Worthing entrepreneurs crowned small business champions
Watch This Sp_ce, an innovative diversity and inclusion consultancy based in Worthing, has won the hotly contested Business Boost competition.
Almost 25,000 small businesses entered the competition to win £25,000, orchestrated by Simply Business, and the judges, including Dragons’ Den’s Piers Linney, The Apprentice’s Carina Lepore, and author Tony Robinson OBE, were unanimous in their decision to award the prize to entrepreneurs Mo Kanjilal and Allegra Chapman, who work from Worthing co-working spaces Freedom Works and Rooms.
Simply Business provides insurance to more than 800,000 businesses across the UK, and they know that the self-employed have been hit hardest by Covid-19. With the pandemic costing small business owners an average of £22,461, many are facing desperate circumstances. But small businesses are vital to the UK landscape, accounting for 99% of all British businesses and contributing £2 trillion to the economy. That’s why Simply Business wanted to provide £25,000 to help a worthy business succeed in these challenging times.
Watch This Sp_ce was born from the pandemic. As the world was forced to rethink the way it does business, Mo Kanjilal, Allegra Chapman and their fellow Co-Creator, Rachel Pearson, knew that a fundamental reimagination of the world of work was needed – and had been needed for some time. Having been running the networking group Brighton Digital Women since 2015, the team had heard many stories of workplace discrimination, harassment and burnout from their members. They had also experienced toxic and demeaning work environments themselves.
Yet they knew that this approach to work culture was counter-productive. “We heard time and again that there was no room in business for pandering to ‘woke’ agendas,” Allegra Chapman recalls, “but all the research shows that organisations that make space for diversity and inclusion are more innovative, more productive, more successful and more profitable. It’s not about being nice or politically correct – it’s good business sense.”
So, despite the challenges of multiple lockdowns, they set out to educate business owners about the value of inclusion, and launched their Inclusion Audit to allow organisations to create roadmaps for change. They began providing training courses for their clients, but the media message was against them.
“There has been so much talk recently about how diversity and inclusion training doesn’t work,” Mo Kanjilal says. “And, on the whole, it doesn’t. You can’t fix deep rooted unconscious biases and become a diverse and inclusive organisation in a one-hour workshop, that’s impossible. To truly make change that will benefit your organisation, you need to commit to a long-term journey of growth and development. This is an approach that needs to be embedded in the fabric of your organisation, and that takes commitment.”
Now that the Watch This Sp_ce team are in receipt of the Business Boost award, they will be building a subscription platform that will enable organisations to access a whole suite of training courses to support their diversity and inclusion journey. These courses will support everything from inclusive recruitment practices to inclusive communication and marketing methods. Organisations will learn how to increase innovation and to protect their business from potential crises in the future.
It hasn’t been an easy 18 months for the Watch This Sp_ce team. Starting a business in a pandemic meant that they weren’t able to meet many of their initial clients in person. Their events all had to be online, and they were launching a new product at a time of economic uncertainty. They also faced a number of personal challenges. Rachel Pearson was hospitalised with Covid-19 in January 2021, and gave birth to her first child in August 2021. Allegra Chapman gave birth to her second child in January 2021, who arrived five weeks premature and with a kidney condition. Thankfully, both mothers and babies are doing well now!
After all the struggles they have faced in the early days of the business, winning the Business Boost competition is a very welcome change of fortune. “This is going to change everything for us,” Allegra Chapman said. “This money takes us from the initial start-up stage, armed with only our ideas, passion and optimism, to running a viable business overnight.”
“It’s incredibly exciting,” Mo Kanjilal agreed. “Getting a start-up off the ground is incredibly challenging, and we’ve been doing it all on our own around our day jobs and our families. Now we can concentrate fully on Watch This Sp_ce and on making it everything that we know it can be.”
Watch This Sp_ce already has a number of fans across Sussex, with organisations they have worked with describing them as “powerful”, “engaging”, “insightful”, “a pleasure to work with” and “simply fantastic”. Now the team are set to introduce the rest of the UK to their energetic and inspiring approach to business.