Husband and wife Graeme Roche and Sophie Morgan-Gilder formed the group to help local businesses when Covid-19 struck and threatened to take their livelihoods.
They weren’t from a business background themselves – Graeme works in cybersecurity and Sophie is a mental health nurse. These were just two customers who recognized a problem and wanted to do something to help them.
The group’s success led to the development of Independent Worthing and on Wednesday, December 1, its new website was launched at a gathering of local business owners at The Brooksteed, South Farm Road.
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The website is a hub for everything independent in and around Worthing, from events, articles and information, to directory listings and specials.
Subscribers pay £ 4.99 per month to access exclusive discounts and offers from a range of around 50 independents of all varieties, covering the Shoreham area to Littlehampton and north of Pulborough.
Sophie said: “We want to make it sustainable in the future. We saw the opportunity and developed a model where we believe everyone wins. It got to the point where we needed a plan and we decided to try and do something good with it.
“The independents are the cornerstone of Worthing. There are so many pockets of local small businesses that people really appreciate. Businesses have so many advantages they love it. It’s a group they can belong to and I really want to build on that.
“There are business-to-business offers, hopefully new customers, and their only commitment is to offer a discount of their choice, which they can modify and adapt. There is a networking opportunity and each business will get up to two free memberships which will also qualify them for the discounts.
“There is also no commitment for subscribers, and they have access to discounts at a whole range of Freelancers.”
Sophie explained that when they started the Facebook group, it was totally unplanned and without an agenda.
“It was totally responsive,” she said. “We didn’t expect it to happen where we are now at all. It all started with a conversation with John at Brooksteed about how they were going to survive when the pubs closed last year.
“We are so grateful to live here and at Brooksteed, we got to know our neighbors, we are part of a community. At the start of the pandemic, no one knew what was going on. Everyone had to make their own decision on what to do.
“We felt moved by this and wanted to do something, so we created the Facebook group to keep people informed and it snowballed. The membership grew and grew, and people were thanking us for helping them find things like hot meal deliveries for people who were isolating themselves. ”
As the group grew, Sophie and Graeme got to know all of the companies involved in the hub.
Sophie explained, “We have a real ethic that we want to meet people, get to know them and have a relationship. We want human contact, we don’t just want to be online.
The Independent Worthing logo features the sea, town and the Downs, with the iconic Dome Cinema, the place where Sophie and Graeme got married.
Visit independantworthing.co.uk for more information on the membership and the new Independent Worthing gift certificate, which can be spent at any of the participating member companies.