If you missed the HHBA online article in the Mid Sussex Times please read it below or buy this week’s paper and check out Page 3! We have also included some of the wonderful pictures taken by Dan Ford from StoryScreen.
Haywards Heath Business Association members reconnected at a big summer networking event on Wednesday afternoon (August 25) at Ridgeview Wine Estate.
Over the past 18 months, HHBA events have mostly been online but members were finally able to meet up in a large group outside.
Guests enjoyed a glass of Ridgeview wine on arrival, followed by a tour of the vineyard and a wine-tasting in the garden with canapes.
HHBA chair Clare Jones said she had been looking forward to the event.
“It really has lived up to my expectations and the venue is beautiful,” said Clare, who is a marketing videographer.
“It’s been amazing to come out again with all our members and to actually see them in person,” she said, adding that the weather had been great.
“We’ve been so restricted over the past 18 months and this really has been the first occasion for all the people to mingle fully and not have to worry,” she said.
Clare said HHBA realised the Covid pandemic was going to change everything a few days before the first lockdown in March 2020.
One committee member, Caroline Buchan, recommended holding their next meeting on Zoom, she said, and the HHBA decided to hold a finance meeting.
“Everybody’s businesses were starting to slow down or completely stop and it was quite worrying,” said Clare.
But instead of panicking, she said the HHBA ‘rolled their sleeves up’ and put together an online events programme.
It was ‘complete teamwork’ between HHBA business manager Sue Llewellyn, the committee members and all the other members too, said Clare.
She went to say that the HHBA developed good relationships with Mid Sussex District Council and the grants team, adding that membership benefitted people who needed government support.
“You had to know how to get it, if you were eligible and what the criteria were, and we were the conduit into getting that information out to the businesses,” said Clare.
“Mid Sussex District Council was really passionate about helping businesses as much as possible in the local area,” she said, thanking the head of MSDC’s grants team Kevin Stewart.
At the moment, the HHBA aims to grow its membership and has a programme of events planned until the end of the year, which people can view at hhba.co.uk.
Stephen Hillier, cabinet member for economic growth at Mid Sussex District Council, said the wine networking event had been ‘glorious’.
He said business associations from Haywards Heath, East Grinstead and Burgess Hill had been ‘absolutely fantastic’ during the pandemic, pointing businesses to the council so it could help them apply for the right grants.
“I don’t think Sue and Clare would mind me saying they were amazing,” he said, adding that HHBA pivoted to virtual meetings quickly instead of simply ‘shutting up shop’.
“I’m just full of praise and admiration for them,” he added.
Mr Hillier also thanked Kevin Stewart for his hard work and enthusiasm.
Jonathan Lea, a solicitor who runs The Jonathan Lea Network, said: “It’s good to be back now.”
“It’s a really valuable way to get out, have a break from the desk and to get to know people better in the local area,” he said.
Jonathan added that the HHBA had been a great way to make local connections after moving to the area from London five years ago.
Paul Boon, of event sponsors Boon Hospitality Solutions, said it had been great to see people in person at the ‘stunningly beautiful venue’.
“With the times that we’ve either gone through or are still going through, it’s really important to support local businesses,” he said.
Paul said that while a lot of his company’s work managing event hospitality experiences was national or international, it was important to help local venues like Ridgeview, as well as industry colleagues like restaurants in Haywards Heath high street.
“We’ve got some fantastic venues on our doorstep,” he said.
“We’ve got this (Ridgeview), we’ve got other vineyards, we’ve got other establishments that host events and we need to maximise it and showcase them in the best possible light we can.”
HHBA offers members advice, support and ongoing social contact with each other.
Members can showcase their business through an online directory and website, spotlight their products and services, broaden their expertise with ‘meet the expert’ sessions and work closely with councils, MPs and other organisations.
Membership starts from £10 per month and there are now about 140 companies in HHBA’s membership.
Visit hhba.co.uk to see the business association’s latest video about how it helped support the local business community over the past 18 months.
Ridgeview Wine Estate was established in 1995 in Ditchling Common and has been producing world-class sparkling wines for more than 25 years. It was one of the first wineries in England to focus solely on producing sparkling wines from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grape varieties and every grape is handpicked. Ridgeview wine estate is a second-generation family business and was founded by Mike Roberts MBE. Find out more at www.ridgeview.co.uk.
Mid Sussex Times reporter | Sussex