How I started a business in Brighton
Brighton is a vibrant and laid-back city, with a creative and eclectic range of businesses. But doing business is different everywhere – what’s it really like to start up in Brighton, and what support is available? We spoke to a business funded by Virgin Startup to discover how they launched a business in Brighton.
SynchroFitness, founded by Liz Fitzsimons and Jessie Fox
SynchroFitness provide fun, energising and social synchronised swimming fitness classes. Founders Liz and Jessie are synchronised swimming coaches who realised the physical benefits, creating fun routines in an aqua class format for the general public.
Who did you speak to in Brighton for advice, and how did they help you?
We interviewed our synchro swimming club members to find out what they particularly like about synchro and how it benefits them. We explained our business idea, and they gave us useful feedback and suggestions. One of our swimmers is a marketing expert and she gave us lots of advice and helped us put together a great press release.
We got advice from web developers on the best way to develop our website, given our future plans to create an instructor portal. We also have a contact in the Chamber of Commerce who helps link up businesses in the area. The best and most detailed advice we got during our start up phase was from our link in Enterprise First and from a swimming instructor with bags of experience in the fitness industry. Now we meet our Virgin StartUp Mentor regularly - Ben has bags of experience in the fitness industry so he really understands our market place. On Ben’s advice we recently attended Leisure Industry Week and made some great contacts there.
Did you go to any networking events in Brighton, and were they any good?
There are lots of networking groups in Brighton, and quite a few of them are technology based. We haven’t come across a fitness-based group, so maybe we should start one! The University of Sussex runs great business seminars that are also useful networking events. There was also a Virgin StartUp Hothouse event on Brighton seafront shortly after we set up. We remember it well because the event was really interesting and positive, everyone loved our business idea and there was a heavy sea mist so our out of town visitors couldn’t see the sea - even though it was only a few feet away!
Why is Brighton a good place to do business?
We live in Brighton and there are lots of synchro swimmers here, plus a large following who come along to our annual synchro show in the Brighton Fringe Festiva, so it has quite a high profile in Brighton. Brighton is a vibrant city that embraces new ideas, where people are willing to have a go and get stuck in. There are many small independent media technology-based businesses in Brighton, so it’s easy to find a partner to help create your website and social media presence. There are lots of free events and ‘what’s on’ opportunities for promotion, as well as active bloggers.
Media-wise, there is a new community TV channel called Latest TV. Radio Reverb and BBC Radio Sussex are also based in Brighton and they are very supportive of community events. There are great locally-based magazines that are very reasonable for advertising, such as Preston Pages, Viva and the Kemptown Rag. Brighton is also very easy to get to from London, which will be a big plus for us when our instructor courses start in the new year.
Where in Brighton do you base yourself and why?
We work from home and in the cafes around Brighton, or in the library. We run classes in Surrenden Pool and Roedean School Pool, both of which are deep enough for SynchroFitness.
What advice would you give to other people looking to start a business in Brighton?
There is so much opportunity in Brighton for connecting with other businesses and your customer base, particularly if your business is forward-thinking, cutting-edge, and aimed at a younger demographic.
Is it expensive to start a business in Brighton?
It depends on what you want to do. For us, apart from setting up our website, the main expense is pool hire. The local advertising opportunities are very good value.
What types of businesses do well in Brighton?
It’s a particularly good place to do business if your ideal client is a young adult. Coffee shops and street food are very popular at the moment and the new technology/media sector has a very strong presence. Us Brightonians are into alternative everything - and having fun!
Can you explain what your business does in a few sentences?
Fun, social and energising synchronised swimming fitness classes, events and instructor training.
Tell us how you came up with the idea.
Liz swims, competes, coaches and choreographs in an adult-only synchro club. Jessie is head coach of the other synchro club in Brighton (yes there are two clubs!) and is also a personal trainer. Inspired to share the personal, physical and wellbeing benefits we and our sports club swimmers have gained through practicing synchronised swimming, the idea of SynchroFitness was born – swimming simple synchro routines in an aqua class format.
We worked together to understand how basic synchro moves benefit the body and improve fitness levels. We have created a class format that includes a warm up, main section and cool down. In the main section participants learn basic synchro moves and some simple choreography, swimming to chart-topping music. And, of course, we just have great fun in the water!
To find out more about SynchroFitness check out their website, or connect on Twitter and Facebook. SynchroFitness received their Virgin Startup loan after working with Enterprise First, one of our Virgin Startup delivery partners.