A MEMBER-LED community group providing new support for small businesses has been launched.

The start of Business Amp in Brighton, which already has more than 700 members from the city and the surrounding area, was celebrated with a crowd of company owners, key contributors and speakers.

To reinforce the sense of community and the local business network at the project’s core, the free event was hosted at event space 68 Middle Street, with food and drinks provided by Brighton’s own Bison Beer and Purezza.

Founder Jen Welford said: “I genuinely had one of the best nights of my career by officially launching Business Amp.

“The room was packed with small and big business owners, partners who I enormously respect.”

Jen started her first business, an online retail shop, in 2008.

Three years later, she won the Princes Trust Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and her business was a retailer of the year finalist at the Scottish Fashion Awards, narrowly missing out to high street giant Schuh.

The business closed in 2011 and Jen cited a lack of infrastructure and understanding of business admin as the reasoning behind it.

But learning from those failures would ultimately lead to the creation of Business Amp seven years later.

First of all, she became the marketing manager at an accountancy firm in London 2013 before becoming an area manager at the same firm, subsequently spending a lot of her time with small business owners and deciding how best to support them.

Jen told the audience how Business Amp evolved from her original initiative called Brighton Business Club which she formed during her time at Accounts and Legal.

That supported business owners, who needed to know something about tax, accounting or business planning.

Two years later, she left and set up her own marketing agency in 2017.

Business communication expert Steve Bustin led a keynote talk during the evening on “how to introduce your business”.

He talks to organisations around the world about how to get their business heard and was chosen for this event as a recent Business Amp survey of its members highlighted lead generation as something they wanted help with.

Steve’s talk resonated with the audience, having the whole room engaged in a lively discussion, with SME owners from different industries interacting and offering their opinions.

Business Amp survey results have influence the events it plans to offer throughout the year, which include:

The Brain Boost – a monthly evening group session led by a key contributor to help businesses overcome challenges around that topic and offering advice.

The Help Hub – one-to-one guidance from experts, also a monthly evening event.

The Business Amp Boot Camp – physical engagement to promote a healthy business lifestyle.

The Meet and Eat – a traditional networking format with a Business Amp twist.

Members are also able to list their own events online to promote and ensure maximum exposure.

The Business Amp directory promotes members on its website but with a maximum of five businesses in any chosen sector to avoid saturation in its community. The phrase “key contributor” refers to partners who have specialist knowledge and can help members of the group.

They include lawyers, accountants, marketing professionals and SEO experts. This month Kerry Watkins of Social Brighton will be leading a session on social media strategy in response to the 93 per cent of survey participants saying this was a priority.