Each month, we’ll be introducing you to a different member of the Business East Sussex team. We thought we’d start off with Helena, our roving business-navigator and find out what she has to say about her role…

So, Helena, what is your role within Business East Sussex?

I’m a Business Navigator and it’s our job to help sole traders and small businesses access the services and support they need to grow and prosper. This might include referrals to other support programmes, funding opportunities, networking groups, sources of information and training, or relevant professional services, but I also support clients on a one-to-one basis as they move their businesses forward.

The first step is usually to complete a business diagnostic to gauge a client’s needs and establish how we can best add value to their existing plans and activities.  I then tend to meet up with my clients every few weeks to provide guidance and act as a sounding board as they develop and implement their plans.

Freelancers and business owners can often feel isolated and overwhelmed, so if we can help clients to feel connected and find new ways forward then we’re doing our job!

What does a typical day look like at Business East Sussex?

Usually lots of client meetings!  I visit clients and hot desk all over East Sussex.  My favourite spots are North Street Co-working in Lewes or the Sussex Innovation Centre.  I love being out amongst the businesses we’re there to support and it also gives me the chance to explore our beautiful county.

What’s your work background?

I started my career within finance and then quickly moved into the world of marketing including roles within PR and advertising agencies in London. For many years I worked for a business support organisation that specialised in the creative industries.  In this role I was responsible for the organisation’s communications strategy and provided specialist marketing advice, guidance and training to our clients.  I also co-ordinated a network of cultural destinations (which included some major attractions such as the Whitechapel Art Gallery, Theatre Royal Stratford East and Hackney Empire) and ran a wide variety of events, including workshops, networking events, conferences and a huge bi-annual business expo.

I have also worked for The Arts Council which gave me the opportunity to support publicly funded arts organisations to develop more sustainable business models and working practices.  Alongside my role as a Business Navigator I also work as a freelance coach and facilitator, and help my partner to run a small creative business.

My varied experience helps me work with our vast array of clients – especially the creative ones!

Did you enjoy running events? 

I found it incredibly absorbing and enjoyable but the process of running lots of events concurrently would take its toll occasionally.  I was never just responsible for the events and their logistics but also their promotion and had to make sure we had the required number of ‘bums on seats’ for every event we ran, and we always managed to – even without the help of social media!

Tell us more about how you managed to get those seats filled?

Without social media, life was actually kind of simpler, but the same principles applied.  Having an excellent understanding for our target market, how to reach them and what messaging worked for us was critical to our success. Accumulating a huge mailing list (before GDPR) didn’t hurt either as it meant we could keep in touch with our clients through regular e-newsletters and e-mail shots.

We even sent out the odd letter, leaflet and flyer!  But our real secret weapon was the strong reputation and network we built over time as it enabled us to do lots of cross promotion and benefit from lots of referrals.   Maintaining and enhancing our reputation was an incredibly important aspect of my role, so I was very involved in how we delivered our services as well as how we promoted them.

From East-London to East Sussex, where’s your favourite place to work?

I live in Brighton, but I do love Lewes.  It has an independent streak and a creative edge that really appeals to me.  I feel very lucky to spend lots of time there, but I equally love visiting the small towns and villages dotted across East Sussex that host our diverse array of small businesses.  We are a county of entrepreneurs!

Lewes, East Sussex

 

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