“Vibrant. Exciting. Awesome.”

Those are the three words to describe Birmingham according to Joe Schuppler. Who is Joe Schuppler you may ask? While you may not be familiar with Joe’s name, many of you will have probably heard of his online guide ‘Independent Birmingham.’ From independent restaurants to events, Independent Birmingham is the go to guide to all that is independent in this city of ours. We spoke to 24-year-old Joe, founder of Independent Birmingham (and owner of 500 DVD’s) about the latest offers and news we shouldn’t miss out on.

BCU: Hi Joe, so what is Independent Birmingham?

JS: Independent Birmingham is a local guide to unearthing Birmingham’s hidden gems and best-kept secrets; the independent cafes, bars, restaurants and shops that push the boundaries to create something truly unique. The website writes about these businesses so as to inspire others to rediscover their city and explore Birmingham’s lesser known aspects, whilst shedding light on these wonderful independents and celebrating Birmingham as a whole.

Also, ‘The Blog’ section of the website is a great way for everyone to learn about awesome events taking place in the city, the ‘must try’ dishes in Birmingham, new restaurant openings, the best burger havens, where to go on a first date, fun things to do and more. Essentially it’s just a definitive guide on all that is independent in Birmingham.

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BCU: How did the idea come about?

JS: The idea was born from the fact that you could walk around Birmingham and, without knowing it, walk past all these incredible places without the slightest inkling they were there. Often the independents are tucked away and hidden down side streets and the project was born to shed some light on these fantastic businesses and simply celebrate all they do to make our city special. Then the Independent Birmingham Membership Card was a natural extension of that – encouraging people to shop local and explore Birmingham, whilst saving money at the same time.

BCU: What is the Independent Birmingham card?

JS: The Independent Birmingham Membership Card (or IBcard for short) is a year-long valid discount card that allows you to enjoy fantastic discounts and deals at over 70 of the very best independent cafes, bars, restaurants and shops in Birmingham, with a new independent added to the card each week. Deals include 2-for-1 on seats at The Electric cinema, 20% off food at the Bitters ’N’ Twisted venues (Bodega Bar and Cantina, The Jekyll and Hyde, The Rose Villa Tavern etc), 2-for-1 on starters and mains at The Plough, 2-for-1 on pizzas, burgers and cocktails at Alfie Birds, £1 off cocktails at The Prince of Wales, 50p off each dish at all vendors at Digbeth Dining Club and more. The IBcard is a fantastic way for students to discover the city they are making their home for the next few years whilst being able to enjoy the city’s finest independent for less! And it’s available for only £15 or two for £20 – so you can make your money back within the first few uses!

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BCU: What kind of places can our students look forward to exploring in Birmingham and can this be done on a student budget?

JS: There are so many places BCU students can explore. Whether they’re looking for quirky bars serving cocktails in bathtubs and sweetie jars, quaint cafes churning out some of the best coffee you’ll taste in your life, individualistic pubs serving craft beer and tasty grub, amazing restaurants serving up some of the most delicious food to be found in the city, incredible street food events, cinemas, vintage clothes shops and more, Birmingham has it all.

BCU: Why is it important to promote Independent Businesses?

JS: Independent businesses often don’t have the resources to market themselves and as such sometimes suffer dramatically from lack of awareness and from the misconception that eating, drinking or shopping independent will be more expensive. It’s important to promote these businesses, as they are the ones that make Birmingham unique and encompass the true values of our city. And, most of all, they deserve the recognition because they’re just awesome – from serving up some of the tastiest food and cocktails in the city to stocking clothing brands and produce you won’t find anywhere else in the country. That’s why it’s great to support local.

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BCU: If you had to describe Birmingham in three words, what would they be?

JS: Vibrant. Exciting. Awesome!

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Sunny Gill

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