“Anything you want as a business is available here in Lewes,” Clare says proudly.
She also takes great pride in the fact that the Lewes Chamber of Commerce represents businesses of all kinds, including professionals and traders.
“We have 55 or so members, not just retailers,” she explains. “Networking is actively encouraged and if anyone needs legal or financial advice, then another member will be able to provide that. The same applies to other services or products.
“Of course we are great supporters of shop local, but that doesn’t mean just shopping. It’s about taking advantage of all local services and businesses, and in Lewes everything a business could need is available right here. You don’t have to go any further for what you want.”
Clare has a proven track record of her own as a businesswoman. In 1990 she went to work for hrs creative as a secretary and bookkeeper, training to be an accountant, but being in that creative environment prompted her to reassess how she wanted to spend her working life.
“It made me think ‘why do I want to work with numbers?’ I was really lucky that the company took me on as an apprentice and in the 1990s that meant a lot of really good training, going on courses, supporting the designers. I loved what I was doing and really got into it.”
After becoming a designer herself and well-established as part of hrscreative, Clare became a co-director in 2012 and full owner two years later.
“I took over on February 14, 2014 and had a wonderful Valentine’s Day present in the form of a telephone call from my solicitors to tell me the deal had gone through.”
As a business owner, Clare recognised the importance of being a member of the Lewes Chamber of Commerce and joined in 2014. She has been president for the past three years and devotes a great deal of time and effort into making it a vibrant, expanding organisation of benefit to all kinds of local businesses.
“It’s a voluntary role that sees me attending meetings and representing businesses and traders with other local and regional organisations including the North Street Quarter Sounding Board,” she says.
“I help organise networking and social events for the Chamber and also help with the organisation of late-night shopping each year.”
Having received excellent training herself which put her on the path to business success, Clare is very aware of the importance of helping local businesses adapt, enabling them to cope with the demands of an ever-changing marketplace.
The Chamber holds regular workshops on rapidly-moving developments such as social media, websites and technology. The local element also plays a part in the Chamber’s strategy when organising these workshops as well as networking and other events.
“We believe in supporting local businesses as much as possible so we use their venues and facilities for our meetings,” Clare explains.
The Chamber is an important conduit to the district council and other local organisations and this year has taken a prominent role in challenging proposed increases in parking charges.
It is supporting a petition objecting to the proposal by East Sussex County Council to double parking charges in the High Street.
“Businesses have to cope with ever-increasing rents and rates and I believe an increase in the cost of parking would be detrimental to the town,” Clare says. “Parking charges impact on how long visitors remain in Lewes, or even visit, and consequently on how much they spend while here.
“We also sit on the sounding board for the North Street Quarter and whatever happens with the underground car park, we want to see pay on exit there so that people aren’t constantly having to think about how much time they have left before a parking ticket runs out.”
Clare has lived in Lewes since she was five years old and believes that to take full advantage of all its wonderful environment and excellent facilities, businesses must support each other and work together for themselves and the good of the town.
“We’re a very small Chamber, run entirely by volunteers, but we believe it’s very important for our members to share information so we produce a monthly newsletter to keep them informed. We’ve relaunched our website and we are also getting better at using social media – we’re on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, and we try to share something on those platforms every day.
“At the moment we’re planning our events for next year and we’re also trying to build up our membership. We are a small Chamber but we are here for everybody – you don’t need a shop front to be a member.
“We also support each other – many of my clients are people I’ve met through the Chamber and I offer a discounted rate for any work commissioned by members. I like to keep fit so I’ve joined the recently-opened Body Happy gym in Lewes which is one of our new members.”
On a personal level, Clare is a strong believer in supporting good causes – about 70 per cent of her clients are in the voluntary sector and receive discounted rates.
She also regularly puts her fitness levels to the test to raise funds for a number of charities.
“I’ve been fundraising for ABF, The Soldiers’ Charity, for three years now, raising nearly £9K to date. This includes two 100km sponsored walks, a tandem skydive with the Red Devils, street collections, bucket collections at Lewes FC, sweepstakes, etc.
“I’ve also done sponsored walks for Macmillan, the marathon Mighty Hike, St Peter and St James Hospice and Help for Heroes on the Thames Bridge Trek.”
Clare’s company, hrscreative, supports several local charities and voluntary organisations including the Bevern Trust, Lewes and District Dementia Action Alliance and Lewes Pound, and she is involved in many of their activities. She is also just about to join Lewes Rotary.