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Winter 2018 | Issue 3


Our Manifesto for Female Founders Create something the world needs Keep it simple Engage your customers Start lean Dream big Be yourself Get a mentor Be a mentor Set goals Experiment Innovate Be confident Celebrate your successes Be proud of what you achieve Be kind to yourself 2

Our small magazine with big social impact is only made possible thanks to the unfaltering support of our sponsors, guest contributors, and self-appointed Thrive ambassadors! A BIG THANK YOU to all our sponsors who enable us to fulfil our mission to inspire, inform, celebrate and support the diverse range of female entrepreneurs, creatives, and changemakers from Sussex and beyond. For Issue 3, we are very proud to be sponsored by: Sussex Innovation Centre, the University of Brighton’s Green Growth Platform, Enterprise Nation, Greater Brighton Metropolitan College, and The Projects. We are also extremely grateful to our guest contributors, interview participants, and advisers who have given up their time to bring Issue 3 to life. In particular, the Thrive team would like to thank: Yvonne Anderson, Emma Bortnik, Bushra Burge, Lana Burgess, Allegra Chapman, Meg Fenn, Rachel Finch, Nikki Gatenby, Samantha Harland, Florence Miremadi-Nafici, Pam Murphy, Tijen Onaran, Nilden Ozkan, Alice Reeves, Emily Ryan, Zara Syversen, Jill Thorburn, Sophie Turton, and Helen Wiggins. Co-Founder and Editor: Clare Griffiths Co-Founder and Designer: Lau Moracchini Distribution: Xiomara & Co. Front cover image by Helen Wiggins. Enquiries and Sponsorship: 07952 914 937

Whilst the greatest care is taken to ensure that the information in the magazine is correct, neither the publisher, nor its editorial contributors, can accept liability to any party for loss or damage caused by errors, inaccuracies, or omissions. Unless otherwise stated, the guest contributors own the copyright of the photographs and images featured in their respective articles. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without the express permission of the Editor. 3

Editorial Letter As with most start-ups, technology has played a significant role in supporting us to raise awareness about our brand, our social purpose, and our values. In our case, the Issuu digital publishing platform has enabled us to reach a global audience with readers from as far as Australia, South Africa, Malaysia, and Canada, whilst the service has catapulted the growth of our Brighton-based Meetup group for female founders and women in business. With the theme ‘Women in Tech’, Issue 3 is packed with a number of inspiring female entrepreneurs, creatives, and Clare Griffiths changemakers from Sussex and beyond. Whilst the national statistics for women working in technology is depressing – only 17% of those working in technology in the UK are female – the content and tone of Issue 3 is far from disheartening. Over the next 90 pages, you will read about a diverse range of digital marketers, app developers, environmental technologists, creatives, and business advisers, who are all successfully innovating within their field to create economic, social, and environmental impact. Happy reading! Clare Griffiths Co-Founder and Editor of Thrive P.S. On the theme of technology, please use social media to help us spread the word about our work by following us on Twitter (@TheThriveEffect) and Instagram (@ thriveeffect). Thank you! Photo by Philip Bedford


We help you start and grow a successful business Join us at 5

CONTENTS START 08 Story of a Start-Up With Emily Ryan 14 What can we learn from Bushra Burge? By Clare Griffiths 18 Engaging Young People to Change the World Around Them With Megan Leckie 22 Don’t Let Fear Become Your Boss By Sophie Turton and Alice Reeves 26 Learning from Others: How to Survive as a Start-Up With Nilden Ozkan


GROW 30 Creating an Award-Winning App with Social Impact With Jill Thorburn and Yvonne Anderson


36 Creating a Blaze with Beryl By Clare Griffiths 40 Reaching New Heights with a Superengaged Team With Nikki Gatenby


46 How Design and PR Play a Significant Role in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) With Meg Fenn 50 Innovation in Nature With Florence Miremadi-Nafici 6

CONTENTS REFLECT 56 Leading the Diversity and Inclusion Strategy at the Knowledge Transfer Network By Emma Bortnik 60 Enabling Women to Excel in the Digital Tech Sector With Rachel Finch, Lana Burgess and Allegra Chapman 64 Building a More Diverse Coding Community with codebar With Zara Syversen 68 Celebrating and Supporting Women in Tech By Eva Poliszczuk


72 Embracing Flexibility By Samantha Harland

DISCOVER 76 Making the World More Digital and Female With Tijen Onaran 80

CREATE 80 Helen Wiggins Photographer, Artist and Writer

CONNECT 90 Small Business Resources 7


Emily Ryan



Story of a Start-Up With Emily Ryan, Managing Director, The Converts Describe The Converts in one sentence.

life a year – I wanted 365 days of life. I wanted to build a business where women don’t simply contribute but lead. And so at the end of 2016 I decided to leave my well-paying job and move to Brighton to begin the adventure.

The Converts is a disruptive digital marketing start-up, pioneering new approaches to marketing and the way we work.

How have you structured The Converts, and your offering, to differentiate it from other digital marketing agencies?

When and why did you found The Converts? I founded The Converts at the end of 2016 when I relocated from London to Brighton. Over the years I’d been working closely with marketing directors from a variety of large organisations, who had real trouble developing effective digital marketing strategies. The more I listened, the more it became clear that there was a real opportunity to build a different kind of agency to service this exact need, i.e. developing digital marketing strategies that worked.

I have structured the digital marketing agency so that it is different from most agencies in the South East and beyond. We’re a new collective economy business with no offices and a flat, autonomous structure. When we start a new project we assemble an A-team of deep industry experts, and once the project is complete the team is disassembled – it works kind of like the Hollywood studio model in that sense. It’s incredibly agile and we work with talented specialists who are entrepreneurs themselves. They are generally happier than your average in-house delivery team and highly motivated. We recently completed a rebrand and a new website for a client in financial services where 20 people touched the project across its six-month implementation. This speed and quality of delivery would not happen within a traditional small to medium-sized agency structure due to the bureaucratic nature of these businesses. We’re a start-up and we move like a start-up, so that forward-

On a personal level, I find it hard to separate work and life and find real meaning in doing great work. I was also a big sufferer of Mondayitis and wanted to live seven days a week, rather than just two. And I wanted to live a location-independent lifestyle where I could work with whoever I like, from wherever I like. Instead of face time, I wanted quality time. I wanted to remove the word ‘commute’ from my vocabulary and replace it with ‘travel’. I no longer wanted a holiday allowance – 20 days of 9

START What have been the most important lessons you have learnt since starting The Converts?

thinking clients reap the benefits.

You have created a scientific methodology called the Minimum Viable Campaign (MVC). What is it and how does it inform your work?

Create a product, rather than a service business (says the owner of a marketing service agency!). People pay for products upfront. People pay for services when the project is complete. Selling time can be a bit of a fool’s game (she says again). In the agency world, you get all types of clients but if you happen upon one that is price- rather than value-driven, you and your team can get overworked and underpaid. Often you only figure this out half way through the project. Hence the creation of the MVC – a high-value product that a sales team can sell, turning clients into upfront paying customers. And the plus side is that you are building a niche, scalable, sellable business not dependent on the owner of the business or on the clients. (Nobody in their right mind wants to buy a traditional digital marketing agency with erratic cash flow and a dependency on clients and people.) This is also a big differentiator, as we can be very clear and concise about what we are selling.

Digital marketing can be a minefield and an ever-changing landscape. Often developing a digital marketing strategy is like developing a work of fiction, as so often strategies are. It was when I was creating a digital marketing strategy for the B2B division in Ordnance that I had, well, the epiphany: ‘I can tell you what we can do for you but wouldn’t it be better if I could show you? I don’t want to assume that I know best, because I don’t. The only we way can both learn is by doing – by testing our assumptions about your customers, by starting small and releasing a test campaign to gather data improvement.’ In other words, applying the practices of product development and creating a minimum viable product, but for marketing. And so the Minimum Viable Campaign, or MVC, was born. The MVC is a lean approach to digital marketing strategy development. It’s a four-week pilot digital marketing campaign that is released to one customer segment to gain actionable data for improvement. It’s a scientific approach to digital marketing that allows clients to act faster and win more. It tests content and marketing platforms and doesn’t require massive upfront investment. And it’s built for the future of work, requiring a combination of human creativity and machine learning.

And be the very, very best at what we do.

What has been your biggest achievement to date with The Converts? From a project perspective it’s the rebrand and new website for a financial services recruiter with offices in London and Brighton which we delivered in under six months. It was a real testament to the business model, i.e. assemble and dissemble an A-team of industry experts for each aspect of the project. We worked with partners and freelancers alike, and I am very proud to put our name on the 10


work. The team consisted of a creative director, three senior designers, a brand language strategist, a copywriter, a project manager, an account manager, a UX/ digital strategist, and three developers – all assembled and disassembled at various points in the project. The project team consisted of an exact 50:50 split of men and women, with two out of the three developers being female. One of the driving forces behind my business is to create an environment, even a remote one, where men and women equally contribute, and only the best work wins. This project has been a case in point.

mid-2019 onwards.

In your blog post, ‘Why burn bras when you can burn bridges?’, you wrote a very candid account of your experience of sexual harassment. What do you think employers and employees should be doing to make tech firms a safer, fairer, and harassment-free space for women? I don’t think that the responsibility solely rests with the employer. Employers, or the people in power, are not the ones who have taken to the streets in protest at misconduct towards women in the workplace. The #MeToo movement hasn’t been led by those in positions of power. What’s appearing is not a classic revolution, and disruption simply doesn’t happen from the top down, especially when women are a minority at the top. Change is happening because the disempowered are speaking out and voicing their individual experiences. I can’t give you my top five tips on making the workplace safer, or what employers should and shouldn’t be doing. What I can say is that female employees need to continue with their bravery and keep talking out loud and in public about their experiences. It is tough, uncomfortable and there will be consequences, but we need to keep sharing to continually

What are your growth ambitions for The Converts for the next 12 to 18 months? My focus over the next 12 to 18 months is to transform The Converts from a service-led business to a product business – the product being the Minimum Viable Campaign. The plan is to double the business within the next six months and reinvest profits into the technological development of the MVC. Our pipeline is looking strong and we’re on track to achieve this goal. Alternatively we may look for outside investment to turbocharge the process, but the objective is to perfect our product, so that we are on track to selling only the MVC from 11

START inspire change. As I said in the article, the face of technology is far from female. Once there is more gender equilibrium, then work environments will be a lot different. I wasn’t patient enough to wait for this to happen and that is why I am building my own disruptive business.

a right time – we only have now. There is this epidemic called ‘imposter syndrome’ rampant amongst women, often keeping us in a steady state of inertia – and perhaps playing nicely into a patriarchal discourse. Of course we’re going to feel like imposters, when, essentially, we are. I say celebrate your inner imposter. Know that if it lands on your shoulder that you’re officially outside of your comfort zone. Know that it is actually the catalyst for real change and growth – in and around you.

What advice do you have for women in employment who are thinking about starting their own venture? Many of you dreaming of your own venture probably feel that you do not belong where you are right now. That’s how I felt anyway, that the world of work wasn’t designed for me to succeed. There is a lot of practical advice on the matter to be shared but I think that it is so important for you to take a macro view – both of your life and of the greater good. You obviously have more to offer the world than you are exercising right now. What are you waiting for? There is never

Find out more

To learn more about The Converts, visit their website or email Emily on


22 Years of Building Business Confidence We know that starting a business and growing it can be a rollercoaster. Some days it’s the best feeling in the world, and others you’ll feel like just giving up. That’s why, ever since we opened in 1996, the most essential thing we’ve offered our members is confidence. At the Sussex Innovation Centre you’ll find a supportive environment in the heart of an entrepreneurial community. Our team of dedicated innovation advisors have walked in the same shoes as you. We appreciate that founders sometimes need a sounding board for ideas, and sometimes need someone to share frustrations with. From providing detailed strategic advice and market insight, to on-demand practical support and modern, flexible office space - everything we do is designed to build confidence - in yourself and your business.

“Sussex Innovation is a great environment for startups. They have the perfect combination of friendly advice, great knowledge and professional services to support any growing business. They are always happy to help, make introductions and talk through any stumbling blocks you may face as an early-stage business.” Jason Grima, Founder, Deal Zippy

Find out more: call us on 01273 704 400, email, or visit



Bushra Burge



What can we learn from Bushra Burge? By Clare Griffiths, Co-Founder and Editor, Thrive


ushra Burge doesn’t like labels. She finds it limiting when people try and put each other in boxes. She believes it is a legacy left from the Industrial Revolution – when people were compartmentalised within the supply chain, a way of thinking which may reinforce biases and not necessarily apply to the way problems need to be solved now. So, I will try to capture the essence of her multi-disciplinary mindset and approach without labelling her too specifically…

fashion illustration. During these evening courses, Bushra succeeded in building up a portfolio of drawings which then enabled her to study for a fashion degree at the London College of Fashion. From there, she went on to study an MA in Applied Imagination at Central Saint Martins. She describes this course as being fundamental in ‘turning her thinking upside down’ because it helped her realise she could combine ‘all her values and expertise, however diverse they may be’, and ultimately enjoy ‘using the whole of who I am’.

Bushra Burge is Founder and Creative Director of the award-winning BB Studio, a speaker, an innovation consultant and an interactive, visualdigital artist. She is a talented innovator who experiments with technology to tell immersive stories combining wearable technology and virtual reality (VR). Despite being trained in biochemistry at Imperial College London, Bushra never felt ‘like a scientist’, so retrained as a database software engineer before working for large corporations within the finance industry. Convinced that there was more to life than databases, Bushra started accessing various evening courses to try out different creative pursuits. Describing night school as ‘a parallel universe where anything is possible’, Bushra trained in a diverse range of subjects including magic and

It is this eclectic mix of disciplines which has contributed to Bushra’s unique ability to ‘connect the dots’ and innovate new ways of integrating VR with wearable technology to create immersive, VRhaptic experiences. Following a recent interview with Bushra, I reflected on what we can all learn from her experience to date, and the product of my thinking are the following seven principles “to become more Bushra”.

1. Never stop learning The various courses that Bushra has studied on have all contributed to her personal and professional development, and undoubtedly enhanced her ability to come up with new concepts. When you are accessing professional training, don’t 15

START be afraid to move away from industryspecific courses, and study something completely outside your area of expertise. Not only will you learn new things, you will also find it easier to connect the dots between seemingly unrelated subjects.

nature of her work – we can all learn from her collaborative approach. Bushra has always accepted that she can’t do everything herself, and as a consequence, she regularly employs and partners with individuals to work with her on her various research and development projects.

2. Embrace all that you are

5. Apply for external funding and access business support

Before 2012, Bushra led separate careers – first as a software engineer and then as an ethical fashion consultant. It was only after she accepted all that she is and combined the different elements of her career that she was then able to lead on a number of self-initiated projects.

Bushra has been very successful in securing awards, grants and support to fund and exhibit her work in the UK and internationally. In January 2018, Bushra was awarded a Wearsustain EU Grant, as part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 Innovation Fund, to progress The Great Wave – an eco-wearable immersive story comprising of two jackets which move in relation to a 360 degree animation inspired by The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai – into GhostNet. Not only did the grant allow her to continue developing her project, but it also enabled her to raise her profile on a European level as she was invited to showcase GhostNet in both Brussels and Vienna in late 2018. Most recently, Bushra has been named as an ‘Alternate’ Finalist in the SXSW Style & Wearable Tech 2019 category for GhostNet – an immersive experience which raises awareness about ocean pollution comprised of an underwater interactive VR scene, controllable pneumatic haptics and two accompanying jackets. These grants and awards have undoubtedly helped Bushra to raise her profile and cement her position within her field as a leading innovator – not only in the UK but overseas as well.

3. Experiment Bushra is constantly tinkering with different objects and materials in order to push the limits of what her garments should look like and how they should function. For example, for her Dark Matter project – a multisensory science fiction experience – Bushra and her team hacked a blood pressure machine and incorporated it into an expanding jacket to create a feeling of disorientation for the wearer. Comprised of two haptic wearables embedded in a visually striking jacket with accompanying VR film, Bushra demonstrated this immersive experience at the V&A and went on to be selected as a finalist at the New European Media Awards in Porto, Portugal.

4. Collaborate with others When you are running a small business on your own, you are often tempted to do everything yourself, particularly if you are working to a tight budget. Whilst it is necessary for Bushra to engage with others – due to the multi-disciplinary 16

START 6. Have a role model and be a role model

this considered approach. As a result, her collection has been made by East London charity Heba which helps immigrant women gain new skills in a safe environment. She has chosen to use certified organic cotton and recycled fibres, and has created a core, transseasonal collection which can be bought and worn throughout the year. A number of the Anatomic garments have also been designed to be worn in different ways, so that the consumer gains more wears per buy.

When asked about role models, Bushra cited two: Michelle Obama who she describes as a ‘living goddess’, and the late Helen Chadwick, one of the first female artists to be nominated for the Turner Prize whose experimental practice has influenced Bushra’s creativity. In addition to having her own role models, Bushra is herself a role model and proactively engages her daughter in her work. In a recent vlog, Bushra showed her daughter how to make a simple electrical circuit, and as part of the Brighton Digital Festival 2018, Bushra invited her daughter to a SheSays Brighton event during which she spoke about her digital career to date. As female innovators and entrepreneurs, we all need role models. However, it is important to remember that we must also be role models for the future generation of scientists, technologists, designers and artists.

Bushra’s work and experience is so diverse and rich that it has been a challenge to capture the essence of her work in a 1200-word article! Despite this, what is clear to me is that the common thread running throughout her work is her innovativeness. If we follow these seven principles in our own work, I am confident we will be better equipped to innovate within our field and “become more Bushra”.

7. Do good in the world

Bushra Burge was interviewed by Clare Griffiths.

Whichever industry you are in, consider ethical choices. For her Anatomic fashion collection, at every stage of the decision-making process, Bushra took Find out more

To appreciate the immersive nature of Bushra’s work, visit her website and follow her on Twitter (@bushraburge) and on Instagram (bbs.musings).





Engaging Young People to Change the World Around Them With Megan Leckie, Co-Founder of BlockBuilders


A BlockBuilders workshop

START How would you describe BlockBuilders in one sentence?

run public consultation workshops on new developments. We became a Community Interest Company at the beginning of 2018. Our revenue streams are split between client-based work and grants. Since the initial funding we have received further grants and donations from the University of Brighton and Brighton Digital Festival, as well as financial support from Innovate UK, LanciaConsult, Brighton and Hove City Council, The Heritage Lottery Fund, and The Goodall Foundation.

We’re a Community Interest Company that uses digital technology to engage people in planning, design, ecology, and history.

When did you start up BlockBuilders? Who is on your founding team? BlockBuilders was set up by myself (Megan Leckie) and Joseph Palmer during the final year of our undergraduate degrees at the University of Brighton in 2014, and we launched as a business shortly after graduation. It began as part of a project for Community21, a University of Brighton research organisation, where Joe and I helped run workshops with school children in Lewes. Joe’s tutor, Nick Gant, brought us in to help run these workshops, and we decided to use Minecraft™ as a 3D design tool to engage the young people in the development of the Phoenix Industrial Estate in Lewes. After the workshops, we realised this would be a great way of working with communities, and set it up as a business.

What social impact does BlockBuilders generate and how do you measure this? We aim to enable communities to express their opinions on things happening in their local area, with a specific focus on young people. This is a broad area, so measuring impact isn’t always easy. A good way of demonstrating the impact is when we work with a client such as a developer, and we showcase all the designs and ideas the community presented, and those results go into the planning for that development. For us personally, we get to work with young people and watch them realise that their opinion is valid and that they should have a say in what happens within their community. However, this isn’t something that is easy to measure.

BlockBuilders operates as a social enterprise. What is your business model? When we first started, we incorporated as a company limited by guarantee, and relied heavily on grant funding. We were awarded grants from the University of Brighton, London Road Portas Pilot and Brighton Digital Festival in the first few months, which helped us run workshops and build up a portfolio. From there, we began working with developers and councils, and were brought in to

What have been your biggest challenges to date? Starting a business from nothing was difficult, especially as we were young and just finishing university so we didn’t have any connections or prior business experience. However, the University of Brighton really helped us during the initial phases. Maintaining cash flow is 20

START another challenge. Some months there are big projects and successful grant applications, and other months there are fewer. Being mindful of how much money is coming into the business is so important.

do more of this, with different clubs focusing on different issues around Brighton and Hove.

What advice do you have for our readers who are considering setting up their own social enterprise?

What have been your greatest achievements during your entrepreneurial journey so far?

Do it! Setting up BlockBuilders was the best thing we ever did. It is a lot of hard work but it is so rewarding. If you are in a position where you can set up a social enterprise, then go for it, because that opportunity might not always be there. Also, don’t worry when something goes wrong. Mistakes will be made and opportunities will be lost – just learn from those experiences for the future.

We’re proud of having set up a company that is still running four and a half years later. We’ve managed to grow each year and bring in more and more work. Our greatest achievement is probably the number of young people we’ve worked with across the country, which is now over 8,000. We’re very fortunate to do what we do and to see the impact that our work has made.

What are your goals for the next 12 to 18 months? We are trying to expand and bring in more staff. We work with freelancers at the moment, who come in and help depending on the project, but we’re aiming to employ staff on a more formal basis. We’re also looking to set up more permanent free workshops. We currently run a free youth club on Thursday evenings thanks to funding from LanciaConsult. We would like to

Find out more

To read more about BlockBuilders, visit their website, email the team (, and follow them on Facebook (BlockBuildersUK) and Twitter (@BlockBuildersUK). 21


Don’t Let Fear Become Your Boss By Sophie Turton and Alice Reeves, Co-Founders, The Joyful Web get a handle on our fear we would never achieve our full potential. So we got to know our fears, got more comfortable with them, and listened to what they were trying to tell us. Here are some of the important lessons fear has taught us about courage, teamwork, and running a successful business.

What fear looks like in business Fear is your brain’s natural response to a perceived threat. It is there to stop you from getting hurt, and it was needed at a time when a rustle in the bushes could have meant the difference between life and death. Nowadays, however, fear so often stands in our way. It is the ‘what if…’, ‘the shadow behind the door…’, the narrative your mind conjures up to keep you safe. It can also keep you small.


ust one year ago we marched off into the great unknown. We didn’t know each other, had no idea how to run a business, and, as it turned out, didn’t really know ourselves all that well either. It didn’t take long before fear was running the show. We were scared of failure, of looking bad, and of getting found out. We had fear around success, of being bigger than we knew how to be. We were scared of showing ourselves up, and of standing out. Most of the decisions we made when we first started The Joyful Web came from a place of fear, which led to stumbling block after stumbling block in the growth of our business.

Fear is a product of the thoughts we create. It often feels like we’re governed by our thoughts, with very little control over them. In fact, we are not simply our thoughts, and unless we get a handle on what’s real and what’s been imagined, we will hold ourselves back. Because thoughts can become feelings, and feelings can too often become actions, we made a lot of business decisions in those early months from

It soon became clear that if we didn’t 22



Alice Reeves

START a place of fear and labelled them as ‘sensible choices’. After all, it’s smart to be cautious, to prioritise the money coming in, and to safeguard cash going out, right? But how about this? No one ever changed the world by being sensible.

better at feeling the fear – and then doing it anyway. Courage is a muscle, you don’t get brave overnight. During her talk at last month’s Wildfire Women conference, Suzy Walker, Editor-In-Chief of Psychologies magazine, said, ‘The only difference between you and that successful person you compare yourself to is that they’re brave’. They aren’t inherently better or more talented than you.

This is what fear-based decisions looked like for our business: • Taking on clients that didn’t pay enough or clients that weren’t right for us because of a fear of not making enough money • Undercharging out of a fear we weren’t good enough • Competing with each other out of a fear that the other one was ‘better’, which meant working in silos and not realising our full potential as a team • Not putting ourselves out there through a fear of being visible • Not signing a lease on a swanky office out of a fear it was too soon and the commitment was too big. Staying in an environment that wasn’t inspiring us, simply because it was safe. • Being afraid to go all out for what we wanted, which meant setting our goals and intentions too small and playing small in everything we did. This translated into our ability to make an impact on our clients too – we were afraid to push the boundaries and get really creative. It was safe to be just good enough.

Courage is a lot easier to cultivate as a team than in silos. As soon as we dropped our need to prove our worth (to each other, to our clients, to the world at large), we found our flow. It took courage to admit our egos were running the show, and it takes courage to show up each and every day and be present as a collective. Now we hold each other to account with love, and help the other identify when fear is standing in our way.

What fear has taught us about teamwork We are individuals, we work differently, and that’s OK. In fact, diversity is an asset to any business. When you allow yourself and your people to work in the way that best suits them, you can be more creative, push the boundaries, and take a more comprehensive approach to project management. Teamwork is about respecting and allowing each other’s differences, not trying to make everyone work in the same way. And it’s OK for people to be good at different things. It doesn’t make one any better than the other; it’s a huge strength when skill sets are complementary.

What fear has taught us about courage The antidote to fear is courage. This doesn’t mean fear goes away. It’s always there, going ‘Hey girl, hey!’, but through the cultivation of courage we become

For teamwork to be successful, communication is vital. Whenever one 24

START of us hasn’t told the other one what we’re really feeling (out of fear, usually), we get really stuck. Honesty is the only way teamwork works, and you have to create a safe space where everyone knows it’s completely OK to be exactly who they are.

to quit my job AND I’m scared’. Saying ‘and’ allows for room to grow, whereas ‘but’ shuts off the potential. The fear doesn’t go away and you can stop letting it drive you. You just have to practise. Face it and face it and face it again. When fear rears its head, we say, ‘Thank you very much for trying to keep me safe but you’re not welcome here’.

Feel the fear and do it anyway There will be times when fear is necessary. When your gut tells you this just isn’t right. We’ve had a few situations where we have walked away from what seemed, on paper at least, to be perfect. It just didn’t feel right.

If that doesn’t work, take it back to basics. Simply breathe. Because the only difference between excitement and fear is breath.

That wasn’t fear though. It wasn’t our brains making up stories, it was an instinct which we followed and, surprise surprise, we were right. Part of growing a successful business is to learn how to differentiate between your thoughts and your instincts. To feel the fear and do it anyway, and to know when it’s time to back off and let something that isn’t right for you go. When it comes to fear, instead of saying ‘but’, say ‘and’ instead. Try out the difference. For example, how different does it feel to say ‘I want to quit my job BUT I’m scared’ compared with ‘I want

Sophie Turton

Find out more

The Joyful Web is a creative communications and digital marketing consultancy that works with mission-led businesses. They help businesses change the world by building communities, pioneering revolutions, and inspiring people to take action.



Learning from Others: How to Survive as a Start-Up With Nilden Ozkan, Managing Director, Ozkan Accountants


hilst the start-up rate for small businesses in the UK is at a record high, only four out of ten businesses survive after five years of trading. The Thrive team met up with Brighton-based accountant, Nilden Ozkan, to find out what she thinks are the main reasons for this low survival rate.

everything themselves, and then suffer as a consequence – both mentally and physically. Even if they are passionate about what they do, that passion will only get them so far. I have also seen businesses expand too quickly. They gain two or three clients who comfortably finance their business. As things seem to be going well, the entrepreneurs decide to move into bigger offices, and invest in more staffing and resources. Then, out of the blue, one of their clients suddenly leaves them, and they are left with significant overheads which they can’t afford to pay.

Nilden reflects on the challenges that small business owners face, and shares some valuable advice on what small business owners can do to boost their chances of entrepreneurial success.

From your experience as an accountant supporting small businesses, what have you found are the main reasons for the low survival rate of start-ups?

What can start-ups do from the outset to boost their chances of survival?

When you run your own business, you have to take on a variety of roles – all at the same time. As soon as you start up, you suddenly become the product designer or service provider, the seller, the marketer, the bookkeeper, the business strategist, and the visionary leader of the company. The amount of work involved in fulfilling all these roles can feel overwhelming. Before business owners set out on their entrepreneurial journey, they don’t realise just how much work is involved. I have seen lots of entrepreneurs burn out, unfortunately, due to the amount of the work they have had to undertake. They try to do

I recommend that entrepreneurs stick to what they are good at, and delegate the work which they are unable to do, or don’t have time to do. As soon as they can afford to, they should consider outsourcing some of their tasks. For example, they could appoint a virtual assistant to take on some of their administrative work, a freelancer to manage their social media marketing, and an accountant to assist with their financial responsibilities and bookkeeping. I also suggest that entrepreneurs network, network, network! Entrepreneurs need 26



Nilden Ozkan


Nilden at work

to raise their profile in the marketplace as quickly as possible, to establish who they are and how they differentiate themselves from their competitors. Once an entrepreneur has started growing their professional network, they can then use that network to collaborate with others and build the foundations for long-term partnerships. All of this will then help build their reputation and, in turn, boost word-of-mouth recommendations. An entrepreneur’s professional network can also be an essential resource for them to vent their frustrations, seek advice, and overcome any business challenges they face.

are and passionate about what they do. They are extremely focused, and know exactly what they want to achieve and how they are going to get there. I also think that they are very peopleoriented. They are very approachable, personable and emotionally intelligent. They genuinely seem to like meeting other people and making new connections. These business owners also seem to have a growth mindset. They are committed to learning new things and improving their personal and professional skills. They constantly seek feedback and are good at listening about how they can make things better. Rather than feeling deterred by the feedback they receive, they are inspired to learn from that feedback and grow – both as people and as businesses.

Do your clients share any common characteristics or mindsets which you feel have contributed to their business success? I believe there is no such thing as the ‘perfect entrepreneur’, but I have noticed some common traits among my clients who own thriving businesses. Those clients tend to be confident in who they

How do you support your clients to plan their business growth? 28

START Business owners need to have highperforming people in their teams. As an accountant, I consider myself to be part of my clients’ team, and therefore invest time and energy to develop a strong working relationship with all of them. It is only once I get to know my clients and their businesses really well that I am able to offer timely advice, and then to make sure that the cash flow is in place.

accounts, what online software they require you to use, and how much they are going to charge you for their services (and whether that is on a monthly or annual basis). As a start-up, you should also find out what experience the accountant has of working with early-stage ventures, and which industries those start-ups come from. If you are beyond the initial start-up phase, and are looking for investment, you should also find out how the accountant will help you prepare for private equity investment.

On a practical level, I support our clients to have the right processes, software and reporting procedures in place, so that they can spend less time on the financial side of things, and more time on running and developing their businesses.

Finally, what kind of clients do you enjoy working with?

I also make sure that I find out early on what our clients’ business goals are and what they want to achieve. Listening to our clients and their ideas is a vitally important part of the process for me and my team, so that we can then work out how to help them realise those ideas. This can only happen when we get to know our clients really well, rather than just playing an administrative role crunching numbers and organising their paperwork.

We embrace diversity in the workplace, and relish an equally diverse client base. We work with start-ups as well as with more established businesses who have survived the start-up phase and are now in a period of growth. In particular, we support creative and technology-based businesses. However, we also reach out beyond these industries to work with people who enjoy pushing the boundaries and exploring new ways of doing things. Our clients include freelancers, startups, retailers, tech firms, Brighton Digital Festival, UX Brighton, and codebar, among others. The common trait running through all our clients is their creative approach, their innovative behaviour and a desire to challenge the status quo.

What should every start-up ask an accountant before they appoint one? As in any relationship, you need to find out if you are the right fit for each other. I recommend that you find out what kind of hands-on support the accountant can offer you, how they will do your

Find out more

To learn more about Nilden and her Brighton-based accountancy firm, Ozkan Accountants, visit the website, email, or phone 01273 789857. 29


Creating an Award-Winning App with Social Impact With Jill Thorburn and Yvonne Anderson, Directors of MOMO (Mind Of My Own)




The MOMO team



hat is the core purpose of the MOMO apps, and who are your main customer groups and end users?

was in children’s social care. This is where Jill came in. With over 25 years’ experience in social work management, she brought her experience to strengthen the implementation process. Yvonne and Jill have extensive experience in public services including children’s services across health, education and social care, and they share a passionate conviction in the rights of children to have their voices heard.

Better care happens when children are better listened to. At MOMO we believe that young people should be able to participate fully in their lives, and it should be easy for them to speak up anytime they want. We make this happen by blending tech, social work and children’s rights expertise to create apps that young people can use on their own 24/7, or with a worker. Our apps provide an instant and convenient way to express their views, wishes and feelings to their workers.

How did you go about designing and developing the original version of your app? Having pitched the idea to the Nominet Trust (now the Social Care Trust) and been awarded a grant, we worked with our development partner Neontribe to co-design with young people, using paper-prototyping and user-testing techniques.

MOMO apps are free for young people to use. We sell a whole service including training, implementation and access to worker accounts, and a service portal to organisations that provide services to children. These may be within health, education or social care; the organisations can be local, regional or national and include public, voluntary and independent providers.

The first digital release was in effect a Minimum Viable Product, but from that early stage we were keen to monetise the app’s social value in order to establish a revenue stream that would keep us viable, so we started generating interest in sales very early on and tested the first app, MOMO One, through real life usage. We built the second app, MOMO Express, following extensive and consistent customer feedback that we should also serve the needs of young children and those with a learning disability. We ran five rounds of user research and co-design with children and their carers, augmented with desk research, culminating in an MVP that we have continued to develop as we gain more insights into those users’ needs.

How did you come up with the idea for MOMO? Initially MOMO was founded as a project in Yvonne’s social enterprise before it took off and became a company in its own right. The founders worked at the time in young people’s mental health advocacy and participation, and originally designed a prototype for use in these sectors. We quickly realised that sustainability relied upon implementation in a space where the apps could get real traction and have visible impact, and at the time that 32


A child using the MOMO app

What types of funding have you accessed during your entrepreneurial journey so far?

evidence of their views into developing, building and modifying the apps. MOMO is all about young people participating, and we are committed to their participation in building, reviewing and testing our apps, which is why we use co-production.

After the first grant had funded us to build the initial product, we worked hard to make a few small sales to demonstrate our commitment to sustainability through a business model. The Nominet Trust generously funded us a second time to develop both the product and the business model further, giving us an amazing kickstart. Since then, we have self-funded all our development and have increased the core team from 1.2 to 9 full-time equivalents (and growing).

In co-production workshops between designers and young people, we use established user-centred design (UX) techniques to create evidence and insights that will be analysed and coded into the apps so that the utility, functionality and desirability can constantly be improved. All this evidence is organised and mapped with the developers so that they understand what it is they need to build. Our developers use the Agile method, in which all the team’s efforts are concentrated in an intense period of coding and testing called a sprint. The

How do you innovate? How do you engage your customers and end users? A major reason for our success is that we listen to our users and translate the 33

GROW sprint lasts between one and two weeks, culminating in testing, before the new versions of the apps are released. These sprint cycles are spaced about eight weeks apart.

team to deal with our ambition to move into new markets in this and other countries.

What have been your greatest achievements to date?

How has your team grown over time?

The achievements we all remember most in our team is when children and young people have found their voice and told their workers what is happening in their lives. Our customers generously share anonymised stories with us of instances when MOMO has helped their children. Here is one of those…

Over this last year we are delighted to have been joined by two brilliant NonExec Directors who have really enhanced the board with the knowledge they have both brought to MOMO. Mary McKenna, a well-known technology entrepreneur and angel investor, joined us in spring 2018. Mary co-founded successful public sector focused e-learning company, Learning Pool.

‘We were working with a young woman aged 15, who we were really worried was being sexually exploited. We tried everything to get her to open up to us. Face-to-face, she denied this was happening. Using the app, she has given a clear indication of what was happening in her life. She was ashamed to tell us that directly, but she was able to do it through the app. We worked through this with her. We had a consultation afterwards, and conducted a strategy meeting to identify further risks. She expressed emotions like hopelessness, ‘I don’t care’, ‘nobody cares for me’, ‘I feel lonely’, ‘everybody knows about what’s happening to me’. She said she felt ashamed, and that’s why she couldn’t go back to school. She told us all of this through MOMO.’

Mark O’Neill joined us in summer 2018. Mark came from the Department of Education, bringing with him a lifetime’s technical experience of building digital services and technology solutions for everything from national voter registration to the London 2012 Games. Before we encouraged Mary and Mark to join us, Yvonne and I realised that although we have many skills brought from previous careers, there were skills gaps on our board, namely international trading and technical skills. We did not rush into making rash decisions as we knew we needed people who would bring us their knowledge and a good level of challenge but be able to work at our pace, and with the same passion around children participating in their care.

Our other major achievements to date are: • Two years ago we responded to user input and co-designed and built MOMO Express to meet the needs of younger children and those with a learning disability. • We are very proud to have achieved

Our operational team has grown significantly as we have recently quadrupled our business development 34

GROW What top tips can you give to our readers who are running app-based businesses or software companies?

ISO 27001 accreditation for the last four years. • The recent internationalisation of our code base, which gives us the flexibility to translate the apps into other languages.

• Be sure there is a real need for your product. The world is full of great ideas that went nowhere. • Listen to users. Really listen, with an open mind. • Co-design with users and other key partners. Work in partnership and forget about hierarchies. • Be agile: Build, test, iterate. • For every decision about development, ask yourself how this would benefit the end user. • Develop a robust business model. • Get advice if you need it, and be prepared to pay. • Give up the idea of a quiet day, or indeed of getting enough sleep! • Have fun.

Having won our first national award back in 2014, we have to date won awards from Children and Young People Now, Nesta, ScotlandIS (Best Public Sector Product), and most recently, from AbilityNet and BT, the Tech4Good Award for Community Impact 2018.

What are your goals for MOMO for the next 12 to 18 months? We believe wholeheartedly in the benefits to young people and to services of using our apps, and our mission is to extend the reach of MOMO as far and wide as we can. We are having conversations with people in Scandinavia and the Benelux countries, as well as in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Translation into any required language is straightforward now that the code base has been internationalised.

Find out more

To learn more about the MOMO app, visit:, follow @MindOfMyOwnApp on Twitter, and connect with them on LinkedIn



Beryl’s LaserLight



Creating a Blaze with Beryl By Clare Griffiths, Co-Founder and Editor, Thrive


GROW by cycling schemes in Glasgow and Montreal.

What has Emily invented? Back in 2012 Emily’s original idea was for LaserLight: a bike light that projects a green image of a bike six metres in front of the cyclist so that drivers can see the cyclist is there. During her time at the University of Brighton Emily and her course mates were encouraged by their lecturer to tackle real problems. Initially, Emily wanted to create a brake light for cyclists. However, after a six-month period of studying statistical research into road safety accidents, Emily discovered that 79 per cent of cyclists that are hit are travelling straight ahead, when somebody else turns into them. We have all heard about the blind spot, when a vehicle just in front turns across the path of a bike, or pulls out of a junction into the path of a bike. When Emily found out that the real danger facing cyclists is often ahead of them, she set about designing a solution. Consequently, Emily designed the LaserLight, patented the laser projection technology within it, and successful launched her first product with £55,000 funding support from 782 Kickstarter backers.

Emily Brooke


ver the past six years I have been quietly observing the entrepreneurial journey of Emily Brooke MBE, Founder and CEO of Beryl, a company which specialises in creating technology for urban cyclists. Emily came up with the idea for an innovative bike light during her final year at the University of Brighton, whilst studying Product Design with Professional Experience. Since then, she has gone on to raise over £8 million, from three successful Kickstarter campaigns totalling more than £315,000, and various six-figure cycle-scheme partnerships and funding rounds. In 2017, Emily was awarded an MBE for services to the economy and transport.

How has Emily diversified her product range since then? Emily and her team are on a mission to develop solutions for safe urban cycling. As part of that mission, they have innovated further new products: the Pixel and the Laserlight Core.

Emily’s team now exports their products to 65 countries worldwide, and the Beryl cycling technology has been adopted by the Santander rental bikes in London and Citibikes in New York, as well as

The Pixel is a multi-purpose light which, according to the Beryl team, is their most versatile light. Cyclists can click 38

GROW it once for a white light, or twice for a red light, and switch between different pulse modes. The Pixel can be mounted anywhere a cyclist wants – either onto their helmet, bag, bike or body.

image projected by Emily’s LaserLights. And secondly, it refers to Beryl Burton, the British female racing cyclist who won over 90 domestic championships and seven world titles, setting numerous national records, including a women’s record for the 12-hour time-trial which exceeded the men’s record for two years.

Another new product recently developed by Emily’s team is the Laserlight Core. Incorporating recent advancements in laser technology, the design team has produced their sharpest laser projection ever, powered by their patented laser projection intellectual property. Designed with the urban cyclist in mind, the Laserlight Core is lightweight, and has a Day Flash mode, so that cyclists remain visible throughout the day.

What’s next for Beryl? Based in East London, with a design workshop in-house, the company continues to deliver its mission to produce technology which promotes safe urban cycling. Starting in 2012 with two employees, Emily has grown the team close to 30 people. During the last year, Emily has doubled the size of her team in order to build their capabilities in innovating smart-bike technology. Their new Santander bikes, for example, have light sensors, temperature sensors, and accelerometers, and they are currently exploring the possibilities of air quality monitoring. Emily is determined to make urban cycling safer and to get more cyclists on the road. Judging by her remarkable progress to date, Emily will undoubtedly remain a leading light in the cycling technology market across the globe.

What challenges has Emily faced during her entrepreneurial journey to date? One of the biggest obstacles Emily has had to overcome was a challenge to her trademark. Emily successfully registered the trademark, Blaze, as her brand name in the UK. However, as her success grew in the USA, a US bike light company challenged her use of the Blaze trademark, which ultimately forced Emily to come up with a new brand name. Rather than be disheartened by the legal challenge, Emily embraced the name-changing exercise as an opportunity to rebrand, and as a result, the brand ‘Beryl’ was born. The story behind the new brand name, Beryl, is two-fold. Firstly, it refers to the gemstone group which has green varieties of a similar colour to that of the laser

Find out more

To learn more about Emily’s company, Beryl, and their range of innovative cycling products, visit and follow the team on Twitter at @weareberyl. 39


Reaching New Heights with a Superengaged Team

With Nikki Gatenby, Managing Director of Propellernet


ikki Gatenby is a leader, best-selling author, speaker and consultant in her role as Managing Director and co-owner of Propellernet, a globally operating digital marketing agency based in Brighton. Her business has been named as one of the top 20 Best Places to Work in the UK every year since 2013, and billed as one of the most progressive search agencies in Europe.

has introduced to enable her people to realise their ideas, take ownership of their development, and ultimately, pursue their dreams.

With the ethos that people and purpose are your route to profit, Nikki creates genuine business success by putting people first and propelling them forward, both personally and professionally. With engagement levels soaring to around 90% each year, the company is driven by its culture of inclusion, personal responsibility, and freedom to create change.

How have you enabled Propellernet to build its competitive advantage and differentiate from other marketing agencies regionally and globally?

I popped in recently to catch up with Nikki to find out how Propellernet continues to stand out in the crowd and innovate within a globally competitive marketplace.

We were one of the first agencies in the world to put PR into the technics. If you think about the types of people involved in tech and PR, they can be very, very different. The tech world is very much into the numbers and the data; the PR world is more about the words, the picture, the art, and the story. When you combine those two, you get this alchemic mix of joy, of real impact, that can make a significant differentiator on the campaigns and on the activity you put together for clients, because you are making two worlds that are far apart join together.

A while ago, I had the pleasure of shadowing Nikki and her team at Propellernet. It was an unforgettable experience. I had heard impressive stories about Nikki’s entrepreneurial approach to creating an inclusive workplace culture and innovating new business practices, but I wanted to see it all for myself. I was stunned with what I witnessed – not only by Nikki’s leadership style, inclusive approach and transparency with her staff, but also by the innovations she 40



Nikki Gatenby

GROW Can you give me a recent example of one of your campaigns?

As a result of that campaign, over one million people saw that piece of communication and Evans Cycles grew its share of the e-bike market by 32 per cent. Ultimately, we got lots of people out of their cars, off the trains and onto e-bikes.

Evans Cycles came to us. They have a really strong purpose in their brand which appealed to us. They want people to get fitter. There is evidence to suggest that if you get out of your car or off the train for a length of your journey, and you get on your bike, you can reduce your risk of heart attack by 42 per cent. This is quite incredible! Evans Cycles wanted us to help promote them within the e-bike market. So we looked at what people were searching for, and their questions about e-bikes. We found that there was a lot of confusion about e-bikes. People were asking things like, ‘Is it really heavy? Do I have to charge it up? Do I need lessons? How expensive is it? What kit do I need?’ Whilst they are an expense, they undoubtedly help you get to your destination quickly and get fitter. Evans Cycles wanted us to help them steal a march on the e-bike market. To do that, we realised we needed a bit of a PR story hook to get more people interested in e-bikes.

How has innovation and technology influenced business practice at Propellernet? Innovation has always been at the heart of what we do. Innovation is one of our core values. I don’t necessarily mean seismic innovation, it is innovation in everything – a small change here, a small change there can all add up. As well as everyday innovation, we have also invested in new product innovation. When we asked our people five years ago, ‘What can we do to make life better for you?’, most of our PR team said, ‘If only we could automate the process of coverage books’. When you work in PR, you have to take things out of webpages, find the statistics behind the story, produce a PowerPoint presentation, send it to your clients, and show them the campaign coverage you have created. It is a very dull, soulless task, yet of really high value for clients. So our Strategy Director, Gary, took this problem and, cutting a long story short of a 3-year self-funded investment in product development, innovated a new tech product, CoverageBook.Com. By scratching our own itch, we have managed to create a product which we now sell to other agencies around the world, helping them save a lot of time and money on something which is of very high value for their clients.

You may (or may not!) recall the 1973 advert by Ridley Scott, who filmed the Hovis boy on the bike going down Gold Hill. Nostalgia works really well from a PR point of view, so we recreated that story. We found the original Hovis boy, Carl Barlow, who is an ex-firefighter and now 59 years old, and we convinced him to get back on the bike – an e-bike this time – to go up Gold Hill. We wanted to create a ‘halo effect’ – something which we could talk about to drive people to the Evans Cycles website, to find the information they were all searching for about e-bikes. 42

GROW You have led a team that has tripled margin, quadrupled revenue, and generated ten times more profit. What have been the key drivers of business growth for Propellernet?

how engaged our team were. There is an engagement crisis at work. Only 30 per cent of people are engaged in what they are doing. That means that 70 per cent of people are turning up to work hoping not to get fired. That is an incredible waste of our human intelligence. The best thing a business leader can do is ask their team one question: ‘How likely are you to be to recommend this business to other people?’ Because a personal recommendation is a thing you give out knowing that someone will take your advice on it. If people wouldn’t recommend your business, you know there is an issue. You need to ask them, ‘Why not?’ Once you know where you are with employee engagement, you can make it better.

There is no doubt about it, you have to be commercially robust to run a good business. So one of the first things we did when I started at Propellernet was look at the commercials. To my horror, we were on a commercial knife edge a decade ago. We were only billing 30 per cent of our time to clients. We addressed that commercial issue and decided to double the amount of time we were billing to clients to 60 per cent. That still left 40 per cent of time for people to develop and grow, go on training days, and have a holiday.

There is always a chasm between what the leadership team or leader feels, and how the rest of the business feels. The leader only sees a certain proportion of the business, whilst the rest of the team sees the business through very different eyes. You need to know what that gap is, and how you can close it.

Profit is really important, but profit can’t be at the expense of people. We wanted to make sure people still had time to generate and pursue their own ideas and manage their own personal and professional development. You need to hire people with batteries, but you also need to keep those batteries charged up. And you can’t do that by making people work 150 hours a week. That just doesn’t work.

Engagement is essentially: ‘Do I trust leadership? Do I have a voice? Do I matter?’ If you don’t trust leadership, you are not going to be engaged. If you don’t have a voice, you can’t say what is wrong. If you don’t matter, you can say what is wrong, but no one will care anyway. Those three things are so, so important, and all business leaders need to do is ask.

You are a leading light in the field of employee engagement, and most recently, a best-selling author who has proven that organisations can put people and purpose before profit. What can small business owners do to enable their people to become more engaged?

How did you get HR policies in place to enable staff to pursue their ideas and dreams, or did that kind of stuff not matter?

It is a really interesting question, and it doesn’t cost money to do this. It is about listening. When we were that size, we did some internal research to find out

We have very few policies in place, which 43

GROW I know terrifies some HR people, and I understand why. But, you can’t really write a policy about a dream ball machine – there are no rules about dreams. You should see me trying to explain it to HMRC! They couldn’t get their head round it because it is an unusual business practice. (The dream ball machine is an old-fashioned sweet dispenser filled with the dreams of Propellernet employees. When the company reaches a target or achieves something significant, some of the balls are released, and those dreams are then turned into reality).

is possibly a waste of time. Three years is a stretch. We tend to do a rolling 18 month plan, with financial forecasts for a rolling 12 months. We have more technology products in the pipeline. They are currently being built in beta form and tested. Anything where we can scratch our own itch, and solve a problem for this agency, as well as the other 700,000 agencies in the world, is a good thing. Looking to the future, our vision is to work with other purposeful brands. We want to grow our purpose in the world, as opposed to grow the size of our business. It is quite a nebulous statement, but we want to put more good out there.

We put our trust in people. If somebody takes the mickey, or something goes wrong, then we will look into it. If you put trust first, people will surprise you all the time, and do some amazing things. If you put fear first, and place a policy in the way, people will ultimately play to that policy.

Nikki Gatenby was interviewed by Clare Griffiths.

How far in advance do you plan ahead? What’s next for Propellernet? Five year planning used to be a thing. If I look back five years, we are transformationally different. It is great to have a vision, but I think a five-year plan Find out more

Nikki recently published her first book, ‘SUPERENGAGED’, an honest, in-depth and upbeat look at the value of having values and the power of being people-focused, packed with tips and guidance for increasing your profits and improving your outcomes. It’s for CEOs and COOs, HR directors and finance directors, entrepreneurs, business owners and anyone who’s on their way up. To purchase a copy of the book, and to download a useful ‘engagement toolkit’, please go to: To learn more about Propellernet, visit: 44



How Design and PR Play a Significant Role in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) With Meg Fenn, Director, Shake It Up Creative


Let’s start at the beginning then. What is SEO and why do companies need to know about it?

righton recently played host to the largest search marketing conference in the world, Brighton SEO, a twiceyearly event attracting around 4,500 people from over 40 countries. Meg Fenn and her business partner Rachael Dines, directors at Shake It Up Creative, attend each event in order to learn more so as to ensure they are serving their clients well. They have both also been speakers at Brighton SEO, and Meg’s talk during September’s conference on using stunning design to leverage your SEO was chosen to be on the main stage.

SEO is the activity of ensuring a website can be found in search engines for words or phrases relevant to what the site is offering. Simply put, it’s getting a website found in searches. There are, on average, over 3.5 billion searches per day and with potential customers and clients searching online for your product or service, you want your company to be highly visible. Being found in searches for the key words and phrases relevant to what your website is all about will help generate more sales and more enquiries, and in turn will continue to improve your position in search results. But SEO today is about much more than just key words on a website, it also encompasses where and how you’re referenced on other websites, online reviews and website structure, alongside the design (what I am most passionate about) of the site and the overall user experience of it.

Why did you think talking about design at an SEO conference was a good idea? In my experience as a web and graphic designer who works with SEO specialists and marketers, graphic design is sometimes left out of the conversation until the last minute because people think it can be done with only a few clicks. I wanted to raise the profile of how design is an increasingly important ranking factor for SEO and that designers, SEO specialists and developers should all work more closely together in order to achieve the best results for clients.

What is THE most important SEO action a company or website owner can take? We actually get asked this all the time and the answer is that it’s a combination of both on-site and off-site SEO activities. Examples of on-site activities 46



Meg Fenn, photo by Jenny Rutterford Photography


Rachael Dines and Meg Fenn, photo by Jenny Rutterford Photography

would be ensuring your images have alt tags, that your website is mobile-friendly and that there are no broken links. Examples of off-site activities would be that you have inbound links from authoritative websites (educational / local authority), Google reviews, and press links. Furthermore, it’s not just a one-off job; it should be looked at on a regular basis with continuous improvements made. But a good starting point is to get your key phrase research done properly. You can then use this information to inform website page copy, social media posts and blog posts. For companies with established websites looking to improve their SEO, we would recommend learning more about what is involved, how key phrase research is done and then deciding on what SEO actions would benefit them most. It’s important to remember that it will differ for each company depending on what their

product or service offering is, what level of online visibility they already have and their marketing strategy.

Speaking of marketing strategy, how can SEO fit into a company’s overall marketing? This is what we’re all about, actually, and one of the reasons I submitted my talk proposal to Brighton SEO. A company’s overall marketing strategy should include SEO but not at the expense of professional web design or PR, for example. And vice versa. There must be a design element to a company’s marketing which includes branding, graphic communication and a website which offers a good user experience. Good design helps people to trust. When a company’s website, blog or social media content is trusted, that means more engagement and more time on site 48

GROW which, in turn, influences rankings. PR is also an important part of marketing because it can help create and sustain a company’s reputation and raise its profile both online and offline. Getting authoritative links through PR can lead to higher visibility in search results pages. Both design and PR are important for SEO and all three are essential to a strong marketing strategy.

current and/or past marketing activities. Evaluate them to see if they are bringing in revenue. List all the marketing activities (in a broad sense) you think you would like to do. Then work out whether they fit with your objectives, and who in your team would be able to execute these activities – do they have the skills and the time to put them into action? From that exercise, the areas that you need help with will become clearer. Find a good company to work with which understands what your goals are and outsource the marketing activities that you cannot do in-house. I would also suggest looking at that company’s online reviews, meeting with them in person, and seeing examples of their work.

Design, PR and SEO - it seems like a lot to manage. How can companies realistically achieve this within their marketing activity? Good question! And one that I can imagine many companies struggle with, especially if they do not have an in-house marketing department but wish to grow their business. My answer is to work out what you can do in-house, and then find a trusted company to outsource the rest to. It might also be a good idea to work with a marketing company to really hone your marketing strategy, your value proposition or your branding. There are different ways of getting started with this, but you could simply start by making a list. I’m not a fan of Excel, so wouldn’t normally advise this, but I’ve recently done a few spreadsheets for clients and it’s actually quite good. List all your

One thing that I’ve learned in business is that you can’t do everything. Focus on your own expertise, on doing what you do for your clients and customers. Outsource things that you can’t do, or, as is sometimes the case, don’t have time to do. Running a company is multifaceted and marketing in general is a big part of that. Creating and implementing a strategy encompassing SEO, design and PR is important for your overall marketing strategy – it could set you apart from your competitors! Biography

Meg Fenn is Director of Shake It Up Creative, a design and marketing company specialising in rebranding and repositioning. Along with her business partner Rachael Dines, the directors head up a small team who are skilled in graphic design, website design, marketing, PR and SEO.

Come and meet Meg and Rachael any time at their drop-in #ShakeItHUB help sessions held in Worthing and Brighton. For upcoming dates, simply search #ShakeItHUB on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Follow Shake It Up Creative on Twitter @ShakeItCreative. 49


Florence Miremadi-Nafici



Innovation in Nature With Florence Miremadi-Nafici,

Co-Founder of Nafici Environmental Research Limited How did you become involved in innovating new eco-pulping processes with straw?

environmentally friendly. So in 2009 we started to develop our first prototypes. We developed cardboard made out of straw that could be used for notebook covers. He developed these first prototypes to refine his pulping process and reach the next stage of development, where he could then think of further industrial applications.

My husband, Shahriar Nafici, is the researcher of the company. His research started about 20 years ago, and his focus has always been to look at nature, identifying what the challenges are now and for future generations, and exploring potential solutions to those challenges.

At the moment you are concentrating on processing straw and other agricultural residues. Where do you get the straw from?

He used to live in Iran and saw farmers burning surplus straw in the fields. He saw the straw being burnt and thought, ‘This is a valuable resource. Why are they burning it? I need to do something about it.’ So he started his research from there, looking at the different ways straw could be processed. He knew there could be room for improvement with the existing processes, and so he developed new processes using straw as well as other agricultural residues.

We have built a pilot plant here in West Sussex, and the quantities we are using are very small. We buy some bales from the local farmers, but for our next stage of development we are looking at places where there is a straw surplus. In some countries, they don’t have a surplus of straw. They just have enough for animal bedding, so we certainly don’t want to be based in those places and set up a plant that would compete with raw material that people actually need. In the UK, we would look at East Anglia, for example, where there is a surplus. There are already power stations using straw there, but they use straw with a very low moisture content. One of the advantages of our process is that we can use straw with high moisture content because we are using a liquid as part of the pulping process. So, as the straw goes into a liquid, it

My own background is in engineering. Having worked on large-scale electrical projects involving transmission lines and high-voltage sub-stations, I really wanted to spend my time on projects that would make a difference in the world, so that is where it all started. Shahriar’s first idea was to develop an eco-pulping process with straw which would be more economical and 51

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The office of Nafici Environmental Research Ltd

doesn’t matter if it is wet. This in turn helps farmers because when they bale their straw, they use some of the bales to protect the inner bales from moisture. Consequently, their top bales are damp, and so they can’t usually sell them. However, we would buy those bales off them.

the good fibres and create a purer fibre. With unclean pulp, we can produce moulded products, and if we clean the pulp further, we can then create a pulp which can be used for different types of paper products, as well as other products. We are currently doing lots of research in this area. It is worth mentioning that the fibres we produce can also be used in some products to replace plastic.

What is the output of your pulping process from your pilot plant?

Are you currently in the research and development phase of business development?

At the moment, the purpose is to produce different grades of pulp which can then be used for a range of products. Here at our pilot plant we are producing uncleaned pulp. The straw is processed by extracting the fibres. Because the straw is very hard on the outside, we need to break down all the cylinders and micro-cylinders within it to let the fibres come out. We then apply a process using existing technologies to select Sponsored Content

Yes. We built our pilot plant here a few years ago. Then, in 2017, we had the opportunity to build a slightly larger scale semi-commercial plant in China, the purpose of which was to use the pulp for producing boards. We installed a plant next to a paper mill that produces fluting paper (the corrugated paper that 52


Shahriar Nafici and Florence Miremadi-Nafici at the Rushlight Awards

goes inside cardboard). We had our first commercial production at that plant, using 10 per cent of our pulp mixed with recycled paper, produced on big rolls. We are now preparing to build our first commercial plant.

plant. The purpose will be to produce unbleached pulp that will be used for different applications, but mainly for moulded products.

How have you protected your intellectual property?

Where will you build your first commercial plant?

Once we had finalised the different aspects of our eco-pulping process, we had to decide whether to patent the technology or not. It was a very difficult decision to make because when you patent, you have to disclose your intellectual property. In the end we decided to file a patent, and we are now very happy that we did. We filed the patent in 2014, and the UK patent was granted in June 2017. The next difficult step was to choose the territories outside the UK in which to patent our technology. In the end, we chose the key countries where there is most surplus

That is the question! Last year, we didn’t know where we would build the first commercial plant. We hope it is going to be in the UK, and we are now close to getting the funding. In most cases, we won’t actually own the production plants. We will build the plants with sub-contractors, license our technology, and receive a license fee or royalty from the pulp production. So there is the potential to develop several types of commercial projects. In the case of the UK, an investor will own the production 53

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Photo by Hannah Brackenbury, for The University of Brighton

straw. The good thing is that we have not disclosed absolutely everything within our eco-pulping process, so we have kept a little bit of a trade secret too.

lot in finding grants. From there, we won a competition to access the Climate Kic Accelerator Programme – an initiative we were told about by someone associated with the GGP. This was a European programme, managed by a team from Imperial College London. Via Climate Kic, we received financial support, as well as business support to help us create and validate our business model. All this support was a huge benefit to our company because it opened many, many doors. The GGP team also helped us apply for the Rushlight Award, which we were successful in winning. After that, the team supported us in getting an Innovation Voucher from Innovate UK to work on a bi-product we have from our eco-pulping process. With the voucher, we were able to work with the University of Brighton to develop the bi-product as a peat substitute – as a soil fertiliser.

How have you benefited from the support of the Green Growth Platform? I met the University of Brighton’s Green Growth Platform (GGP) team just before they launched. It was really, really good that I was able to benefit from their support right from the start. At that time, we had already started building the pilot plant using funding from our own resources along with a commercial loan. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really aware of any grants that existed then. So, together with the GGP team, we looked at funding opportunities because we needed to do more work on the pilot plant itself and on all the work revolving around that. The GGP team helped us a Sponsored Content


GROW You have already achieved many great things! What has been your biggest achievement to date? And what are your goals for the next year? Our biggest achievement was almost exactly one year ago, when paper using our pulp was produced for the first time in the semi-commercial plant in China. I wasn’t there, but my husband was. This was a huge achievement because finally we had become a start-up that had successfully developed industrial capacity and the ability to scale. It was amazing to see the results!

three times as long and two or three times more expense than you originally planned. If you knew this, you wouldn’t start up in the first place! However, you come out of the process having learnt a lot. You are so much more knowledgeable. You come out of it a better person. Read more about Florence and Shahriar’s business, Nafici Environmental Research, at

Our next goal is to build our first commercial plant. Once the commercial plant is up and running, we will be able to meet the demand we currently have. We already have lots of demand without having really done any marketing other than create our own website.

How have you found the entrepreneurial journey so far? You have lots of ups and downs! For us, the journey has been very interesting. When you start a business, it is better not knowing that it will take two or

Find out more

The University of Brighton’s Green Growth Platform is a network of over 1,000 environmentally-focused companies. It helps catalyse green business growth and innovation through a business development support service and universitybusiness R&D collaborations. Find out more at

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Leading the Diversity and Inclusion Strategy at the Knowledge Transfer Network By Emma Bortnik, Knowledge Tranfer Manager - Diversity and Inclusion

despite the fact that success rates between men and women were largely the same. Following this discovery, a piece of research was conducted to establish the barriers to innovation for women, how Innovate UK could better support women in innovation, and how they could encourage more women to apply for funding. This led to the launch of the inaugural Women in Innovation Awards in 2016. We had a huge amount of interest in the awards, with hundreds of very strong applications. This first competition saw 31 female entrepreneurs from around the UK, from a range of different backgrounds and industries, receive a tailored business support package. 15 of those finalists also received a ÂŁ50,000 grant. We took on board comments from the women that were surveyed as part of the earlier research, and designed the programme around key areas they rated important. Each award winner worked closely alongside Innovation Advisors and a group of Senior Business Mentors. Bootcamps and skills workshops were put together, alongside networking opportunities.

Emma Bortnik


y name is Emma Bortnik, and I am the lead for Diversity and Inclusion at the Knowledge Transfer Network. As a network partner of Innovate UK (the UK’s Innovation Agency), we work closely with businesses from around the UK to help them find expertise, access new markets and navigate the funding and finance landscape. My role is particularly exciting as I work on delivering programmes set by Innovate UK that seek to address entrepreneurial imbalances for the benefit of the UK economy.

Something that was equally important for us when running this programme was to create a new group of role models, to inspire other women and champion the rise of women innovators. To support that ambition, we partnered

Back in 2016, after conducting some internal research, Innovate UK found that only 14% of applicants to their funding competitions were women, 56


Elena Dieckmann, Aeropower Ltd


Fanzi Down, DPS Designs Ltd

REFLECT with Getty Images and world-renowned photographer Amelia Troubridge to photograph some of the award winners. The photographs were displayed at an exhibition at the Getty Images Gallery in London for two weeks in July 2017. The exhibition now travels around the UK, featuring at various events, continuing to spread the word about the importance of women innovators, and some of the great achievements they have made.

Mobility, AI and Data, and Healthy Ageing. Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) not only delivers skills-based training, events and workshops to support this important initiative, but also has both the deep sector knowledge and the ability to cross boundaries to be able to support the growth of these businesses. Alongside the 2018 competition, KTN is also running Building Success events around the country to widen the support for female innovators. The events are open to women from any sector to attend and will feature grant-writing masterclasses, investor readiness training, market validation workshops, panel sessions and plenty of networking opportunities.

Pauline Dawes, CEO and Founder of SOMI Trailers, and Women in Innovation 2016 award holder said, ‘All in all, winning the award was lifechanging for me and SOMI Trailers. The media exposure and events promoting the project were wide ranging. We’ve had worldwide interest in SOMI Trailers following the Women in Innovation Award, with huge export potential.’

We hope, as a result of the activities we are doing – and the good work from so many other organisations too – to see the continuing growth of applications for funding and finance from women. There is a lot of research out there that shows that women are less likely to seek forms of external investment for their business, and if they do they often seek lower levels of investment than their male counterparts. This needs to change!

Not only did the 2016 competition have a significant impact on the ideas and businesses of the award winners, it also had an impact on funding applications; since then the number of female applicants to Innovate UK funding has increased by 10%. We want to continue to see that number grow.

We also know that there are issues around private investment. Men are 86% more likely than women to be funded by venture capital, and 56% more likely to secure angel investment. This is obviously a concern, and an area we would like to explore further, which will involve us working closely with the right partners to understand these challenges and issues.

Due to the success of the 2016 competition, in 2018 it was announced that the competition would run again. The second round of awards opened for applications in July 2018, and winners are expected to be chosen by the end of the calendar year. This time the competition was more focused, welcoming applications from women that could align their business or projects to the four Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges: Clean Growth, Future of

The opportunity to boost the UK economy by getting more women entrepreneurs engaged is backed up 58

REFLECT by a number of statistics. In some research carried out by Deloitte, it was found that targeted help for early-stage women entrepreneurs could provide a £100bn boost to the UK economy over the next ten years. So programmes like our Women in Innovation Awards are directly addressing that. If you would like to keep up to date with Women in Innovation related content, you can join our mailing list here

was carried out in partnership with The Prince’s Trust, and designed to support 18-30 year-olds not in education, training or sustainable employment to develop their business ideas. We believe that great ideas can come from anyone. So it’s really important that we continually look to engage with new people, find new organisations to work with and find those great ideas.

Along with the Women in Innovation initiative, Innovate UK also runs other diversity and inclusion programmes. One such example is the recent programme to support young innovators from diverse backgrounds. This programme Find Out More KTN is all about connecting people to accelerate innovation. We help businesses get the best out of creativity, ideas and the latest discoveries, to strengthen the UK economy and improve people’s lives.

We are grant-funded by Innovate UK for whom we are a network partner. For every £1 of grant funding received, £50 of value is created within business projects after five years.

We link new ideas and opportunities with expertise, markets and finance through our network of businesses, universities, funders and investors. From agri-food to autonomous systems and from energy to design, KTN combines in-depth knowledge in all sectors with the ability to cross boundaries.

If you have an innovative business or product, and would like to explore how to grow your business or find collaborators, please get in touch with KTN.



Enabling Women to Excel in the Digital Tech Sector

With Rachel Finch, Lana Burgess and Allegra Chapman, Directors of Brighton Digital Women What is the purpose of Brighton Digital Women?

school, girls are still being steered away from technical subjects. Women tend to wait until they have 100% of the qualifications needed for a job, whereas men will go after roles they are 60% qualified for, which is not helping the severe gender imbalance in leadership positions. We want Brighton Digital Women to draw attention to these issues, help businesses to build more diverse workforces, showcase the range of talented women in our industry to inspire others, and help give women confidence to bring about change.

Brighton Digital Women exists to encourage women to enter the digital sector, support them to develop their skills, and help them grow the confidence to take on leadership roles. Our goal is to address the gender divide in our industry and enable people of all gender identities to collaborate effectively.

What motivated you to set up Brighton Digital Women?

How did you come together as a team?

Rachel was looking for networking groups that would help her develop her skills and meet people in her field. But every tech meet-up she found was very male-dominated and it felt difficult for women to express themselves or put forward their ideas in that environment. Rachel wanted a space where women would feel comfortable and supported – she couldn’t find one, so she decided to set one up herself!

Like all the best things, it started with wine! Rachel put a call out on Twitter for women interested in a female-led digital meet-up, and Lana and Allegra were keen to get involved. We met for a drink and, by the end of the bottle, the idea for Brighton Digital Women had been conceived! We came together quite accidentally – we just happened to be on Twitter at the same time – but it must have been fate, because the three of us complement each other very well. Between us we cover a wide range of digital skills and expertise in different work environments. We also have very different personalities that work together extremely well, meaning we can divide

Why is there a need for Brighton Digital Women? According to a 2016 report, 72% of the digital workforce is male, and men are paid an average of 14% more than women in the same digital roles. Even at 60


up the different tasks needed to make Brighton Digital Women work effectively in a way that plays to everyone’s strengths.

and support them to drive their ideas forward.

How can we all (the community, educators, employers, the government, etc.) encourage more women to work in the tech industry?

Who attends your events? We have a real mix of attendees, from students to CEOs, from many different nationalities and backgrounds, working in-house, agency and freelance. They have a range of skills, from creatives to technical experts to people who don’t really classify themselves as working in digital but for whom digital technology is a part of their role. We’re not just limited to women either – men are welcome to attend, and we’ve even had a few male speakers.

It starts from a young age, telling girls that they can – that tech careers aren’t just for boys. We need to change the way we talk to girls and young women, ungendering certain industries and not putting an expectation on what career paths children will follow. We need to make women in tech more visible so that girls have female role models. Boys, as well, need educating from a young age on listening skills and emotional intelligence, so that they grow up to be men who are accepting of women’s ideas.

All the women who attend our events, though, have common experiences of a lack of confidence, imposter syndrome, and a feeling that their ideas aren’t taken seriously and they’re not listened to. Our role is to help boost their confidence

Employers have a vital role to play in nurturing female talent and making the workplace a comfortable place for women – that includes equal pay, better 61

REFLECT maternity pay and support and flexible working options. Businesses often see maternity leave and flexible working as a threat to their business, but they need to be educated on the strength their business gains from keeping talented women in their roles, not to mention the financial advantages of not having to continually recruit new staff.

And Princess Leia. We love her, she majorly kicks ass.

What plans do you have for Brighton Digital Women in 2019? We have big plans for 2019! We’re looking to collaborate with the other powerful female-led groups in our city to develop bigger events that can support women in a wider range of ways. We’re also looking to develop workshops to offer practical skills to help our community develop themselves and their careers, and introducing mentoring to allow us to support one another. We are launching a podcast soon, which we’re very excited about, and we’re about to start a new campaign to encourage diversity at speaking events. Watch this space!

Who are your role models? For the most part, the lives of famous people always feel quite distant from our own. Our role models are mostly women we know who achieve amazing things without getting massive accolades for it. Women like our mothers and grandmothers, who worked incredibly hard their whole lives in a world that didn’t encourage women to achieve anything, and who always passionately stood up to injustice or inequality of any kind. And the amazing members of our Brighton Digital Women community who are creating businesses and groups that support and empower others and contribute to society. Jen Le Roux and Sophie Turton of Brave Butterfly, Alice Reeves with BelongCon, Rifa ThorpeTracey of SheSays Brighton, Gintare Matuzaite who runs Amberoot, and Pippa Moyle with the City Girl Network are just a few that come to mind. They are truly inspirational!

Lana Burgess, Rachel Finch and Allegra Chapman

Find out more

Follow us on Twitter – @BTNDigitalWomen – to get all the latest news and to find about our upcoming events. We also have a Facebook group where we share information, job roles and generally support one another. If you’re interested in getting involved with Brighton Digital Women or writing a blog for us, then check out our website! 62

Collaborate with us! Become a sponsor and raise the profile of your brand among female founders and women in business in Sussex. 07952 914937



Building a More Diverse Coding Community with codebar With Zara Syversen




A Codebar workshop at PLATF9RM

REFLECT What is the purpose of codebar?

I think a lot of our participants would agree.

codebar is a free initiative that runs programming workshops to help address the tech sector’s lack of diversity. Its purpose is to create a safe and collaborative space where people can learn programming, meet others and get excited about coding. Local developers attend as coaches, so you pair up and work through tutorials together.

Who attends your events? It’s a real mix of ages and backgrounds. The supportive environment is the main draw. Coaches come along primarily to help our students to learn, but also say that it helps them cement their own knowledge and inspires them to keep learning. We get a lot of participants from other digital careers (like designers) who want to understand the web more. We also attract career changers, bloggers, students, parents who want to be able to help their children with coding homework, and developers who want to learn something new.

codebar was started out of recognition that there is a shortage of women, LGBTQ, and people belonging to underrepresented ethnic groups in tech. The first London codebar was started by Despo Pantera who realised that, as a female web developer, she was in the minority. About seven months later, Rosa Fox and Tom Ashworth threw the first codebar Brighton at Clearleft. It’s been running for four years, and we’re now one of the most active chapters in the world.

Who is involved in organising codebar? There are four organisers now, and we are all previous codebar students. Three of us have successfully landed our first developer jobs since attending codebar. I really love that we are living proof to our current participants that you can transition into a tech career without having a degree.

What kind of activities does codebar host? We host weekly workshops where our students can either work through codebar tutorials or their own projects. Our tutorials cover HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python and Ruby, but if our students want to learn something else, we try to accommodate them if we can.

Organising codebar is multifaceted, with tasks ranging from networking and getting new sponsors around Brighton, to dealing with emails and social media, to planning and running the workshops. We always want to make sure that both our learners and coaches are happy, and that everyone feels welcomed to our events. We make a great team, supporting each other and taking on different responsibilities, and since we are all so passionate about the codebar community, it never feels like a chore.

Despite an abundance of online resources, learning to code can be intimidating and sometimes frustrating. Having a friendly coach on hand to offer support and explain concepts is invaluable. At codebar, everyone is in the same boat and empathises with each other. It is rare to find a more comfortable, caring environment, and 66

REFLECT How can the community, educators, employers and the government encourage more women into the tech industry?

I am surrounded by role models at every codebar - my fellow organisers being some of them! Brighton has an amazing community network of supportive women, thanks to initiatives like SheSays Brighton, Brighton Digital Women, and Brighton Girl.

I think there is a misconception about what kind of jobs are available in tech. We should make Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects more interactive in schools from a younger age, and give opportunities to young women to see and meet female role models with successful careers in tech. If you have the opportunity, sign up to a charity like the Girls’ Network, to mentor a young woman and help her thrive.

What plans do you have for codebar in 2019? We are going to keep running our weekly workshops, but we want to try and get more coaches involved, and perhaps get some bigger event space. This year we have had a lot of interest from people wanting to attend, but we haven’t had the space or coaches available to meet the demand, which is a shame!

We also need more companies to support organisations and events that promote diversity in tech. Besides codebar, we have CodeFirst Girls, Ada’s List, and Women Who Code.

In what ways can our readers get involved in codebar? There are three ways in which you can get involved with codebar:

The tech industry needs proper representation to build better products. I recently spoke to a games developer who said that most of their customers are women, but they have no female developers. How can we understand the users of our products if we don’t have anyone representing them?

1. Attend a workshop to learn programming (it’s really fun, I promise!). Simply sign up via the website. 2. Get your company involved, as a sponsor, or as a host for one of our codebar workshops.

Who are your role models?

3. If you are a developer, please come along to coach, and help increase diversity in tech!

My role model is Rosa Fox, one of the first codebar Brighton organisers, who I met when I attended codebar for the first time. She was my first coach and made me realise how awesome coding is. Now,

Find out more

For more information, visit the codebar website: 67


Saffron Saunders, Dr. Chloe Peacock, Sarah Akwisombe, Holly Leverson

Celebrating and Supporting Women in Tech By Eva Poliszczuk, Catalyst Team Member, Sussex Innovation Centre


n the last edition of Thrive we previewed the upcoming femalefriendly hackathon at Sussex Innovation Centre, as the business support team there launched a new initiative to start addressing the shocking statistic that fewer than 17% of employees in the tech sector are women, and that fewer than 17% of start-ups have female founders.

where the feminist spirit has also been alive and kicking recently. On 1 November 2018 it hosted Silicon Valley of South London: Women in Tech, an event celebrating female entrepreneurs and influencers in the thriving tech hub of Croydon. The room was filled with more than 50 women of all ages and backgrounds – and more than a few male allies – as three inspiring women gave their unique perspectives on how to promote women in tech.

More on SINC_HACK>17% below, but first let’s check in at the organisation’s sister site, Sussex Innovation Croydon, Sponsored Content


REFLECT First Holly Leverson, Recruitment Lead at Croydon-based email marketing firm Dotmailer, spoke about her company’s approach towards minimising unconscious bias in recruitment, so as to provide a meritocratic process and start to tackle gender disparity. This involves ensuring that everything from job adverts, to interviews, selection and on-boarding is conducted in as neutral terms as possible, as well as maintaining complete transparency throughout.

Issue 2 of Thrive. Supported by Community Manager Daisy Wood, Chloe concluded her presentation by discussing their observations and lessons learned from running SINC_HACK>17%. Together they conveyed how the event brought to fruition Emmeline Pankhurst’s conviction that to make change, you must act – ‘deeds not words’. During Q&A, several of the audience talked about how they felt energised to go out and find a hackathon to participate in; a very positive outcome.

Holly shared her stark observations of misogyny in the workplace, as well as a few horror stories of gendered language and assumptions used by recruiters. Her experiences were met with a resounding recognition and understanding in the room.

SINC_HACK>17% In the week of Ada Lovelace Day – marking the birth of the world’s first computer programmer – Chloe and Daisy organised ‘SINC_HACK>17%’. Taking on the traditionally male space of the hackathon, they set the task of finding innovative and creative solutions to six key challenges: • Underrepresentation of women in the media and popular culture • The number of women in senior management • The numbers of female school leavers entering STEM subjects in higher education • Unconscious bias and sexism towards women in the workplace • The numbers of female entrepreneurs and female founders • Maternity leave and back to work support

The discussion following the talk centred on why fewer women enter tech roles, with a consensus forming that the issue must be tackled during school. Young girls are still pigeon-holed into ‘gendered’ studies, and we must empower our future female entrepreneurs as well as the current ones to help dismantle gender disparities. Sussex Innovation’s Insight and Market Research Advisor, Dr Chloe Peacock, then gave a talk about the organisation’s own promotion of opportunities for women throughout 2018. As well as discussing some of the activities held to celebrate International Women’s Day, Chloe talked about her personal experience of mentoring the 2018 StartUp Sussex student enterprise winner Molly Masters, as she went about launching her product Books That Matter, an intersectional feminist literature subscription box featured in

Local sponsors – particularly Healys LLP – and food and drink providers helped keep everyone well fed, equipped, entertained and stocked with stationery! 69

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The winning SINC_HACK>17% team

The participants were formed into teams of creatives, developers, freelancers, students and researchers working together over an intensive 12-hour period. Each team was tasked with coming up with an innovative solution to one of the challenges. The winning team focused on unconscious bias and sexism towards women in the workplace, designing a reporting tool and dashboard for businesses to record feedback from employees and identify recurring issues and challenges. This information can then be analysed by an external body, to recommend solutions to their specific areas of concern. Alternatively, these statistics can be used in media campaigns, to report to equalities departments, and in recruitment and skills-planning exercises.

development including creativity, business modelling and storytelling. A mini coding session delivered by development studio Fat Fish Games offered advice on the basics for less experienced participants, and consultancy Momentum4 introduced emotional intelligence tools for the workplace. It was as much a day to set women on the path towards a tech career as it was to celebrate those already involved in the industry. The winning team have won a discovery meeting with members of Sussex Innovation’s senior support team to further develop their idea. Finally, Sarah Akwisombe, a ‘Croydon born and bred’ entrepreneur and Instagram influencer told her story. Her entrepreneurial journey began in the music industry, where she started her own label and taught herself how

During the hack, support staff held bitesize talks on elements of business Sponsored Content


REFLECT to use production software. Noting that the industry often has many more opportunities for female performers than it does for executives or technical specialists, Sarah told the audience, ‘I have an attitude of: If someone tells me there’s something I’m not allowed to do, then I’m going to do it’.

– launching a drop-in clinic for female founders, and making inclusive, femalefocused events a more regular part of its calendar in Croydon. January’s meet-up will focus on the gender pay gap, with a variety of speakers already lined up. Sarah Luxford, Executive Director at Global Resources and co-founder of TLA Women in Tech, London’s movement for gender equality in the tech industry, will be discussing the current state of the gap. Founder of CDO Partners, Morgan McCarthy, will be demonstrating how to visualise data and use it to identify issues regarding gender pay imbalances. Finally, inclusivity and diversity consultant Roianne Nedd will be sharing her insights into organisations working towards diversity, attempting to increase transparency and shrink the gap.

Looking to try something different, she answered a job advert in the local paper and ended up running the launch of a crowdfunding platform, learning the start-up methodology ‘completely on the go’. Unable to carry on with an office job after the birth of her first child, she started writing an interior design blog, setting her on the path to becoming an Instagram ‘power user’. Her most recent move has been to convert this success into a training career, showing others how to build a presence through blogging and social media. Throughout Sarah’s talk, it was obvious that the key ingredient to her success was her confidence, assertiveness and willingness to try new things. Rather than feeling underqualified for any of her roles, she decided to take each new challenge and meet it head on. Sarah and a few of the other parents in the room spent several minutes discussing strategies for equipping young women with the same mindset. Sussex Innovation plans to continue building on these foundations in 2019

Find out more

Search for Sussex Innovation on Eventbrite, or visit to find out more and get involved. 71

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Embracing Flexibility By Samantha Harland, Associate at The Hoxby Collective all over the world, and to quickly set up a business online. With all these advances in technology over the years and with yet more innovation, such as Augmented/ Virtual Reality, Robotics, Holophotal, 5G and Artificial Intelligence to name but a few, coming down the line, it makes you wonder why the way we work has changed so little when technology seems to be racing ahead. Surely by now we should be all working more flexibly than the standard 9–5, five days a week routine? Shouldn’t we be choosing the location we work best in, avoiding that unnecessary commute, and using the facility to fit our work around the other parts of our lives – whether that is kids, a dog to walk, or a thriving side hustle on the go? While there has been progress in this area and lots of businesses have adopted a more flexible approach – including trialling a four-day working week and flexible start and finish times – it still feels like flexibility is the exception rather than the rule despite the major in technology and legislation which means that all employees have the right to ask for flexible work.

Samantha Harland

What impact has technology had on people’s working lives? It’s hard to imagine what life would be like without technology, especially when it comes to work and the workplace. Although there are some obvious downsides to having so much technology in our lives, some of the major benefits it has provided us with include the ability to work away from a fixed location (i.e. the office), to connect with people from

Where did your interest in flexible working come from? Running the Entrepreneurial Spark Accelerator (now The NatWest Accelerator) and working with hundreds of entrepreneurs has really opened my eyes to alternative ways of working. 72

REFLECT What is the Hoxby Collective?

Starting and running a business is hard work, but when I asked entrepreneurs why they had started their business, flexibility came up time and time again as one of the major factors that had driven them away from their previous careers. However, handing in your notice tomorrow and starting up a business isn’t a viable option for some people perhaps from a financial perspective, and it would also be naive to start a business or to go freelance without first testing whether your service or product is something that people would actually hand over their money for.

The Hoxby Collective is a global community of over 450 freelancers (or associates) in 29 countries, which campaigns for fair work structures and champions the right to individual workstyles. It was originally founded in 2015 by Lizzie Penny and Alex Hirst with a vision to remove the stressors (and barriers) of work; namely the commute, the office, and the 9-5 regime with its associated culture of presenteeism. The Hoxby Collective gives its associates the freedom to choose where and when they work, and associates are actively encouraged via the online community to display their work style or work pattern on their profile, so everyone knows when to expect to hear from you.

What if you don’t want to start a business, is there a compromise? The truth is there are hundreds of options and combinations of flexible working and that’s because we are all different, and what works for one person won’t necessarily work for the next. Even the concept of flexibility will be slightly different for each one of us. For me, flexibility is partly about my working environment, as this has a huge impact on my energy levels, but it’s also about the work I do. I want to have the flexibility to work on a range of different projects, some paid, some not, as I, like most other people, have a range of interests that reach beyond one single job or business venture. In the words of Emma Gannon, (author of The MultiHyphen Method), I am an aspiring ‘multi-hyphenate’ and this is one of the reasons that I decided to go part time in my day job in innovation, and join The Hoxby Collective as a freelance associate.

In order to join the collective, you have to go through a recruitment process which involves an online application and, if successful, an online video interview with a member from the Hoxby selection team. One of the main reasons I wanted to join The Hoxby Collective was their emphasis not only on previous work experience and skills, but on your attitude to work and flexibility, as respecting each other’s work styles is an important aspect of the community. Once you are accepted into the collective, you get to join the online Slack group, which is where you can see what projects are available to apply for, and which allows you to connect with other Hoxbies from around the world.

Who is The Hoxby Collective for? The Hoxby Collective is great if you are new to freelancing as there is a 73


really supportive online (and offline) community. All projects include more than one associate so you will never work on a project alone. You can also pick what hours you work, so if you don’t want to ditch the 9–5 just yet, you can get involved in projects around your traditional working hours or a part time role. I would also recommend Hoxby to more seasoned freelancers as an additional source of work, or if you are finding the world of freelancing isolating or lonely. The Hoxby Collective also offers a ‘Future Proofing’ consultancy service for companies wishing to adopt a more flexible working style but uncertain where to start.

exception. The 9–5 concept has been in place for over 200 years, since Robert Owen first coined the phrase ‘8 hours labour, 8 hours recreation, 8 hours rest’ in response to the long working hours being demanded during the Industrial Revolution. Although studies have shown that around 50% of the traditional working day is wasted, and that flexibility boosts productivity, there is still a long way to go on the road to increased flexibility. As with all advances in technology, the human element is never as straightforward as one expects, and there are lots of instances where flexible working may not be the best way forward, as some industries require a physical, set hours approach for example. I believe it’s not about finding one solution to replace the 9–5, for example

What does the future hold? It’s hard to say when flexible working will become the rule rather than the 74

REFLECT the four-day working week, but it’s about having more open and honest conversations about how we like to work, what gives us more energy, and what’s important to us.

emails after this time, or write the email but delay the delivery to the next day. • Be clear with others about what your working pattern is, as this will help manage expectations and help build in realistic deadlines. • Experiment working in different environments. Some days working from home may provide you with fewer distractions, but other days you may benefit from being in a busier co-working space where you can bounce ideas off others.

What are your top tips for working flexibly? • If you feel stuck in a 9–5 job and want more flexibility, talk to your employer about what options are available. Even small tweaks make a huge difference. • Be really clear about what is important to you and prioritise it. It could be picking the kids up from school or going to the beach to do yoga every morning. Whatever it is, block out the time in your diary and make it non-negotiable. • Set boundaries for yourself and also for others. If you don’t want to work after 6 p.m., then stop replying to

Remember, since 2014 all employees (not just parents and carers) who have worked for an employer for more than 26 weeks have had the right to request flexible working. Check out for more information.

Biography Having worked across a broad range of industries and sectors, Sam works as an Innovation and Insights Consultant using entrepreneurial thinking and methodologies to help businesses turn ideas into reality.

Sam also runs her own website featuring local co-working spaces, events and support for freelancers which will be launching in early 2019. You can contact Sam by email samantha. or by following her via Twitter @SamanthaHarland

She is passionate about promoting alternative ways of working and is hosting an event for the upcoming Spring Forward Festival on the 7 March on the ‘Future of Work’.

If you want to find out more about The Hoxby Collective, visit https://hoxby. com/



The Global Digital Women Team

Making the World More Digital and Female With Tijen Onaran, CEO and Founder of Global Digital Women


DISCOVER What is the overall mission of Global Digital Women (GDW)?

What activities and events do you offer your members?

GDW is Europe’s largest women’s network for – obviously – digital women. Having started one year ago, GDW has become a true movement! Today, we have about 20,000 members from Germany, Switzerland and the UK. Our mission is to give these like-minded women the opportunity to network, increase their visibility, and share their expertise in terms of digitalisation because in a business world – especially in the digital industry which too often seems to be dominated by men – we women have to support each other! We believe: No digitalisation without diversity. This is why our goal is to make the world more digital and female!

Our activities are focused on three things: First of all, we organise monthly events. This format is called ‘#GlobalAfterwork’ and gives us the chance to get insight from inspiring women about their career paths within the digital industry. Every month someone different is the host – either female founders from tech companies or role models from a medium or large-sized enterprise. All our hosts have inspiring stories and interesting points of view when it comes to digitalisation and innovation. Our mission is to share the stories behind the stories. What motivates someone to thrive? How can we strengthen the future together? These activities are aimed at a community that is as diverse as digitalisation: From small businesses to medium-sized companies, right up to large corporations. You don’t have to be a coding expert to join our movement – you just have to bring a digital mindset to the table.

What motivated you to start GDW? That’s actually a very funny story because I used to work in politics back then: I had two female friends who didn’t know each other but in principle had to deal with exactly the same challenges. I thought it was important for them to get to know each other to talk about their jobs and challenges. The moment I introduced them to each other and saw how well they understood one another, I realised that I was a born networker. At some point, my passion became my profession. And today it motivates me tremendously to see how many wonderful women get to know each other through GDW, share their stories and experiences and make plans together to start their own companies or take the next step in their career.

The second thing which we are focusing on is giving these digital women a stage. We collaborate with conference and events organisers to get more women on panels and prevent all-male panels. We also founded the Digital Female Leader Award (DFLA) which is an award honouring women from the digital industry. Last but not least, we advise companies on diversity and employerbranding issues as well as on how to attract global digital talent.

How do you fund your activities? Fortunately, we have many wonderful 77

DISCOVER In what ways can our readers get involved with GDW?

partners who support our activities! Among our supporters are some publicly listed corporations as well as mediumsized companies. We are really curious about which UK-based company will be our first collaborative partner…

If you happen to live in London, come to our next #GlobalAfterwork event! You can find out when our next event is on our website. You can also follow us on social media. We have a presence on all channels. Also, you can have a look at ‘FEMALE ONE ZERO’ – our new online magazine which shares stories from women (and men!) thriving in the digital world.

You now have chapters in Germany, Switzerland and the UK. Who or what has driven this development? Clearly, our GDW team! We are a funny and diverse bunch of people from very different origins. We have team members who have studied politics, IT, finance, management and design. Together we speak ten languages! All in all, we always manage to motivate each other and always keep our vision in mind – making the world more digital and female!

What are your plans for the next 12-18 months? Well, since our motto is ‘making the world more digital and female’, it is, of course, our declared goal to reach more GDW women and grow our network all over the world! Find out more

You can read more about Global Digital Women on their website and via LinkedIn You can also follow them on Twitter @gd_women and on Instagram @global_digital_women. FEMALE ONE ZERO To read GDW’s online magazine, visit You can also follow their work via Twitter @FemaleOneZero and Instagram @female_one_zero. 78

Calling all female entrepreneurs, creatives, and changemakers! Join us for a free friendly evening of peer-to-peer business support! Every 4th Wednesday of the month, 6pm Barclays Eagle Lab 1 Preston Road, Brighton, BN1 4QU.



Helen Wiggins Photographer, Artist and Writer


elen Wiggins has always enjoyed drawing and painting. She has loved being creative from a young age, having been taught by her grandfather how to hold a pencil properly and how to colour between the lines. Helen’s photography took off about ten years ago as a result of her travels. When she returned from a trip around Central America, a colleague saw her photos and commented that Helen ‘had an eye’ for photography. From there on in, she hasn’t looked back. Around the same time, Helen was promoted to HR Manager at HPC Precision Engineering and made a conscious decision to focus on her work/life balance. It was a key turning point for her and it is when her photography journey began. She joined Mid Sussex Camera Club and Adur Photographic Society to develop her skills, and as a result has had images published in Sussex Life and Amateur Photographer magazines. But it’s not just photography. A key part of her creative journey has been building her own website to give her a platform to present the wide range of work she has produced: photography, art and writing. Helen has found the website development process an interesting experience, and her site has evolved whilst she has learnt more about how to market herself and her work. And she is sure it will continue to evolve. Helen exhibited her work in 2018 for the first time. She has shown her work in Peasemarsh (near Rye), then Worthing and Lindfield, and recently exhibited at the Montague Gallery in Worthing. When she sold her first ever framed print earlier in 2018, her customer sent her a card saying, ‘Good luck, great things are going to happen’. These words have certainly come true for Helen. Balancing a full time job with developing her creative path is challenging, but the key to making it all work, Helen believes, is being focused on work when at work, and when at home, being able to switch off and find that creative place – whether that be with a pen, a brush, or out with her camera. Whatever discipline, it’s all good for the mind and soul. Helen is currently taking commissions. To explore Helen’s full portfolio, visit her website, follow her on Twitter at @artbywigs, and on Facebook at artbywigs.


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The Dainty Caller


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Worthing Sunrise


Small Business Resources There are a range of Sussex-based organisations, as well as national ones, which offer business support – online and at events – for aspiring entrepreneurs and founders of established businesses. Below, we have listed some of our favourite resources. We have also included a range of valuable community resources which may be of interest to you, or someone you know. Business Support for Small Businesses

Support for Green Businesses

Support for Creatives

Support for Women in Technology SheSaysBrighton

Support for Social Entrepreneurs

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CONNECT Brighton Women’s Centre

Legal Information and Advice

Mental Health Support

Co-Working Spaces

Support for People Affected by Domestic Abuse and Violence

Grants and Loans

Services for Families and Children frontdoorforfamilies

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Notes & Reflections


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