Haywards Heath Business Association members reconnect in the sunshine at Ridgeview Wine Estate in Ditchling

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For the past 18 months, HHBA events have mostly taken place online, but members were finally able to meet up in large groups outdoors.

Guests enjoyed a glass of Ridgeview wine upon arrival, followed by a tour of the vineyard and wine tasting in the garden with canapes.

HHBA President Clare Jones said she was looking forward to the event.

Sue Llewellyn, Commercial Director of HHBA, and Clare Jones, President of HHBA. Photo: Dan Ford, StoryScreen.

“It really lived up to my expectations and the venue is beautiful,” said marketing videographer Clare.

“It was amazing to come back with all of our members and see them in person,” she said, adding that the weather had been glorious.

“We’ve been so restricted for the past 18 months and this has really been the first opportunity for everyone to fully mingle and not have to worry,” she said.

HHBA members mingle at the Summer Drinks at Ridgeview Wine Estate event on Wednesday, August 25. Photo: Dan Ford, StoryScreen.

Clare said HHBA realized the Covid pandemic was going to change everything days before the first lockdown in March 2020.

Committee member Caroline Buchan recommended holding their next meeting over Zoom, she said, and the HHBA decided to hold a finance meeting.

“Everyone’s businesses were starting to slow down or come to a complete halt and that was quite concerning,” Clare said.

But instead of panicking, she said the HHBA had “rolled up its sleeves” and set up an online event schedule.

Stephen Hillier, Cabinet Member for Economic Growth at Mid Sussex District Council. Photo: Dan Ford, StoryScreen.

It was “complete teamwork” between HHBA’s business manager, Sue Llewellyn, the committee members and all the other members as well, Clare said.

She went on to say that the HHBA had developed a good relationship with Mid Sussex District Council and the grants team, adding that membership benefited people who needed government support.

“You had to know how to get it, if you were eligible and what the criteria were, and we were the vehicle to get that information out to companies,” Clare said.

“Mid Sussex District Council were really passionate about helping businesses in the area as much as possible,” she said, thanking MSDC grants team leader Kevin Stewart.

HHBA members mingle at the Summer Drinks at Ridgeview Wine Estate event on Wednesday, August 25. Photo: Dan Ford, StoryScreen.

At the moment the HHBA is aiming to grow its membership and has a schedule of events planned until the end of the year, which people can check out at hhba.co.uk.

Stephen Hillier, cabinet member for economic growth at Mid Sussex District Council, said the wine networking event had been “glorious”.

He said the business associations at Haywards Heath, East Grinstead and Burgess Hill had been “absolutely fantastic” during the pandemic, directing businesses to the council so it could help them apply for the right grants.

“I don’t think Sue and Clare would mind me saying they were amazing,” he said, adding that HHBA quickly moved to virtual meetings instead of just “closing up shop.”

“I am full of praise and admiration for them,” he added.

Mr. Hillier also thanked Kevin Stewart for his hard work and enthusiasm.

Jonathan Lea, an attorney who runs The Jonathan Lea Network, said, “It’s good to be back now.”

“It’s a very useful way to get out, take a break and get to know people in the area better,” he said.

Jonathan added that the HHBA had been a great way to make local connections after moving to the London area five years ago.

Paul Boon, of the Boon Hospitality Solutions event sponsors, said it was great to see people in person at the “stunningly beautiful venue”.

“With the times we’ve been through or are still going through, it’s really important to support local businesses,” he said.

Paul said while much of his company’s work in managing event hospitality experiences was national or international, it was important to help local venues like Ridgeview, as well as industry colleagues. like the restaurants of Haywards Heath high street.

“We have fantastic venues on our doorstep,” he said.

“We have this (Ridgeview), we have other wineries, we have other properties hosting events and we need to maximize that and present it in the best possible light.”

HHBA provides members with guidance, support and ongoing social contact with each other.

Members can showcase their business through an online directory and website, showcase their products and services, expand their expertise with “meet the experts” sessions, and work closely with councils, deputies and other organisations.

Membership starts from £10 per month and there are now around 140 HHBA member companies.

Visit hhba.co.uk to see the trade association’s latest video on how it has helped support the local business community over the past 18 months.

Ridgeview Wine Estate was established in 1995 in Ditchling Common and has been producing world class sparkling wines for over 25 years.

It was one of the first wineries in England to focus solely on producing sparkling wines from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes and each grape is picked by hand.

Ridgeview Winery is a second generation family business and was founded by Mike Roberts MBE.

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