A batch of six went on a school trip to Wessex House, Eastleigh, five Graphic Arts students tailing behind Tim Metcalf the programme leader, like ducklings following their mother. We were close to holding hands when crossing the road but deemed it inappropriate.
Upon entering Wessex House we were greeted by smiley Sandra Giles, the centre manager, asking us if we’d like to take the lift or traverse two flights of stairs to reach ‘the WSA office’.
We climbed the stairs, up to our floor, where she spoke to us about what Wessex House is and what it provides; cheap office space for small and start-up companies with business support throughout “your stay”, to help you learn, develop and grow. After our corridor summary, we were lead into an example office space containing octagonal desks, large windows and a group of women waiting to give us the Wessex House hard-sell.
First up to the podium was Kathryn Rankin, Economic Development Manager from Eastleigh council, giving us a speech detailing the population of the Eastleigh borough (120,000 people), the council’s interest in small and start-up businesses, and it’s great transport links (near Southampton Airport, 2 minute walk to train station, one hour train journey to London).
The metaphorical baton was then passed to Anne Dawson, the business manager of Southern Entrepreneurs, an agency that aims to provide discounted training to entrepreneurs and start-ups; with half day training courses at approximately thirty five pounds each. According to their leaflet Southern Entrepreneurs is: “an Eastleigh Borough Council service founded with the objective of encouraging local economic development by helping small businesses in Eastleigh and across Hampshire area to start up”. Anne spoke of the many companies on their books and the networking events they hold to encourage communication between small businesses, enabling everybody to help everybody; do someone a website and they could do your accounts for you. This sense of community was current throughout every presentation, there are so many small businesses in Wessex House (over 200), that you end up helping each other out, meeting new people, learning from them and helping each other grow.
The final spiel was given by Cheryl Butler, head of culture at Eastleigh Cultural Network and The Point, who told us of creative companies that currently use Wessex House and the theatre-cum-cinema-cum-exhibition-cum-creative space opposite; The Point. The Point provides space for performing arts, large scale work and meetings in an informal setting and can be used by those that rent out the WSA office. Cheryl then took us across the park to The Point; now used as a cinema, theatre and creative space, it was previously the council offices as the carved stone entrance proclaims.
So if you’re at WSA and thinking of setting up your own business, this is a fantastic opportunity. The University are heavily discounting the monthly rent and fully equipping the Wessex House office space with macs, scanners and printers, all it needs now is you!