How Steven Bartlett is transforming the SME landscape  

Branding expert Hayley Knight, pictured below, co-founder and Communications Director at BE YELLOW PR agency, looks at how Steven Bartlett is bringing a fresh perspective to entrepreneurship and is inspiring a new generation of creators

In the current SME landscape of business innovation and entrepreneurship, Steven Bartlett stands out as a prolific figure. But like most of us, Steven came from humble beginnings, and had to overcome hardship and adversity to move from Botswana to the UK, where he started his company Social Chain.

As entrepreneurs and business leaders, we have a responsibility, and opportunity to set the tone, and change the system. In this article, I will explore how Steven Bartlett has transformed the SME landscape, what we can learn from him, and how as entrepreneurs and business owners, we can tap into our vision in order to build something worthwhile and impactful!

The Rise of Steven Bartlett

Steven Bartlett’s journey is nothing short of inspiring and motivational. Born in Botswana, and raised in Plymouth, UK, Bartlett’s entrepreneurial spirit was apparent from an early age, after he launched a successful eBay business at the age of 15.

After studying business at the University of Manchester, Bartlett identified a gap in the market, and wanted to find a way to weave a brand’s message seamlessly into their social channels that wouldn’t compromise engagement and following. This led to him creating Social Chain in 2014. Under Bartlett’s leadership, Social Chain disrupted the marketing industry, and helped brands connect with millions of engaged customers worldwide.

Driving Innovation and Development in SMEs

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However, Bartlett’s impact on the SME landscape extends far beyond the monumental success of Social Chain. Steven Bartlett has created a movement when it comes to entrepreneurship, and he has made positive success seem achievable and reachable, especially to those from underrepresented backgrounds.

He has become a driving force behind the growth and innovation of countless SMEs, and actively champions them through his own channels. Through his insights, investments and mentorship, he is creating a sustainable, diverse and impactful SME ecosystem. He has expertly tapped into the digital landscape, and used it to expand his own profile, key contributions is his work, and emphasis on this space, and the power of digital transformation. Social Chain was developed after he recognised the vital role of technology in driving business growth, and since then, Steven has championed initiatives aimed at helping SMEs harness the benefits of digital tools and platforms, helping them to succeed in an increasingly digital world.

Bartlett’s mentorship and advocacy have been instrumental in empowering young and new entrepreneurs to realise their vision. Through speaking engagements, his podcast ‘The Diary of a CEO’, educational programmes and online presence, Steven has been able to provide and guide many entrepreneurs, sharing invaluable insights and advice on navigating the challenges of building and scaling a business.

As well as support and guidance, through The Social Chain Investment Group, Steven Bartlett has provided crucial funding to start-ups and SMEs, showcasing his desire to give back and grow the SME business economy, and reflect his commitment to drive innovation and development across various sectors.

Empowering Entrepreneurship

Steven Bartlett’s work with SMEs has been so notable, and changemaking that he has become a leading (and youngest) investor in BBC’s Dragons’ Den. This is even more incredible, when you realise that just 10 years ago, Steven Bartlett unsuccessfully applied to be a contestant on the same show. Now a millionaire at 23, Steven is a sought after investor on the show, and has brought more than money to the Dragons’ Den table.

Steven brings a new perspective to entrepreneurship, and brings fresh meat to both the show, and entrepreneurship as a whole, and he takes it seriously. He wants to give a voice, and hope to young people from less privileged backgrounds like his, with a focus on boosting diversity and inclusion within the business world. Representation matters, and this is what Steven is focusing on.

Embracing Diversity and Inclusion

Bartlett has been a constant vocal advocate for diversity and inclusion within the business community. Steven recognises and understands the importance of representation, and diverse perspectives and voices in driving innovation, and he takes his influence and responsibility in helping to boost entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds incredibly seriously, actively championing diversity and inclusion within the workplace.

Through this advocacy, Bartlett challenges traditional norms and biases, and is paving the way for greater representation within the SME landscape. Steven supports minority owned businesses, advocates for gender equality in entrepreneurship, and continually demonstrates his commitment to building a more inclusive, and effective business environment for everyone.

What can we learn from Steven Bartlett?

Steven Bartlett’s impact on the SME landscape is a testament to the transformative power of vision, innovation, and purpose-driven leadership. From shaking up the digital marketing industry, to his role as an investor and mentor, to his work in diversity and inclusion, Bartlett consistently pushes the boundaries and inspires others to do the same.

He is visible, active, and honest, and constantly connects with his audience through social media, tours, speaking engagements and mentoring, and he gives them what they need. Looking at Steven Bartlett’s story, and business journey, it is obvious that he offers a wealth of lessons for SME owners, to help navigate the increasingly competitive business landscape.

Social Chain’s success highlights the importance of embracing digital transformation in today’s business environment. Understanding and learning to use digital tools will help you connect to customers, streamline operations and drive growth, as well as help you to understand your customer, market and competitors.

Steven Bartlett also helps us to recognise the importance of thinking outside the box and stepping outside of our comfort zone. It’s vital that we embrace creativity, innovation, new platforms, and calculated risk taking. By embracing this, you can access new customer bases, attract top talent, drive innovation and place yourself at the forefront of the market.

Bartlett teaches us that in order to succeed, we need to foster a culture of innovation, and embrace diversity and inclusion. It is vital that as SME owners, we prioritise creating a diverse and inclusive culture, and network that encourages experimentation, collaboration, and continuous learning. By investing in culture and D&I development, we can adapt to, and anticipate changing dynamics, customer needs, and identify opportunities for growth.

As well as culture, Bartlett also teaches us the importance of strategic partnerships and mentorships when it comes to business growth and development. As an SME owner, it’s important to seek out these opportunities with experienced industry leaders and investors, build relationships and gain experience, support and knowledge, and use them to navigate challenges and access resources.

We also need to learn to remain resilient and persistent, which is a sentiment echoed throughout Steven Bartlett’s entrepreneurial journey. Rejection and failure are expected, and a consistent hurdle on the way to success. We must maintain a positive, and growth mindset and learn from our failures, in order to move forward, and emerge victorious.

And finally, Steven Bartlett teaches us the importance of having a social impact, finding a purpose, and giving back to the community. As SME owners and entrepreneurs, it’s our responsibility to give back – and at BE YELLOW, my communications agency, this is something that I take very seriously. From mentoring, to charity partnerships, becoming more sustainable, to using your business to make a difference, finding your purpose can be the difference between connection and disconnection with customers, the wider community and even investors. Steven weaves his purpose of supporting entrepreneurs through his entire journey, creating consistency, trust, loyalty and connection – all qualities needed in order to succeed.

Overall, Steven Bartlett’s entrepreneurial journey is inspirational, and motivating, but so is yours, and more importantly, it’s unique to you. However, by applying these principles and strategies, and learning from Steven’s (and other business leaders) journey, you can position yourself and your business for long term growth and make a positive impact.

Dragons’ Den viewers have branded Steven Bartlett the new ‘main guy’ of the BBC show, saying all the entrepreneurs are eager to seek funding from him above the other investors. Ever since joining the BBC programme as an investor in 2021, audiences and fellow ‘Dragons’ alike have noticed that some ambitious business owners seem to go on the show exclusively for the Diary of a CEO podcaster, who is 31 years old. He says he leads a ‘younger, fresher’ front of show regulars who are not just social-media savvy but  connected with other entrepreneurs


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