Last week saw the first BES Connect event take place at The View Hotel in Eastbourne on Wednesday 7th November. The event brought introducers and business advisors together for a morning of networking with service providers from around the county. The aim of the event was to enrich and enhance the position of the business advisor by offering the opportunity to talk to trusted providers all under one roof about how they too can help business owners from around Sussex.

The event included talks from some of the South East’s leading business support providers including The Department for International Trade, the Manufacturing Growth Platform, the Green Growth Platform and Locate East Sussex. Guest speakers also included local business champion and MP for Eastbourne Stephen Lloyd.  Business East Sussex would like to say thanks to all those who contributed to the event, and we hope you found it valuable.

Ian Smallwood is the Head of Business Services at Business East Sussex, and the organiser of BES Connect. Here, we ask about the inspiration behind the event and his advice for getting the most out of the support available to businesses in East Sussex…

What was the idea behind the BES Connect event?

The aim of Business East Sussex is to consistently seek new ways to ensure we can put clients in touch with the best support services for them. We do this in many ways, but we know often business advisors and introducers are time poor. We felt that if we could offer the opportunity to speak to finance, marketing and business experts under one roof, we could help to make business support accessible and offer the chance to build face to face relationships. We also really wanted to show that there is no catch to the support. It’s there for the taking, it’s just that many people don’t know or assume accessing it is a hassle, which it isn’t.

What do you find are the challenges for business introducers?

We find that often as the role is so varied and demanding, introducers need to know what support is available and that it is reliable. Our team offers a wealth of experience for introducers and have spent many years building relationships with providers we trust and are happy to recommend. It can often seem as if it’s hard to decipher who the best people to contact are – the event aimed to show introducers what kind of support is out there and offer a contact for each of the support providers.

What were some of the notable points of the event?

We were very fortunate that some of the most innovative growth platforms attended the event to impart their expertise and let people know what help they can offer. We were also thrilled that MP Stephen Lloyd wanted to be involved in the event. He has helped to secure funding for Eastbourne’s new shopping centre, and has played an integral role in supporting business development in the town, so it was great to hear his thoughts. Stephen encouraged businesses to access advice and to accept the support on offer. The Q&A sessions proved really valuable, giving people the chance to bounce thoughts about business in the region and support around the room.

What one piece of advice would you give to business owners in Sussex?

Don’t underestimate the support available across the region. There’s everything from mentoring to grants, so if you have plans for growth, come and discuss them! There are plenty of organisations who can help, and the Business East Sussex Growth Hub can point you in the right direction if you’re unsure who to contact.


To find out more about business support available in East Sussex, please contact us.