Chamber AGM 2018 - Getting down to business


While I could have been sitting in the 30-degree sunshine by the sea with a non-alcoholic banana daiquiri, I found myself at the Nightingale Theatre in Brighton earlier this month for the Brighton Chamber AGM. If you haven’t been to the Nightingale Room, it’s a cross between burlesque decadence and Brightonesque kitsch neatly located above the Grand Central pub across the road from the station.

Chamber members old and new settled in for the early evening Chamber AGM, a once-a-year necessity but one which always offers more than a dour, spreadsheet-driven talk given by men in suits.

Brighton Chamber is, of course, anything but a ‘men in suits’ organisation as the membership is a a 50-50 split and has a diverse membership base in terms of size and sector

Following a delicious fish and chip supper we got down to the business of the evening.

Round up of 2017

President Julie Roff, Managing Director of ABC Translations ran through the highlights of 2017.

  • Membership is rising steadily, with a current total of 640 members.
  • Over 220 new members joined during 2017 and there continues to be a wide range of size and sector of companies, from Brighton Palace Pier to Deliveroo.
  • On average 25 new members are joining the Chamber each month
  • 4 new team members came on board during the year, each doing a great job.
  • The team put on over 100 events during the period, attracting 3300 attendees
  • 40 of these were Bite-sized learning workshops delivered by members.
  • The most well-attended Bite-sized learning was on GDPR which had over 90 delegates in one day!
  • In last year’s membership survey the fact that this excellent training is affordable was highly valued
  • The fifth annual Brighton Summit attracted 350 attendees, an amazing day and certainly the best so far
  • Design and delivery of the sixth series of Ride the Wave business support and events for Brighton & Hove City Council. The programme met all its targets with 250 attendees and a 100% satisfaction rate
  • The Brighton & Hove Living Wage Campaign run by Brighton Chamber is now in its sixth year and reached the whopping target of 400 employers signed up in May (and over 3000 salaries elevated)
  • With help from members, the Chamber has created an engaged online following.
  • Over 3600 unique visitors to the Chamber website and members directory per month
  • Chamber Director Sarah Springford celebrates 10 years with the Chamber in November
  • The Chamber enjoys its office base in a co-working space at the NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator Hub.
  • There are over 60 members actively volunteering their time to help to run the Chamber, proof that Brighton Chamber really is run and influenced by its members. This group is headed up by our Lead Ambassador Jill Woolf.

The Finances

Chris Ford, Finance Director of Brighton & Hove Bus Co, who looks after the finances on the Chamber Board confirmed that the Chamber is in a good position going forward, having made a surplus over the last couple of years.

The Chamber target of achieving 750 members by 2020 is on track for achieving budget membership this year. When achieved, it will mean less reliance on grant funding for projects.  

The rest of the year and beyond

Chamber Director Sarah Springford and Membership Manager Amy Lishman took to the stage, giving a joint look at ‘behind the scenes’ at the Chamber.

Sarah thanked Julie Roff and Board members, who all have businesses and organisations to run and are invaluable behind the scenes, helping the Chamber develop and grow. She also mentioned the Ambassadors as a brilliant group of people who share their time, expertise, skills and energy to the Chamber, explaining it is one of the things that makes us different.

New Member Welcomes take every two months with an average of 30 new members attending. Amy is continuing to host meet-ups with six members every two weeks, which are very helpful first events for new members.

The Chamber have been developing Customer Personas (with the help of member Rob da Costa of Da Costa Coaching) to help members better navigate the Chamber and what it offers. This means concentrating broadly on four main types of members and businesses in the Chamber - start-ups, small business owners, growing companies and established businesses.

In focus groups held last year, words used to describe the Chamber included: fun, friendly, welcoming, relaxed, inclusive, engaging and vibrant.

The Chamber gets lots of feedback from members and will be sending out its annual members survey in August. The results from the survey inform how the Chamber can improve member services.

The Chamber’s partnership work is thriving – working with NatWest, Barclays Eagle Labs, DIT, the Universities, C2C LEP and the Council. The Chamber will be looking at ways to unpack and deliver the Council’s new Economic Strategy over the next 12 months

The Chamber has been using co-working spaces during the year, holding events at member venues including at Platf9rm, The Werks, Freedom Works and Spaces.

Another fresh opportunity is having a Chamber Member of the Year category in the Brighton & Hove Business Awards. After a first-class set of applications and a difficult selection process, the three finalists this year are Creative Bloom, Cardens and Plus Accounting.

This year there will also be a High Growth event on scaling up your team, another Big Debate, Pop-ups (one with Hope Powell, Brighton & Hove Albion’s Women’s Football Manager) and a Pop-up Breakfast as part of the Digital Festival.

Following a successful first meeting with a group of investors and those who support businesses in getting investment, the Chamber is setting up an investors network to make it easier for investment to happen for businesses in the city.

There is also an exciting new event coming up in the autumn, with more structured networking helping businesses connect and refer, while retaining the same friendly, informal Chamber vibe. At this event members will get to know all 30 attendees before they leave.

The AGM Bit

Then followed ‘Agenda Item 5: The AGM Bit’ with voting on last year’s minutes and accounts, and Board members, with thanks to those who were standing down – Martin Harris of Brighton & Hove Bus Co and Franki Martelly of FDM Design, both of whom will remain members and still be very much involved with the Chamber.

Chris Ford and Daniel McNaught were re-elected as Board Members.

The whole event was one of laughter, interest, information, excitement for the future, and yes, a bit of necessary formality thrown in. Chamber events never disappoint, and the AGMs are just as much fun as any other regular event, with plenty of business networking opportunity. Brighton Chamber – you rock!

And the fish and chips didn’t disappoint, just in case you were wondering. Those on our table had a stimulating debate about whether the chips had been cooked two or three times, as they were delicious, served with tasty tartare sauce and crushed peas. Either way, a splendid, easy end to another Chamber event.

Thank you to Jill Woolf, Managing Director of Chimera Communications for writing this blog.


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