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A 23-year-old entrepreneur has offered his advertising and marketing services for free after the widespread shutdown of the British hospitality sector as a result of COVID-19.

Mark Smith, who founded his digital marketing company Double Up Social, is helping the hospitality industry after the government forced restaurants, factories and pubs to close due to lockdown restrictions.

During the first lockdown, Mark saw a huge number of small businesses lose their potential earnings overnight. Being a small to medium enterprise (SME) himself, he was determined to use his skillset to do something good and began offering free one-to-one consultations and digital advertising workshops to help traditional 'bricks and mortar' businesses get online – a service he continues to offer during the current lockdown.

Having spoken to over 70 brands in need of help, Mark has spent countless hours discussing solutions to a decrease in revenue. During this third lockdown, he has been carrying out digital workshops and one-to-one consultation calls to help get even more businesses online. This all comes at no cost for the brands.

So far during COVID-19, the hospitality sector expects to lose more than £1bn turnover this year alone, with one in four businesses expected to never reopen. For the owners of these businesses, the decision to shift their focus from more traditional to digital advertising was a necessary one – though for many the learning curve is incredibly steep.

Mark, who comes from Bromley, knew he had to use his knowledge and expertise to help: "After the government forced restaurants, factories and kitchens to close, many had to rely on deliveries rather than instore footfall. I knew social media and digital platforms would be the only way these brands could communicate with their customers.

"I was inspired by the #HospitalityProud movement which gained momentum last year, and being an SME ourselves, knew we had a duty to help other small businesses. We all have to stick together!"

Before long, the popularity of Mark's classes had spiralled from a few a week to several per day. "At the end of the day, we’re all in the same boat”, Mark says. “Whilst I’m not selling a product to a consumer like many of the brands I helped, I appreciated that I had a skillset that many of these business owners would find valuable and would help them during these difficult times.”

Growing up with restaurateurs for parents, Mark has always been deeply rooted in the world of hospitality. In 2018, he founded Double Up Social to help restaurants with social media and digital marketing. They have run the social media for one of the UK's largest dessert chains, Creams Café, and have also worked with grab & go food businesses like Wrap it Up! and Chicken Cottage.

Kate Buckle
Article by Kate Buckle
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