Networking in the Blooming Brilliant Business Community of Wealden

Wealden is well known for its rural beauty; from the rolling hills of the South Downs, to the open heathland of the Ashdown Forest. But we have found a less well-known asset in the local business community.

When our idea of starting a coworking business began to become more concrete, we reached out to the local business community and have been pleasantly surprised by what we found. We were met with encouragement, support and recommendations aplenty. We had not expected other local business owners to be so supportive and to make the time to speak with us and help answer our many questions. The whole business community has been actively engaged and willing to share knowledge and ideas. That positivity and willingness to share has been a real boost in confidence for us and has helped us to get to this point.

Crowborough has an active Chamber of Commerce with regular breakfast meetings and bi-monthly evening events. I was pleasantly surprised by the equal ratio of men and women (whoop whoop!) and the appearance of new faces among the more established members. They also host the popular business expo to showcase the quality and diversity of businesses within Crowborough and surrounding areas. Jarvis Brook and Rotherfield have an increasingly active voice in the business community and there are several thriving businesses, with many being run from people's homes. A new and snow-balling networking group seems to be the 'Little Meets' which are Crowborough founded but cover the whole of East Sussex.

Uckfield's Chamber is equally as active and many businesses in both towns opt to be involved in both Chambers. They often hold meets at different venues to showcase and support small businesses in the local area and the meetings are always very well attended. Uckfield has its own community radio station Uckfield FM which also supports the business community and brings awareness of many of the businesses that don't have shop fronts in the local area. There are also other networking events in Uckfield; Jon has particularly enjoyed the curry club hosted by a local commercial property agent; Oldfield Smith and solicitors firm; Rix and Kay.

Heathfield has a smaller but very consistent Chamber and each meeting includes a topic of discussion and learning which was really useful and helped to get people talking in a more conversational way rather than in sales pitch mode. Heathfield hosts various community events including the popular French market event Le Marche which has a strong local business focus.

We have also attended networking events across Crowborough, Uckfield, Heathfield, Tunbridge Wells, Eastbourne and beyond through 4N, BNI, NetXP and FSB. 4N offers a dedicated one-to-one session which is really helpful. BNI as a concept is very driven and uses tracked referrals between its member making it very effective for new business leads and income. NetXP pride themselves on being original, an example of this being their upcoming 'Tiger's Pen' take on Dragon's Den which sounds excellent! The Federation of Small Businesses have also run events we've attended and they've been great for advice too as well as templates of business plans, privacy policies; the whole caboodle. We certainly would recommend them to any small business or someone thinking of starting a business.

And when it's all written down like this, you can see how busy we've been. But although it's been busy and a little daunting at times to network, it is also really enjoyable to meet such motivated, friendly people so dedicated to their chosen field. We are now very proud to be among them.

For a list of all networking events in East Sussex head over to Pearce Marketing’s website