Ideas for a business can happen when you least expect it.
What started with a conversation in a car park between two friends resulted in the formation of a networking community with a difference.
“We were on WhatsApp getting the idea together and by 8pm the next day we have what we wanted to do,” explains Abby Smith, co-founder of The Collective.
“It all started with Helen (Hoile) talking about a networking event she went to at Jo Malone where there was a pamper session.
“She loved that it was a bit different it got us thinking about a gap in the market.”
The initial conversation was in April 2018 and they launched in July.
“We had our first members in August and we now have 80 members,” smiles Abby.
Helen added: “Our thinking was we would give it a go as what was the worst that could happen? A dent in our ego maybe but we just thought we had to do it.
“We didn’t know if there would be demand but not long after we started we could see that this was something people wanted.”
The mums met four years ago at baby swimming classes but their friendship was secured when they both attended boot camp sessions.
The Collective is described as an ‘inclusive community for local, like-minded individual and businesses looking to meet, mingle, inspire and be inspired’.
“We try to steer clear of using the networking tag as we don’t do it that you turn up, give your business card and do a pitch,” explains Helen.
“It is very much a different approach to networking.”
Abby adds: “We know how daunting it is to go to these events but once we had wine tasting so there will always be that element of being able to talk about that as an icebreaker.”
They hold 36 events a year including evening mingles which always have something for your mind, body and soul. In the past these have included for your mind a talk from a life coach, for the body a chocolate tasting with Noble and Stace and for the soul dance lessons.
There are also coffee meet ups in the day where a member will talk about their business or they hold surgeries where people can get advice, these are very informal.
“We also invite potential members to them as well so they can get a feel of what we are about,” says Abby.
Membership is £150 for a year for an individual or £250 for a business which includes up to three people.
Along with the 36 events other benefits include access to its inspiration hub, special member offers and invite to its Christmas party, plus the opportunity to meet other businesses in the area.
“We have people from Chichester, Petworth, Bognor, Worthing and Pulborough,” says Helen. “Most of our events are held in Chichester but we went to Mindful Kitchen in Petworth for a retreat which was amazing.”
Abby added: “We thought about if we wanted just for women then decided we wanted to be inclusive and have men and women as a lot of couples go into business together and we wanted them to be able to come to events together.
Before The Collective Abby worked in PR and marketing but grew tired with the corporate side so retrained as a teacher.
“I taught for six or seven years with two maternity leaves but it was demanding and at one point I felt like I had 32 children rather than just me two,” she explains.
Helen is a photographer.
“After university I went to New Zealand and did some sports photography when I came back came back friend asked me to photograph her wedding and it went from there really. I do about 25-30 weddings a year.”
The Collective has five ambassadors representing the five pillars - connect, inspire, ignite, collaborate and celebrate forming their CIICC (think kick) philosophy.
“It has really grown organically,” explains Abby.
“The business is always evolving as new people join and we get requests from the types of experts they want to see.
“It has really opened our eyes to the amazing businesses we have in Chichester and we love being able to connect all these different people.”
For more information on The Collective, visit www.thecollectivechichester.com
Pictures: Helen Cawte Photography