Freelancers rubbed shoulders with multimillionaire entrepreneurs at this year’s Brighton Summit.

Some 300 delegates gathered to hear secrets of success, from Propellernet’s Nikki Gatenby to Giles Palmer of Brandwatch and Jim Duffy of Entrepreneurial Spark.

Among the 25 conferences organised by the Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce were talks on how to be creative, having no regrets, procrastinating and having those difficult conversations.

Business editor FINN SCOTT-DELANY picks seven lessons he learned on the day.


1. Making dreams come true 

REGULARLY voted one of the best places to work in the UK, Propellernet has built up a reputation for literally making dreams come true.

Each member of staff at the Brighton digital marketing agency has submitted their dream – and whenever a major target is reached a ‘dreamball’ is selected.

So far staff have gone to the World Cup in Brazil, trekked across Africa by motorbike and staged a sci-fi rock opera at Propellernet’s own alpine festival, Slope-Off.

Managing director Nikki Gatenby explained: “Our dreams are part of our business plan.” 

As well as being inspired by Disney, Olympic Gold medalist Ben Hunt-Davies was also an inspiration, with his mantra: “Will it make the boat faster?”

Propellernet’s adopted mantra, which might account for its sky-high staff and client satisfaction rates is: “Will it make life better?”


2. Creative thinking

SOMETIMES those eureka moments come at the most unexpected times. 

Brighton Gin has built up recognition mostly through creative marketing via social media.

Co-founder Helen Cheshire explained: “Sometimes you just need to do that ‘back of a fag packet’ brainstorming.

“It can take no time at all to come up with a good idea

“Sometimes the most creative ideas come at 2am or 3am.

“But if you’re so busy it’s the creativity that gets left behind.” 

The city’s first legal distillery now gets 60 per cent of its business either through customer referrals or Twitter.

Helen added: “In this day and age it’s an absolute must to have a social media that works – and it’s



3. Turning down work 

A FEW years ago Yelo Architects’ found itself doing one too many loft conversions. 

Worried about getting pigeon-holed, founder Andy Parsons decided it was time to take radical action. 

Andy said: “I didn’t want to be the loft conversion king of Brighton. 

“I didn’t want to be working the same jobs all the time and churning out the some things every week. 

“Sometimes it’s better to turn jobs down.”

Sometimes even more drastic action is needed. 

Andy added: “We’ve had clients who don’t share the same mindset as us and we’ve ended up effectively sacking them.

“We were working for a local vineyard run by such lovely people and I realised, ‘Isn’t this what all clients should be like?’ 

“So we ended culling non like-minded people.”


4. Breaking the rules

AFTER building up Brighton digital marketing agency Spannerworks, Arjo Ghosh sold it to iCrossing in 2007 for more than £10 million. 

But despite his huge success, he said mistakes and rule breaking were all part of the learning experience.
Arjo said: “All day, every day I made mistakes.

"As an entrepreneur you think you’re good at everything which might be alright when you’re just one person, but when things grow you’ve got to play to your strengths. That can take a long time to learn.”

Other regrets were over losing his risk-taking spirit as time went on.

He said: “I wish I had carried on breaking rules like I did when I started out. In the early days I had that entrepreneurial spirit of not seeing any limitations, of not thinking you can fail. But as my business matured I stopped breaking the rules.”

Success can be a mixed blessing, Arjo said, adding: “There’s a hell of a lot of pressure and that changes your behaviour. Entrepreneurial traits can be a double edged sword. When I left my job I wanted to go and work at the railway station on the ticket barrier. I just wanted a normal job, something simple.

“There’s a lot of entrepreneurs who drive themselves into the ground. You have to ask, ‘What are you doing for yourself on this journey?’”


5. Letting go 

AFTER 10 years in business, Nigel’s Eco Store is going through the painful process of liquidation. 

Despite the bruising process, founder Nigel Berman has found the winding up a time for useful reflection. 

He said: “I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about mistakes - and trying not to think about them. 

“Over ten years I made a lot, but if everything goes right you don't learn.

“One regret is I definitely hung on too long. Things were in decline and I had to be pushed. It makes you think ‘why didn’t I do this ages ago?’

“When the liquidation started a few months ago I thought 'I’m never running a business again'. But now I’m thinking about the next thing.

“When I stopped I had a surge of energy. This thing I was carrying just went away and I felt much happier.

“I’m quite stubborn and we have a family motto ‘never give in’ which in negotiations was not particularly helpful.

6.  Screwing up

ENTREPRENEUR Nigel Lambe packed in his comfortable corporate job with great benefits to take a punt on a logistics company he believed would take over the world.

Yet it quickly became clear the new company was not all it was hyped up to be and he soon regretted his decision.

The Small Batch Coffee executive chairman said: “I left this great job to go and work for a company that was losing quarter million. 

“At that moment I really regret that decision, and I even considered picking up the phone to my old.

“You make lots of screw ups but you have to move on.

On money he added: “If you have a good idea and are passionate, the money will take care of itself. 

And on the hard work of an entrepreneur he said: “It’s all very well saying I should have spent more time doing nice stuff, but we are who we are. We don’t sit around. We make sacrifices.”


7. Beating the competition 

WHEN Giles Palmer came up with the idea of Brandwatch he thought he had had “the best idea ever”. 

But he quickly realised established US company Neilson was already doing social media analytics. 

Giles explained: “You'd think why are we bothering? They were the market leader on just about every metric.

“But we just ignored all that and did what we wanted. We would go up against them and sometimes we'd lose and sometimes we'd win. 

"Gradually we realised we were more innovative. 

“They were a dinosaur and we were hungry and lean, eating them bit by bit.

“Five years later they’ve closed and we're the market leader.

“As a product company the biggest lesson for me was make the best product. We had a relentless focus on building the best.” 

On Brandwatch’s rapid rise Giles added: “We’ve had just one profitable year in eight. If I told my father he would say I’m useless. 

“That was a choice to try and aggressively grow. So far we’ve raised £20 million investment and we’re about to close another big round. 

“You shouldn’t raise money when you absolutely need it, but it's so difficult in the early days. 

“If we didn’t get a deal we would have been done. I wrote a Henry V email to staff saying ‘we will do this! we will succeed!’ You have to believe and make it happen.”