As August begins and we celebrate being back in the office for two months we can finally feel a buzz of excitement at the Innovation Centre!
It’s been a long, slow two months since we reopened our doors in earnest at the beginning of June. We felt a deep commitment to our members to be here for them and to lead by example in getting the economy back to work. By early June, there was mounting evidence of who is most vulnerable to this virus. Let’s not hold back here: there is a killer out there, but we’re not all equally vulnerable. The greater damage to all our lives may be lack of spending. It’s killing the economy.
Kate, our fantastic receptionist was able to walk to work and she was happy to get back to normal, so we did, but only a handful of our members have been coming in most days. We have 16,000 square feet of covid-secure office space and with so few people here it’s been quieter than most family homes!
Over the previous three months we had lost almost 50% of our members, which is not surprising really when we’re all about flexibility. So, when the government asked everyone to work from home our small businesses were able to serve us notice and move their teams home without incurring any financial penalty. We were also able to make sure more than fifty of our members received the small business growth grant to support them. Not many shared office spaces did this, so our members were delighted.
The first thing to do was publish our risk assessment to breed confidence in returning
We now had our work cut out to cultivate our network and bring in new businesses: our business model is all about supporting ambitious entrepreneurs to create economic growth. A global pandemic wasn’t going to stop our mission to support ambitious individuals.
The first thing to do was publish our risk assessment to instil confidence in the staff and members returning to our premises. We have always been very transparent in our operations, acting as a marketing arm for our members by promoting them in our directory. We’re not about taking you on and keeping quiet about it: we support, nurture and sell our members, so transparency with our risk assessment was second nature.
Our space has been referred to as a step up in physical space and our philosophy of nurturing and supporting is second to none in our sector.
We then kept on doing what we always do; hold events to nurture our community, host weekly webinars to encourage the greater community and breed confidence post-lockdown. We reached out to our network and beyond using our subscribed data systems, identifying anyone who’s recently secured investment and engaging in business development for ourselves, as well as our members.
I’m proud to say we have welcomed three new tenants to our centre, with one more arriving later this month!
We are delighted that Khuram Zubair founder of Smartdeskers has decided to take an office with us on the 11th floor. We’re partnering with Smartdeskers to offer local people working for large brands the opportunity to work outside the house within walking distance of their home. Although many people are enjoying working from home, it’s not for everyone. There are many cases where home is not conducive for work: perhaps you live with your parents; or you have young children. Perhaps you are overcrowded and need a change of scenery. Corporates can empower their employees through Smartdeskers, and we’ve also launched our own Sussex Stars programme to allow individuals use our workspaces with more flexibility than ever before.
What’s more, we’ve welcomed Lawson S. Stone to our community. Led by ambitious entrepreneur Daniel Gayle, they are a high street estate agent who have been creating jobs throughout lockdown with ambitions to grow even more.
We’re also thrilled to be the new Croydon residence for Leasehold Law and Leasehold Valuers. The overarching company have been offering innovative solutions to leaseholders for twenty years. Having had their fair share of trauma through lockdown, the team are delighted to be back in the office working productively as a team and supporting one another. Anne Baily is the tenacious co-founder and we look forward to bringing her into our Female Founders portfolio soon!
Lastly, but by no means least, we welcome Scaramanga Marketing Agency to Sussex Innovation. Another female-led business that has increased in popularity through lockdown. Claire Scaramanga has joined our Females Founder network and even co-presented one of our Survive and Thrive webinars. She is now moving her team from Caterham and is looking forward to a fresh start in Croydon.
We only have a limited amount of offices here and we feel we’re one step ahead of real estate with our small offices and flexible terms. If you’re looking for a new way of working, or know someone wanting to bring their remote working teams together regularly, then please send them our way.