businesses, like HG Walter for example, had their trade disappear overnight when restaurants were forced to close. But many pivoted to supplying high-quality meats directly to consumers – a business that has been highly profitable. What’s exciting is that for a lot of these SMEs, they are exploring new business opportunities that will remain post pandemic. HG Walters is considering continuing this service even when its normal business comes back.

How have Pollinate and Mastercard strove to support small businesses throughout the pandemic? 

Alastair: Aside from all the ways small businesses have pivoted to support their own communities, they also had to undergo transformations of their own in order to simply survive. And many had to learn, quickly, how to implement new digital channels so they could continue to generate revenue.

Pollinate is lucky to work with banks who share a passion for supporting small businesses. And through our partnership with Tyl by NatWest, we were able to develop and deploy Pollinate Orders to help the hard-hit dining sector in just five weeks.

Through this, restaurant owners were able to quickly turn on online order management for customers, instead of having to solely rely on third-party delivery partners that can cost a pretty penny in fees.

Andrea: A little over a year ago, Mastercard made a commitment of $250 million to back small businesses everywhere. We supported everything from new tools and capabilities to education and philanthropy.

In addition to helping small businesses receive payments in a way that’s safe and secure, we noted there were two pressing pain points where help was needed. The first was getting money in the door, and the second was making the transition to digital. This meant focusing our initiatives on everything from helping small businesses set up an online storefront to protecting them from cyberthreats.

Finally, why should people enter ‘Ingenious’?  

Andrea: One of the things that’s so notable about small businesses is that they love to learn from each other. And there’s so many inspiring stories to share. Ingenious is a wonderful way for small businesses to share their stories with each other, but also to get access to the tools and capabilities to solve their pressing needs.

Working in partnership with Pollinate is a wonderful way to not only get the word out about the contest, but also as a way for all these stories to be shared. I know we’re going to have amazing stories come out of this – ones about reinvention, re-imagining, and entrepreneurial spirit. I think this helps small businesses, and we’re hoping that they inspire each other.

Plus, we’ll also leverage our marketing power to amplify those stories and share them across the globe. It’s not just small businesses that learn from each other in their own local communities – this is truly a global phenomenon, so making sure these stories can be shared around the world is going to be incredibly powerful.

Alastair: Small businesses were some of the worst hit during COVID-19, but also the most nimble and innovative. There are so many incredible stories to tell that can celebrate the journey so many SMEs have taken to successfully pivot, but also help others who might be trying to do the same. We believe in SMEs and champion them every day. Often their stories aren’t heard but I love that this initiative is about bringing together the story tellers and the stories, and hopefully, we’ve made it easier for those stories to be told. I think people should enter because it’s an opportunity to support your local community through showcasing and giving voice to the everyday heroes.

Learn more and enter ‘Ingenious’! 

Together, Pollinate and Mastercard are working to propel small businesses forward in a post-pandemic world. Ingenious is one such initiative that will shine a spotlight on inspirational small business owners and the communities they serve.

To learn more about small business support, the competition and how to enter, visit Ingenious website.

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