Husband and wife Graeme Roche and Sophie Morgan-Gilder started the group to help local businesses when Covid-19 hit and threatened to take their livelihoods.
They did not come from a business background themselves – Graeme works in cyber security and Sophie is a mental health nurse. They were just two customers who recognised a problem and wanted to do something to help.
The success of the group 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.
The website is a hub for all things independent in and around Worthing, from events, articles and information, to directory listings and special offers.
Subscribers pay £4.99 a month for access to exclusive discounts and offers from a range of around 50 independents of all varieties, covering the area from Shoreham to Littlehampton and north to Pulborough.
Sophie said: “We want to make it sustainable going forward. We saw the opportunity and have developed a model where we feel everybody wins. It got to the point where we needed a plan and we decided to try to do something good with it.
“Independents are the lifeblood of Worthing. There are so many pockets of small, local businesses that people really value. The businesses get so many perks, they are loving it. It is 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 own choosing, which they can change and adapt. There is the opportunity for networking and each business will get up to two subscriptions for free, so they are benefiting from the discounts, too.
“There is no commitment for subscribers, either, and they get access to discounts at a whole range of independents.”
Sophie explained that when they started the Facebook group, it was totally unplanned and had no agenda.
“It was totally reactive,” she said. “We didn’t expect it to come to where we are now at all. It started with a conversation with John at the Brooksteed about how they were going to survive when the pubs were closed last year.
“We feel very grateful living around here and at The Brooksteed we have got to know our neighbours, we are part of a community. At the beginning of the pandemic, there was no idea what was going on. Everyone had to make their own decision about what to do.
“We just felt moved by it and I wanted to do something, so we started the Facebook group to keep people informed and it just 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.”
As the group has built, Sophie and Graeme have got to know all the businesses 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, the town and the Downs, with the iconic Dome Cinema, the place where Sophie and Graeme were married.
Visit independentworthing.co.uk for more information about subscribing and the new Independent Worthing gift voucher, which can be spent in any of the participating member businesses.