SUSSEX POST BUSINESS FEATURE

social media tips and blog for small businesses

Welcome to the first of a regular, monthly, business feature for the Chichester Post. This month a bit of background and introduction to me and why I think collaboration is key for business here in the city and what I’m doing to play my part.

So how did I come to be in Chi and what qualifies me to write this column?

Well, it’s a story as old as time itself:

  • Girl meets boy;
  • Girl starts working for the local county council;
  • Girls falls out of love with the boy (and the council), but stays in Chi;
  • Girl then joins a locally-based web design and development company; and finally
  • Girl decides to go it alone and start her own business here in Chi.

That covers the last 20 years, or as I call it,  “My Chichester Life”. As for qualifications to being here, in print? Well, I’ll let you be the judge of that!

When I started my own business over three years ago — I’m officially no longer a “startup”, apparently — I missed having a team around me.  I was working at home on my own, finding myself down rabbit holes of “how to be a great freelance marketing consultant” and achieving, at times, very little output.  This wasn’t sustainable activity – bills wait for no (wo)man, as the old adage goes.

I knew that networking and finding a business community was the answer, but nowhere seemed to fit the bill; there was a definitely a gap for a new approach. So I did what I do best, I asked others that are far more experienced in this area than me.

Chichester has approximately 15,000 people registered as self-employed – this is a 19.8% share of the overall “economically active” market. The national average for self-employed status is 10.6% – we are almost twice this. Go Chichester!! With this data to hand, my friend Emily (an HR consultant) and I agreed that a new business networking community that had a primary goal of supporting freelancers and solo entrepreneurs here in the city was absolutely needed.

My next question was, ‘How hard could it be to start a new business networking group?’ As it turns out, it’s very easy – the hard work followed later. But we needed it to have purpose. We had both spent many years living, working and socialising in Chichester and wanted to support independent businesses (and the local economy). So we decided that we’d work with selected venues to host our morning meetups on the last Friday of the month.  The good news was that they were more than willing to work with us and recognised the mutual benefit.

Three years on, we’ve built up a network of over 300 members — it’s free to join — and we regularly get over 40 people attend each month.  We’ve seen some great collaborations: a brand strategist and singing coach, is just one example. A crude calculation on the back of a matchbox suggests we have happily contributed somewhere in the region of £10k into the pockets of independent businesses.  Some of our host venues have included: Rume2, Purchases Restaurant & Bar, Pallant Restaurant & Cafe, Chichester Cinema at New Park/New Park Centre, Hennings Wine Merchants, Draper’s Yard, Luckes, Arties Kitchen.

What connects me, my networking group and these businesses is a willingness to collaborate and participate for the greater good.  In a month where we’ve seen another couple of businesses close, it isn’t productive or helpful to lament their loss — which may be due to much more than “greedy landlords/throttling rates” — whilst not stepping over the threshold of the remaining businesses and offering your support.  

The question is, If you are running a business here in the city and it’s surrounding area, ask yourself honestly: “are we doing enough to market ourselves, collaborate and grow?”

The future of the high street will not be dominated by big brands, it will be the independents that survive and thrive.  Study after study confirms this trend. What independents bring to the table is the chance to connect with their customers in a way that makes everyone feel like they’re a part of something; we’re in it together.

There are of course factors that make coming in to the city untenable, one of which is the cost of parking.  However, a rant on social media clearly isn’t reaching the ears of the decision makers. If you want to help the District & County councils understand the impact their parking strategies are having on the city’s economy, then you need to take your informed comments to them directly.

Whatever we do in business, collaboration and participation is key if you are genuinely up for making a change happen.

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If you have any comments or questions about this article or about my business networking group, please email me at: [email protected]

Debbie is amazing, and her workshop has helped our business grow. She is kind, friendly and really down to earth can’t wait to work with her again in the future! Along with this the space [at Rume2] was fantastic for individuals or to use as a group. Its clean, bright and feels like a great place to get creative!

Grace AllenRetailer: Timothy Roe Fine JewelleryTimothy Roe Fine Jewellery

The best money I have ever spent within my business – Salone Events. Debbie’s tips were so useful and ones that could be implemented immediately. Since making one very very very simple change, I have had 7 leads through 1 post!!! Highly recommend. And bonus – She is the most lovely person out there!!!

Bernadette PalomboBusiness OwnerSalone Events

I recently attended a Social Media Workshop for small businesses and I am so glad I did. Not only was it delivered with lots of enthusiasm by Debbie who clearly knows her stuff, but it gave me great tips to use moving forward and gave me the kick up the behind I needed to get a little more consistent with my social media. I would definitely recommend this session.

Claire SkaptasonOwner: O & O Trainer CoachO & O Trainer Coach

I attended a social media master class, which I would highly recommend to anyone/small business. Whether you know very little (like me) or are more experienced you can’t fail to take away some great tips from this very informative session, delivered by the very welcoming and engaging Debbie.

Eloise JohnsonOwner: Well Minds TrainingWell Minds Training

Debbie Ford is an inspiration & her Social Media workshop at Rume2 last week gave me loads of new ideas & a fresh perspective. Was really refreshing being amongst other business owners, all of us from different backgrounds, but everyone really friendly & supportive.

Katy MasonOwnerMono Motorcycles

Debbie is absolutely brilliant! So informative and has given me a new lease of confidence when it comes to social media. Debbie taught us all so much in such a relaxed manner and made a group of strangers feel like a group of friends within seconds! I cannot recommend her enough!

Sonya MatharuMortgage AdvisorSonya Matharu

I attended the social media masterclass with Debbie and I took away so many top tips and useful information. It was pitched at a level which meant if you were a total beginner or more experienced you would have walked away with much more knowledge that you had when you went in the room. Very useful and I’d highly recommend it to support your social channels for your business – thanks Debbie!

Gayle TongOwner: Enrichment CoachingEnrichment Coaching

I am very new to social media and literally learning on the hoof! Debbie delivered an extremely informative social media presentation crammed with useful tips and links in a very relaxed and friendly style – lots of laughs too, no question too silly, and no chance of nodding off! Thank you! I will be in touch!

Ella PopeBusiness OwnerOakwood Southdowns

Thanks so much for this morning’s session. Very useful! and packed with brilliant information I had no idea about.

Jane BaggottPersonal and Leadership CoachVista Development Consultancy

I attended the social media for small businesses course you ran today with the Chichester Bid – and it was fantastic! The atmosphere was relaxed but interested, you were informative and happy to answer any questions that came your way. All of the tips you suggested looked attainable and the steps came from a place of common sense. Thank you!

Ellie BrownRetailer: North OpticiansNorth Opticians

Can’t thank you enough for a great workshop and I’ve certainly come out of it with a clearer understanding and mind-set!

AlexRetailer: Hennings Wine MerchantHennings Wine Merchants

Debbie was fantastic… I struggle with social media (I only joined Facebook when I started my business a few months ago). Debbie spotted things that I could change quickly and easily as well as guiding me to streamlining my process for all platforms. She is incredibly supportive and I highly recommend her.

Anna HaskellOwner: South Coast MermaidsSouth Coast Mermaids

We trust Debbie to manage all our social channels for our web design and digital marketing agency. Debbie really understands how to get the most out of social media for our business. She gets that it’s all about engagement and authenticity, not just ‘likes’ and ‘follows’. Never generic or dull, our social feeds have never been so useful, interesting and consistent. Highly recommended!

Ben DavisCEO & co-founderPallant Digital

Debbie really knows her stuff, and has great energy and ideas. I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending her to anyone needing some social savvy!

Kay MawerOwner: ClothkitsClothkits

Thank you so much for the course, I found it eye opening and extremely informative.

Sophie WilsonInterior DesignerSieMatic Kitchens

Thank you to Debbie for coaching me with my digital media, Debbie has a wonderful way of thinking, so many brilliant ideas for content. Anyone that is involved with social media must have Debbie as a coach! Thank you  … and when you start seeing tangible results it’s such a good feeling!

Emma ShepherdMarketing: CreationsCreations

Recently attended a course, run by Debbie, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It gave me the kick to start using Instagram (which is the social media channel I was lacking in). Debbie explained everything in a no-nonsense way, that even I could understand. Very much recommend her course.

Julia BrittenOwner: JBS Print & DesignJBS Print & Design

Super helpful session with Debbie this morning, learnt some top tips which I have taken on board and already putting into practise. A calm and clear teacher with a friendly manner, with the vibe that no question too silly to ask. I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending her sessions. Thanks again Debbie.

Anna ChristianMarketing: Hall HunterHall Hunter

I would thoroughly recommend Debbie. I joined one of her social media sessions. I thought she pitched it really well – giving us lots of useful and practical advice whilst creating a forum to ask those questions you’ve always wanted to ask! I came away with a renewed confidence in my approach to social media for business.

Sara WatkinsOwner: Hopscotch DesignHopscotch Design

I attended a social media course run by Debbie.
It was very interesting and I learnt a lot to use for the future in my role at work.
would recommend

Annie FreemanRetail assistant; St Wilfrid’s Hospice Shop, Chichester

Debbie came and gave a very inspiring talk about Social Media to our networking meeting for The Selsey Business Partnership. She had a wonderful way of engaging with everyone in the room, raising lots of discussion and advised on ways to improve and help with business Social Media – everyone in the room found the tips very helpful whether or not they were regular social media users – highly recommend if you are looking for help with your business or as a speaker for your group.

Tracey GlitheroLocal Life Magazine - Selsey Business Partnership

Thank you for a very informative 121 session on email marketing!

Emma Shepherd

Had a great day at Boston Tea Party Chichester with Debbie from The Chichester Social looking at how we use social media for our business, and the best tips to improve our social media presence – highly recommended 👍

Becky Benford-BlowsDirector: AFVSAdvice for the Voluntary Sector CIC

For any business that needs a bit of Social Marketing Savvy, do get in touch with Debbie at The Chichester Social. She’s ace, and is most passionate about our local independents and entrepreneurs!

Draper’s YardMicro and independent businesses set around a quirky courtyardDraper’s Yard

Had a brilliant catch up and strategy session with Debbie from The Chichester Social. She reminded me that this time last year, South Coast Mermaids didn’t exist and encouraged me to reflect on the progress I have made! Thank you Debbie!

South Coast MermaidsOwner: Anna HaskellSouth Coast Mermaids

Debbie gave a very interesting and inspiring talk to the Selsey Business Partnership members last week. She remembered everybody’s name and their type of business and brought that into the talk, which made it very personal to everybody there. many thanks Debbie, Sue and Tom Celebration Balloons 4 You

Sue MortimerOwner: Celebration Balloons 4 YouCelebration Balloons 4 You

Debbie is a mine of knowledge. Your talk has given me a lot if ideas and inspiration as to the direction I want my business to go in.
Thank you

Shaun RainbowOwner: Oriel WindowsOriel Windows