The city where savvy students are trading code for credits

23rd November 2017

Matchmaking initiative, pairing web design students with independent businesses without a website, launches in Lichfield

A free matchmaking service where small business owners exchange a free product or service in return for a website is being piloted from today in Lichfield, Staffordshire.

The initiative, believed to be the first of its kind in the world, is the brainchild of the UK Domain and aims to help more small businesses owners get online.

Over a quarter of British small businesses on the high street still don’t have a website1, often because they are unsure how to start the process. This is despite 67% of consumers saying they look online before they visit a local business2.

Higher education computing students from Walsall College are paired with local independent businesses to create a simple website that includes key company information such as services on offer, opening hours and location, so current and potential customers can easily find their business online.

Businesses can offer ‘payment-in-kind’ to the students for their website build in the form of free products and services – anything from handbags to haircuts.

One of the first businesses to benefit was Platters Tapas, whose new website was created by student, Thomas Ali. Owner Paul Bailey commented, “We’ve been successfully trading for one year but wanted a website to support our next phase of growth. Yet, it was always something that we kept putting off as we didn’t know where to start. We met Thomas through the UK Domain initiative and he quickly built us a great site that really shows off our business and will be a great asset in helping attract new customers. In return we were delighted to offer Thomas and his family an evening or two at Platters on the house.”

The initiative was launched after research found that 28% of small business owners not online would be interested in getting a website if somebody managed the process for them.3

Eleanor Bradley, COO of Nominet which runs the UK Domain, added, “With so many of us checking the web before we shop, we know millions of small businesses are keen to get online to catch browsing customers, and that there are also thousands of talented young people out there desperate to show off their digital skills. This is a great way to bring people together for mutual benefit.”

Mina Katti, Curriculum Manager for Computing at Walsall College said, “This exciting initiative is a win-win for all involved. As well as the freebies, students gain invaluable experience in practical web-building, giving them a step up on the career ladder.  And their work directly benefits businesses in the local community of which we’re a part of.”

The initiative directly supports smaller independent high street retailers whose online anonymity often means they are losing out to larger high street operators with a more sophisticated digital presence or mobile apps.

Watch more about how Lichfield’s small businesses and students got on here.

Notes to editors

1 – Research conducted by Opinium Research on the behalf of the UK Domain surveying 202 small business decision makers. Research carried out between 25.09.15 and 28.09.15 through an online survey.
2 – Research conducted by Censuswide on the behalf of the UK Domain surveying 2,003 UK consumers, aged above 16+. Research carried out between 31.05.17 and 02.06.17 through an online survey.
3 – Research conducted by 3GEM on the behalf of the UK Domain surveying 335 SME business owners/decision makers without a website. Research carried out in November 2016 through an online survey.