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Shop local platform helping thousands of small businesses survive the pandemic

In its first year, My Virtual Neighbourhood has generated hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of trade for London’s small business since the outbreak of Coronavirus.

When the UK entered its first lockdown, Jenna and Basil Fansa were determined to do something to help independent businesses stay afloat. They worked day and night building the London shop local website My Virtual Neighbourhood – a website providing free listings for over 3,000 of the capital’s small shops and restaurants and detailing how they are continuing to serve their communities.

In less than a year the site has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors – signposting them to small businesses in their neighbourhood. It’s estimated, based on clicks from the site to small business websites and industry average online order values, that My Virtual Neighbourhood has generated well over £275,000 worth of sales for London’s independents.

Basil, a former government economist, said: “It is wonderful to know that, armed with nothing but a laptop and an internet connection, we’re helping small businesses ride out the storm - we’ve generated over £275,000 of sales so far but we’d love Londoners to help us get that over £1million. We’re determined to make it easier for people to find and support independents. I’d urge everyone to visit the site and find inspiration for brilliant businesses in their neighbourhood to order from. Life is so much more interesting and local economies thrive so much more when you shop local.”

In 2020 it’s reported that Amazon’s UK sales soared by 51% to a record £19.4bn.

Basil added: “With the pandemic providing the perfect conditions for huge companies likes of Amazon to thrive, small businesses are fighting for survival. If we want to preserve the character of our neighbourhoods, we need to take decisive action to save independents now.”

My Virtual Neighbourhood has gained the backing of Camden, Hackney and Wandsworth Councils and has become a core part of their shop-local campaigns. More councils are set to follow soon.

Among the businesses praising My Virtual Neighbourhood are Ince Umbrellas. Founded in 1805, the company has survived two world wars – they say My Virtual Neighbourhood has been their biggest source of online referrals during the pandemic.

Clare McCarmmont of Ince Umbrellas described the site as: “a great help during these uncertain Covid-19 times.”

Heidi Early of Stoke Newington based Earlybird Cards added: “My Virtual Neighbourhood was an absolute lifeline for us when the pandemic hit. We have so many loyal local customers but they're completely used to coming to the shop and so many didn't even realise we had a website. MVN pulled everything together so quickly, it really was like having a virtual Stokey and so easy for customers to find us. So many customers have told us they found us through MVN.”

Karen Sims of Hackney-based shop Know and Love said: “Being featured on My Virtual Neighbourhood has been such a lifeline during the lockdown. It has kept a steady stream of customers coming to our website when the shop has had to shut.”

Jenna Fansa added: “The past year has been a complete blur – like many we’ve faced the extra challenge of home-schooling two small children so running My Virtual Neighbourhood has involved a lot of late nights. But it’s worth it to know we’re making a difference.”

About My Virtual Neighbourhood

My Virtual Neighbourhood launched in March 2020 during the first lockdown – since then it’s had hundreds of thousands of hits, has been praised by the likes of Jay Rayner and has become the shop-local platform for Wandsworth, Hackney and Camden councils, with more joining soon. It has become the main source of online referrals for many small businesses in London and listings are free, with an option for a premium listing to gain more exposure.

Find out which independent businesses near you are open or delivering to your community: Click HERE to find your virtual neighbourhood

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Submit your favourite small businesses for a free listing HERE.

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