New chamber to champion Horsham and district businesses

Pictures of Jeremy Quin MP. By Alan Wright
Pictures of Jeremy Quin MP. By Alan Wright

There is a new show in town, one that aims to be the champion of local businesses in Horsham, Billingshurst and the wider area.

After eight years without one, Horsham now has a business organisation which is open to all comers, following the creation of the Billingshurst and Horsham Chamber of Commerce.

Assembled guests at the event. By Alan Wright

Assembled guests at the event. By Alan Wright

The area’s newest group was spawned following the expansion of the long standing Billingshurst Chamber of Commerce.

Last Thursday (March 8), the new look chamber was officially launched, amid much fanfare, at a special meeting held at John Lewis in Horsham.

Some 80 invited guests, made up of existing chamber members and well respected members of the business community and it was launched by the John Lewis manager Nigel Davis and Jeremy Quin, the local MP.

Mr Quin said of the new look chamber: “I am very aware of the good work that is done in Billingshurst by the Chamber of Commerce. I was therefore delighted when I was approached about this broadening of the chamber’s ambitions, as I know the benefits which Horsham can gain.

Assembled guests. By Alan Wright

Assembled guests. By Alan Wright

“We have great businesses, ever improving leisure opportunities and fabulous retailers from the nationally renowned chains to the small independents which together make Horsham a great place to shop. However Horsham is neither a small village where everyone knows each other, nor a huge metropolis with the resources that go with it – we are of a size where we have to work on maintaining our links and connections. I very much hope that the chamber will be platform in which local groups can network and support each other and be a voice to help make this area an even better place to live, work and do business. I look forward to working with it in the years ahead”

The floor was then handed over to three speakers who had been chosen for their relevance to issues faced by many business owners.

They included Barnaby Brown from West Sussex Trading Standards, who talked about a number of topics including the impending changes to data protection and he was followed Paul Hobbs from Horsham District Council’s environmental health department who sought to change perceptions about his role.

He said: “We as a council and a department want to help businesses thrive - we really are here to help and support.”

The chamber launch was a success. By Alan Wright

The chamber launch was a success. By Alan Wright

The final speaker of the night was Detective Sergeant Chris White, of the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit, who specialises in tackling cyber crime. He urged those present to think about their security online and not to use ‘obvious’ passwords. The chamber started last week with 60 members and had nine people sign up on the night. Chairman Chris Cooper, who took over the helm of the Billingshurst chamber last year and has driven the changes, has set a target of having 100 members by the end of the year. As well as hosting a monthly lunchtime meeting, Mr Cooper sees the chamber as providing a platform from which the local area and its businesses can be promoted and supported.

He said: “I am delighted with how it has gone. It was fantastic and was a great mix of business people and there was a really good vibe.”

He revealed that the chamber had put together a programme of events which would support its members in the coming months. One of the business owners to sign up on the night was Dominic Sakakini, a well known figure who owns Sakakini Jewellers on Horsham’s Carfax.

He said: “The sad thing about Horsham businesses is that they have been relying too much on councils and handouts. There is too much complacency and they need to start standing on their own two feet. The chamber educates people on what is going on locally.”

For more information on the new look chamber of commerce, visit bhcc.co.uk or email secretary@billingshurstchamber.co.uk