For our team spotlight series, we caught up with Mike Watson and found out how his background in economics is helping small businesses, like Hastings-based Girls That Scuba, to grow.

First of all, Mike, tell us about your background and role as Business Navigator?

As a Business Navigator I’m directly helping businesses in the region get access to necessary finance, resources and contacts to enable them to grow. I spend time with clients understanding their needs and mapping out multiple options for support. I have a lot of experience in the commercial finance area (I am an economist by academic qualification), so I use my specialism as a credit professional to support businesses with their finance, business forecasting and various other areas.

What do you enjoy most about the role?

The best part is getting the chance to meet and learn from all the unique and innovative small businesses across East Sussex. No matter where I meet them, whether on the phone, at networking events and seminars or interesting locations, like where we are now, (Dandelion cafe in St Leonard’s), there’s always something interesting to discover and talk about.

Which businesses do you work with mainly?

The majority of clients we work with are micro-businesses, less than five employees, with the ambition to grow and become bigger.  Many are service-based businesses looking to build an online presence through both marketing and e-commerce.

You told me before this interview that you were very impressed by Girls That Scuba of recently. What is it that has made them stand out for you?

Founder of the Hastings-based business, Girls That Scuba, Sarah has managed to encourage people across the world to come together, by creating an online community of women scuba-divers. I didn’t know that scuba diving was very male-dominated before I met Sarah. Her dream came alive as she discovered a gap in the market after networking and speaking to friends and finding there is a community of women no one was tuning into.

Sarah set up the business for women across the world to join her on scuba diving trips, first acting as their first tour guide, but 12 months since she’s been trading, she’s now got an international community in the region of 400,000 members – jetting off on trips across the Pacific and Atlantic. Not wanting to stop her amazing momentum, she came to me for some support with scaling-up and to brainstorm some ideas for business growth, which I would have to let her tell you all about, but I’m excited to see what the future holds for Girls That Scuba!

Do you think more micro-businesses in East Sussex have the potential to scale-up?

Yes, I firmly believe there are lots of businesses in the county with scale-up potential, we just need more people within existing businesses to believe they can scale up. What is lacking is self-belief and confidence. This can mean a lack of confidence in their abilities or in their plans, and that’s where we can help – there’s genuine support available to those who seek it. The challenge for organisations like ours is to get the message out there that you don’t need to go to Brighton or Manchester to get the support you need, it’s here already.

Lastly, for the start-up businesses out there, what advice would you give?

Be honest with yourself and be sure you really want to do it. Once you’ve made that decision, always be prepared to seek help and advice where necessary, as you will hit some bumps along the road. Having a clear vision of what you want to achieve will keep you going – if you think it’s time to turn your passion into a reality, there’s no time like the present!

Thank you to Dandelion Deli for having us!


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