SINC IMAGE Catalyst Team at brighton chamber WEB

Over the past four months, the Catalyst team has been a microcosm of everything that’s been going on at Sussex Innovation. We’ve had to be extremely flexible and responsive as a team, developing new ways to help businesses survive and thrive in the face of the global pandemic, the lockdown, and everything else that 2020 has thrown at us.

As we bid farewell to this team and send them off to the next stage of their careers, I want to share our gratitude to them for going above and beyond to support their clients during this time.

This summer, our seventh intake of placement students and recent graduates from the University of Sussex will be joining the Catalyst Team as Business Support Executives. They’ll spend a year working alongside myself and my colleagues in the consultancy team, delivering targeted research, practical support and one-off projects for the growing SMEs in our community and beyond.

We’ve helped a huge number of local businesses respond to the unique challenges of lockdown, particularly those from the retail and hospitality sectors who have seen their traditional revenue streams cut off, and needed to rapidly pivot to a direct to consumer model.

Following the closure of pubs, bars and restaurants, Hepworth Breweries – previously a B2B business – needed to start reaching their customers directly through an online shop. With a list of over 50 products ready to go, Arthur created a Shopify site to help them pivot to online sales. They are now having fantastic success through being able to reach their customers directly... Arthur even got a free crate of beer at the end!

Eleanor has also been assisting a client whose business was severely affected by the lockdown to identify potential opportunities for a pivot. “My research projects have been really rewarding, helping people to identify trends and generate insights,” she says. “In lockdown, I’ve helped people turn a disaster into an opportunity to re-invent their businesses. They’re not only  helping their own business to survive, but they’re choosing to stand up for entire industries and communities which previously went unnoticed and unheard.”

The Catalyst Team was launched in 2014 with the aim of bridging the gap between young people looking for meaningful, full time work and business owners looking for practical support without the expensive recruitment and training costs. The team works with hundreds of businesses each year – sometimes in a continuous part-time role, sometimes for just a few hours to deliver a one-off project. This flexibility is a big selling point for the SMEs we support.

Through our link with the University of Sussex, we’re able to access a talented pool of willing young people, who often struggle to find the kind of work opportunities that can accelerate their careers. At the same time, we know that early-stage companies often need assistance but don’t have the time to find and train employees, or commit to employing someone full time.

By taking that burden of training and support off their hands and bringing it into our own team, we ensure that every Catalyst project has a real strategic purpose to the business, and a tangible outcome. The team member gets a real experience of working with a range of different, innovative and exciting young businesses.

The incoming Team 7 are among our most exciting and diverse bunch yet. This year’s team includes placement students and graduates with backgrounds in Computing for Business and Management, English and Theatre Studies, Marketing Management and Psychology, Intellectual History, Sociology and more.

If you’d like a Catalyst Business Executive to help your company get projects delivered, or a part-time team member to free up your time, get in touch and tell us what you need. 

“Brighton Chamber has used the Catalyst team in lots of ways. The team are part of the Brighton Summit conferences and stage-manage the rooms throughout the day. They have carried out a successful research project for the Brighton & Hove Living Wage campaign for the last three years with great results.

One of the team has stepped in when we have had a gap in staffing and they have helped on several data entry projects when accuracy has been essential. Need I say more, they are a valuable resource.”

Sarah Springford, Chief Executive Officer - Brighton Chamber

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