IMG_0154Last month was a busy month for entrepreneurs in Brighton, with the Opportunity Knocks event as well as the Entrepreneurial Spark program Awards evening. Both with heavy involvement from NatWest and with a large focus on the huge talent we can find in Sussex, we were delighted to attend both, inspiring and celebrative events

Opportunity Knocks

On Wednesday 6th July, NatWest, Entrepreneurial Spark, Cobb Digital, Brighton & Hove Chamber, Angels Den and the University of Brighton collaborated at the Opportunity Knocks event, which took place at the Sussex County Cricket Club in Brighton.

Opportunity Knocks is a collaborative event, bringing together the best entrepreneurial talent and business experts. The day informed the audience of key success stories of companies who have triumphantly grown their businesses and know and understand the challenges SMEs face, as well as offering advice and providing insight on how to best succeed.

Additionally, budding entrepreneurs heard from inspirational speakers and panel experts as well as having the chance to attend a range of case study led seminars, focusing on topics such as crowdfunding, intellectual property and growth finance.

The event saw many successful entrepreneurs – including the founder of Star Syringe, Marc Koska, Acumen Business Law’s CEO, Penina Shepherd and NatWest’s Entrepreneurial Development Manager, Fiona Anderson – who passed on their knowledge, advice and personal experiences on to the determined crowd. See below for Fiona’s verdict on how the event went.


During the day-long event, representatives also conducted a Dragon’s Den-style pitching masterclass as a way of preparing hopeful entrepreneurs for the perfect pitch – a very beneficial element to future entrepreneurs.

Award-winning Acumen Business Law’s Penina Shepherd – who has also previously been crowned ‘Entrepreneur of the year for the South by the British Chamber of Commerce’ – shared an inspirational speech based on ‘Thriving on your Passion’, which was also the subject of her new book: The Freedom Revolution. During her talk with her audience, she spoke about her background, introducing the term “entreprewhore” to describe her pursuit of climbing the corporate ladder rather than her dreams. She also informed people that money shouldn’t be the driver, but if you follow your passion, you’re more likely to be financially successful. Penina finished by revealing her top 7 tips:

  • Pursue your passion and you will thrive
  • Give something to the community
  • Overestimate yourself
  • Take full responsibility
  • Have a positive attitude
  • Be extraordinary
  • Never give up


Marc Koska is the founder of LifeSaver and the K1 Auto-Disable syringe, which has been credited with saving over 10 million lives since 2001 by the World Health Organisation. During his attendance at Opportunity Knocks, Marc told the audience of 200 burgeoning entrepreneurs to focus on the problem first and then the solution. Marc invented the K1 Auto-Disable syringe to target the deadly re-use of injection equipment, which is the world’s 9th largest cause of death being responsible for 1.3 million deaths and 22 million new cases of hepatitis per year.

His view is that by advising entrepreneurs to fully understand the problem before spreading the solution, you are provided with a lot of confidence as you grow your business.


Overall, the event was very successful, with hundreds of hopeful and determined entrepreneurs taking in the advice and inspiration handed to them.

The Entrepreneuring Awards will take place at the Brighton Hatchery on Preston Road on 20th July, which we will cover in the next issue of Sussex Business Times.


E-Spark Awards

On Wednesday 20th July, at the home of Brighton’s Entrepreneurial Spark in Preston Road, an evening of celebration ensued with the Entrepreneurial Spark Awards. Headed into the room where the prizes would be handed out, there was a fantastically vibrant and excited atmosphere fueled by the anticipation of the grand total of £30,000 up for grabs.

As readers will know, Sussex Business Times has had a close relationship with the Entrepreneurial Spark program, attending many an event in Preston Road and over the year we have gotten to know some of the growing start ups – and the ‘chiclets’ themselves – fairly well.

20160720_164753These awards are designed to recognise the individuals within the program, their achievements throughout their 18 months within it, the challenges they’ve overcome, their personal development as well as the development and success of their business. Some came into the program with simply an idea, some with more of an already established business plan or a company already up and running, so the program – and this room – was filled with a huge variety of inspiration and entrepreneurial talent.

The first award presented was the GoDo Award, which presented 3 businesses with a prize of £3,000. This award highlighted 3 chiclets who had shown the most initiative throughout the program, taken action where possible and necessary and showed a willingness to be challenged. The worthy winners were announced out of 6 nominees: Control Freq, Nourish, and Shuttle.

Shuttle, an integrated management system startup run by David Williams since October 2015, were on of the big winners for the evening, also picking up the Chilcet Choice Award with a prize of £1,000.

IMG_0392Next up was the pitching competition, which saw chiclets come up to the front and pitch their business. Although each put in their all, and were thoroughly impressive, there had to be 3 winners, which were: Brighton Ceilidh Collective, a lively ceilidh band and host company headed up by Louise Wells (also a lively and extremely passionate character); OMGTea, a Matcha Green Tea, health food and education company; and Social Care Training, aiming to help young people with emotional or circumstantial issues to overcome.

The Acceler-8 Award was given to the business that had made the most significant progress over the past 3-6 months; one that had seen an exponential growth in sales and user numbers; had secured funding; and had developed personally and in the business world. The nominees were 5 Squirrels, Iberica Delights and OMGTea Ltd, with Founder of OMGTea, Katherine Swift taking the prize of £7,000 for her business.

Last but certainly not least was the Entrepreneur of the Moment Award. Awarded to ‘a business and entrepreneur who has built a sustainable new product or service that has global potential in the sector they operate within’, this was certainly the most special award of the night, aiming to recognise the sheer determination, dedication and opportunity-hungry attitude of the winning chiclet and their business growth.

The fantastic prize of £10,000 was awarded to a business which the Entrepreneurial Spark team described as having grown exponentially over the past year; quadrupling sales, redesigning their website, taking on 4 more members of staff and beginning their exporting journey. Bare Biology took the gaundlet – a huge achievement for Founder and CEO, Melanie Lawson, who has featured in previous editions of SBT, namely in the Entrepreneur’s Roundtable hosted in May of this year alongside NatWest. Unfortunately, Melanie couldn’t attend the evening but the pride of winning was nonetheless rife with other members of the program, the Entrepreneurial Spark team and a Bare Biology colleague who took the prize on Melanie’s behalf.

We then had a closing speech from Entrepreneurial Spark co-founder and CEO, Lucy-Rose Walker, who commented: “The Entrepreneuring Awards are a great opportunity to reflect on everything our Chiclets have achieved over the past six months, and celebrate how far they’ve progressed. Our Brighton entrepreneurs have accomplished some amazing feats in recent months, from raising substantial investment to creating jobs, disrupting the market, and creating a positive impact on the UK economy, and I would like to say a massive well done to them all!”

20160720_171949Fiona Anderson, Entrepreneurial Spark’s very own Development Manager gave a heartfelt speech on the success of the businesses involved, and what a pleasure it was for NatWest to be involved in such a program. She highlighted some particular successes and impressive statistics from over the past year, including the £1.4 million of investment that the bank has put into Entrepreneurial Spark businesses, the 100 + jobs that have been created in Brighton alone, the 140 businesses that have been set up and the £90,000 worth of prize money that has been given out to chiclets after the awards evening. Fiona covered some highs in the year, including the success of entrepreneur, Aadam Patel, the growth of 1V1 Football (run by chiclet, Richard Philp), and the two awards that Entrepreneurial Spark have won in London. They were also named Business Enabler of the Year at the most recent Manchester Business Awards and have grown to be the largest supporter of SMEs in the UK.

A huge congratulations to all winners from us and all the best for the future!