The First Labour Business Networking Event was an Outstanding Success.
Hosted by the Worthing Labour group in the warm, relaxed and informal setting of Coast Café around 30 local, independent businesses came together to share their views and network with one another.
Leader and deputy of the Labour Group, Beccy Cooper and Carl Walker introduced the team of 17 councillors and assured attendees of the groups commitment to listen to and serve local communities. Attendees were then invited to join a sub group that was of most interest to them including hospitality, retail, service, manufacturing and social enterprises.
The room was buzzing as break out groups discussed their challenges, opportunities and ways that the Council could better support them. Afterwards each group took turns to give a summary to the room and there was an overwhelming overlap in the ideas that were put forward.
The Labour Group’s Business Spokesperson, Cllr John Turley said afterwards “We were delighted to see so many local businesses who were clearly pleased that local politicians were listening to their thoughts and ideas. This has not happened nearly enough in recent years. The relaxed environment seemed to encourage people to really think about how things are and how we can improve their situation. Often they are not asking for the world. Many of the ideas were small and doable but would make a real difference.”
Two social enterprises were present. Shout WSK and Dad La Soul and both made it very clear that cooperation between the third sector and the private sector would benefit everyone. Bringing together diverse groups in a friendly and informal setting allowed different businesses to share their concerns and talk about collective solutions.
Khristina Mccormack, founder of Street Homeless Outreach – Worthing Soup Kitchen (SHOUT WSK) addressed the room to introduce her latest venture. “We are very close to opening a café in Tarring Road that will be a source of income for our charity and be run and managed by members of the homeless community who we are supporting. I have heard businesses tonight raise legitimate concerns about anti-social behaviour and I am asking you to see that in supporting our venture you will be contributing to a project that is focused on giving people a sense of worth and purpose that will discourage them from engaging in destructive behaviours.”
Dan Flanagan founder of community organisation Dad La Soul who battle the social isolation of dads told us “I want to showcase the magic that is Worthing, there is a mass of talent under our noses that we need to tap into. Our creative events are tackling wider social issues head on and the business community has a part to play for example through connecting with other dads and offering employment opportunities. It’s about people working together and making the world a nicer place. Thanks to this event I am now in discussions with SHOUT WSK about how we could support any of their clients who are dads. Moving forwards what we really need is help from the council with securing a community space that a variety of groups could benefit from.
Feedback that we received after the event was overwhelmingly positive.
Stephen Miller, Managing Director of Subway EPS said “As a service industry I didn’t get the same support offered to other industries during the pandemic – but it affected me as much – I, like other local businesses, fell through gaps. The business forum meeting was impressive because it was the first time a potentially sitting council has engaged with local businesses. The Council considers itself a safe option because they’ve been in power for so long, but we can’t have Worthing stagnate as it has done over the past many years. We need a change in Worthing.
This was such a good event, that if and when Labour controls the Council, it would be great to repeat this forum so that the needs of local businesses are constantly understood.”
Lysanne Skinner who runs Motherrucker said “I really enjoyed the opportunity to connect with other local independent business owners in our town centre. Discussing what we thought the town centre needed was really reassuring as we were all thinking along the same lines. The Labour Party Councillors were really receptive to our ideas and really encouraged us to share our thoughts no matter how outlandish. It’s so wonderful to be asked for our opinions and to have the opportunity to be heard.”
Karen Daniel, Owner of Souk said “The business forum was brilliant. I was really impressed with the way the Labour Cllrs are engaging with local businesses in Worthing – it was so refreshing! Independent businesses are owned by locals who also live in the area – bringing money to the local economy. The needs of established local businesses have been overlooked and so the high street doesn’t exist anymore because big businesses have pushed them out. More thought needs to go into planning decisions to prioritise us rather than the likes of Tesco Express or Morrisons. Fuel, rent and energy prices are hitting local businesses the same as everyone else. Worthing Council needs to think more about encouraging and supporting new, small, local businesses that are trying to survive in the town.”
Landlord of Anchored Nigel Watson said of the evening “It was a great opportunity for small business owners to engage with our, potential, new administration. Thank you for listening to the small business community.”
Cllr John Turley confirmed “The evening was such an outstanding success that we have agreed as a group to continue to hold such events on a regular basis. Listening to the business community and facilitating cooperation, innovation and social enterprise will be key to seeing our town come to life and thrive. Change is coming to Worthing!”