Fond farewell to East’s ‘inspiring’ enterprise hub as it meets its demise
PUBLISHED: 16:37 31 July 2018
Eastern Enterprise Hub on Ipswich Waterfront is closing after a highly-productive seven-year run. Some of its graduates reflect on how it’s helped them. Sarah Chambers reports
Graduates of a flagship East Anglian enterprise scheme have praised its “inspirational” work as it closed down after its contract and funding streams dried up.
The Eastern Enterprise Hub, launched seven years ago on the top floor of the James Hehir building on Ipswich Waterfront, shut for good on Tuesday (July 31) after failing to gain enough funding or contracts to continue due to the tough economic climate.
Since 2011, 2,000 people from across the region have attended a range of programmes for start-ups, and for social entrepreneurs under the School for Social Entrepreneurs East banner and many have gone on to enjoy great success.
Hub chief executive Digby Chacksfield, who was part of the founding team, said he was “very proud” of how the hub had helped sometimes “uncertain and nervous” students to become “confident and streetwise entrepreneurs”, many of whom had won awards for their efforts.
Graduates include Justine Paul of Suffolk Market Events, an award-winning organiser of farmers’ markets, who went on its Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Start Up Programme in 2014.
She now works with several organisations to deliver markets and events in the region and as a consultant with councils to plan and implement changes on market improvement programmes. She has also set up a second business run as a Community Interest Company which owns and runs food festival The Taste of Sudbury.
Her time at the hub was “instrumental”, she said, in turning her small but growing project into a profitable, award-winning business.
“I remember the first phone call I had with Digby. I was running two monthly markets, my head was buzzing with ideas, with hopes and dreams, but the reality was that I needed direction, I needed foundations and I needed to make sure any business I grew was going to work around two very young children and a busy home life,” she said.
“Arriving at the Eastern Enterprise Hub felt like I was stepping into a space where my crazy ideas were no longer crazy. They were celebrated, encouraged, shared and, most importantly, they were rationalised so that they could become achievable and real and no longer frustrating and out of reach.
“Entrepreneurial thinkers are, by default, creative and although this has huge bonuses it also means that focusing on the less ‘attractive’ aspects of business such as budget forecasting and business planning, can be really difficult for us creative types. The hub forced me, in the gentlest possible way, through business mentoring, to tackle these aspects of my business, which in turn meant that a strategy for growing my business started to emerge.”
The grounding she got meant she was no longer intimidated or worried about scaling up the business, she said.
“I thrive on the fact that all that I have, I have grown myself and ultimately I have total control of the direction in which it evolves. A huge amount of this confidence is down to the support, guidance and understanding that the hub offered me and that, for any small business, is absolutely priceless.”
Fellow graduate Glenn Hoddy, of Suffolk-based community business I Roll Up My Sleeves, which brings people together to carry out community work, said: “Being part of the Eastern Enterprise Hub and the School for Social Entrepreneurs East over the past year had been a total inspiration. It’s not just the venue, the course or my fellow students, it has been the team behind us that has made a difference to our social enterprise journey.”
Since launching his social enterprise in 2016, he has organised more than 50 business networking events, supported 12 community projects and has signed up more than 50 members. “The projects completed have made a real difference to the people that use the venues,” he said.
Mona Shah, who set Harry Specters, which offers paid employment to people with autism through its award-winning chocolate-making enterprise in Cambridgeshire, praised the “warm support” and encouragement she received from the hub.
“I will always be grateful for this first boost I received,” she said. “The hub was my comfort zone, the safe space where I could talk about my hopes and dreams and know that everyone would offer help and advice to ensure that my business succeeded.”
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