An Instagram post sparked a support fund for small businesses in the North

By Ethan Shone
Thursday, 17th December 2020, 1:21 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th December 2020, 1:23 pm

That feeling of sharing a frustrated social media post will be familiar to many, but all too often it doesn’t lead to anything productive.

For Justine McNichol, though, a recent viral Instagram post has led rapidly to a successful fundraising initiative aiming to help independent businesses in the north of England.

Opening with, “We’re northern, not stupid,” Justine (who is 26, and a creative director from North Yorkshire) took to Instagram to vent about her exasperation at the differences in how the issue of Tier 3 Covid restrictions was discussed by politicians and the media for London compared with the north of England.

“The north/south divide has always existed but I think the Covid pandemic has really highlighted it in so many ways,” Justine said.

Within a few hours, her Instagram post had picked up thousands of shares and likes. Now, a few days later, it has attracted more than 100,000.

“What mattered a lot more to me were the comments I was getting from people all over the North, and elsewhere, who’ve been really suffering through the pandemic,” she explained.

Northern Small Business Emergency Relief Fund

Rather than just feeling satisfied that her post had been so well received, Justine decided to make good use of the attention it had garnered. She reached out to friends in the charity sector for advice, and spoke with people from other small businesses across the region.

“We decided that the best thing to do would be an emergency relief fund, for small businesses in the North that are going to need extra help, particularly in the winter months with things like emergency repairs to think about on top of the problems that businesses have already faced,” Justine said.

Since sharing her post on Tuesday night (15 Dec), Justine has registered the Northern Small Business Emergency Relief Fund as a charity, put together an online shop, designed a handful of products and arranged their production with a local independent business. She has also sold hundreds of orders and raised more than £7,500 - all in around 48 hours, at time of writing.

Businesses will be able to apply for grants through the charity’s website within the next month or so, once a sufficient pot of funds has been raised and a committee of trustees has been established, made up of independent business leaders from a variety of sectors.

‘A uniquely Northern response’

Justine has more planned for the charity, including discussions with political leaders from the North about “securing better and more vocal representation in Westminster.”

But first, since she is already running a business and is mother to an 18 month old daughter, Justine is hoping for a bit of rest over Christmas.

“It's been overwhelming but it’s definitely been very affirming,” she said.

“The fact that it has resonated with so many people and had this reaction, it does feel almost quite uniquely Northern.”