If there is a positive to have come out of the past year, as well as being a little more mindful about others, it is the increased focus we are seeing business done locally.Philip JohnsonProgramme Director
There won’t be many who’ll be sorry to see the back of 2020. The pandemic has caused chaos across the globe and we will all be looking forward to the time that our health and that of our families has been secured by the full roll-out of the incredible vaccine programme. At this time of year, we will also remember those with family members for whom the vaccine did not arrive soon enough.
Across East Sussex, we have seen Covid-19 cause enormous problems for businesses, especially for those in hospitality, entertainment and retail, but we have also seen real resilience, innovation and a determination to build for the future.
Already it looks like 2021 will be a year of two distinct halves. After a long spring, we will all be looking forward to going about things in a way that allows for the resumption of doing business by talking to each other and by making connections face to face rather than through a flat-screen.
For many people, going back to ‘normal’ will present even more of a challenge. We must all be mindful of the toll that the past year will have taken on the mental health of our colleagues and those in our wider networks, and help them to adapt by focusing more on wellbeing than immediately looking at productivity in isolation.
If there is a positive to have come out of the past year, as well as being a little more mindful about others, it is the increased focus we are seeing business done locally. Whether it’s sourcing from local suppliers, bringing manufacturing back from overseas, working more closely with local collaborators, contributing to the support of those less fortunate in our communities and actually getting out to use the shops, restaurants, pubs, galleries, and other amazing spaces that make East Sussex such a great place to live, work and do business now and into the future.
While launching a business can be a tough enterprise even in good times, it is no surprise that launching a business in 2020 would be seen as an absolute necessity or a great opportunity. Locate East Sussex has been on the front line with a few businesses that had decided to just do that:
The Hastings Bookshop
Recently making a splash in the media, The Hastings Bookshop opened four days before the second lockdown was announced in November 2020. Situated in the heart of Hastings Trinity Triangle, Charlie Crabb saw the effect of the first lockdown had on the bookselling trade, and saw an opportunity to get involved, joining Hastings’ growing collection of enterprising and creative companies supporting and helping each other through this tough year.
Once a nomadic brewer across the UK, Beak Brewery was winning awards and notoriety from the best in the beer industry and decided to move into East Sussex. Locate East Sussex helped to find a unit below Cliffe Hill in Lewes, and as Daniel Tapper was literally given the keys to his new unit, the first lockdown was announced. Not able to claim any grant relief from the disruption, they found a way to accelerate change in their plans, working with local renowned beer producers Burning Sky Brewery and Harveys Brewery to successfully launch.
White Feather Funerals
Ten years in the making, Heathfield based White Feather Funerals is a new, contemporary female-led funeral director, but soon found that it could not launch as they should. Receiving support from Locate East Sussex, they were able to secure funding for equipment to take on established providers to deliver their truly unique service.
With the shut down in the last lockdown curtailing their normal day to day working, the Driver family decided to make a side hustle, Booyah Kombucha, into a full-fledged business, launch their kombucha in the midst of the first wave for local clients in Hastings. Soon, they had grown popular and now taking orders outside of the local area, with Locate East Sussex supporting their business investment journey.
Ninja Warrior UK Eastbourne
Located in The Beacon, Eastbourne, the indoor adventure park inspired by ITV’s hit game show Ninja Warrior UK faced its own obstacles to launch a 20,000 sq ft centre, allowing for guests to experience and see what it takes to become a Ninja Warrior. Locate East Sussex was able to assist in helping Ninja Warrior licenser with ongoing support and helping to facilitate their ambitious move into Eastbourne.
Flimwell Park, a series of timber-framed workspaces on a pioneering new woodland development, is now finally open for visitors and interested businesses to visit subject to government guidelines. Set amongst 46 acres of beautiful space to work and live, the project has been in the works over a five year period, and they have been welcoming tenants including a new coworking space, courtesy of The Hive, opening in the new year.
As PPE was in limited supply and the shops stripped bare, these companies decided to focus their manufacturing and techniques to help and continue to help their communities. Switching production and started producing ventilator parts, PPE and scrubs to support the NHS through the first lockdown and beyond:
A.S Apothecary (with Brighton Gin)
Lewes skincare company A.S Apothecary has partnered with Brighton Gin to produce 70% alcohol hand sanitiser for front line staff. Using Brighton Gin's ethanol supply, A.S Apothecary's mint and rosemary essential oils are blended together with glycerine to make it gentle on the hands.
Following the collapse of their orders, creative and prop designer Hello Flamingo did not rest in their forced ‘hibernation’, seizing the opportunity to fundraise nearly £3,000 for raw materials, creating thousands of face shields for the NHS with volunteer freelances. As hope for retail improves, orders have been coming through again.
Interface Precision Engineering
Maintaining social distancing and working flat out, Hastings manufacturers Interface Precision Engineering and its subsidiaries have been the key suppliers to the world’s major scientific manufacturers of test kits for Covid-19, and for healthcare equipment such as ventilators.
Hastings Cargo Co
Seeing how local businesses in Hastings and St Leonards were hit hard by lockdown and other restrictions, Hastings Cargo Co launched to support businesses and their customers stay safe, introducing the area to a green solution to ‘last mile’ deliveries. With a roster of companies already on their books, they are seeking to educate and engage with new customers across the local area and grow in 2021.
Many companies have had to adapt their services, finding out what can be done or can be achieved with investigating new routes to market and with the right planning/business advice.
For some, adapting their business has meant they can keep staff and their business running, engaging their customers more digitally. Here are the ones that took an opportunity to not just change, but had the opportunity to invest and expand:
Dicky Deans Shepherds Huts
Facing unprecedented demand, Barcombe based Dicky Deans Shepherds Huts has been well placed to meet the growing demand for their bespoke shepherd huts and glamping facilities. As the work from home more important and changing demand meant people are adopting a more rural or town lifestyle in places such as East Sussex, Dicky Deans have been so successful that order book is filled until Summer 2021.
Willow Tree Interiors
Family-run interiors business, Willow Tree Interiors is a tale of two lockdowns. In the first lockdown, had to close their retail storefront in Heathfield, but their manufacturing was nonstop as demand grew so dramatically, they were losing orders. Realising the opportunity, Willow Tree Interiors decided to accelerate their growth plans, moving into a new factory in Swallow Tail Business Park in Golden Cross. Doubling capacity and creating new jobs, they hope to capitalise on the momentum coming into 2021.
Once producing successful live events for the likes of NATO and the Department of Transport, Michael Gietzen and his team had to adapt their business as it became apparent that live events were having to move from the physical into the virtual space. Already set up in the virtual space, they were able to position themselves as experts to rebrand, opening the door to a new world of events, as more companies are seeking to run digital-first or hybrid events, putting Identity Group at the centre of the future of the events industry.
As gallery spaces have had to close and reopen under various restrictions, blackShed Gallery was able to overcome this year by creating an online programme to support local artists and their supply chains. They recently opened their new web store, selling a unique collection of carefully selected limited edition gifts sourced from local artists, including beautiful ceramics, handmade inks and charcoal, and affordable original artworks and prints, including some made from materials directly from East Sussex.
Kurt J Lesker Company
Established in Hastings since 1991, manufacturer Kurt J Lesker Company, found an opportunity during this year to successfully move their European Headquarters to a new base in Austin House in Castleham Estate. Nearly three times the size of their previous location, they plan for their HQ to support their continued growth, with a research lab and now opening up more space to enhance their logistics centre in a site nearby. With this space, they will be able to invest in more opportunities and products.
Cheeky Wipes, a company selling eco-friendly, reusable baby wipes, was already being supported by Locate East Sussex to help them move into the new premise and expand their warehouse operations. Moving in the midst of lockdown, they found that their sales started growing as consumers started to want to buy more sustainable products, as they have settled in their new warehouse in Eastside Business Park.
Heading into 2021, there will be challenges and uncertainty in the next few years, but businesses are not alone with a great network of businesses and opportunities within East Sussex.
The Locate East Sussex team is here to support businesses trying to make decisions in expanding or moving their premises, offering direct and bespoke business support for enterprising companies that will or have called East Sussex home.
Need help with your business plans for 2021? Get in touch