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Saffron Saunders – Year One as CEO of StartUp Croydon

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I celebrated my one year anniversary this month and I’m suddenly realising how quickly time goes by.  

Twelve months is a long time, especially during the pandemic and, with the ever changing economic landscape, means I have had to bide my time, planning and executing funding proposals, and adjust to alternating advice regarding working from home.  

We are delivering enterprise training for Croydon residents and continue to meet and support amazingly ambitious individuals who are looking to fulfil their dreams through developing their business ideas.  Our revamped 3 day training course now known as ‘The Start Up and Go Bootcamp’ is an interactive training programme with fantastic speakers from the business community.  

Don’t just take my word for it – check out this google review from a recent attendee.  

Before the pandemic Croydon Business Ventures business model was buoyant, all profits from our office space and meeting room sales were donated to our charity arm to deliver training and 1-2-1 mentoring sessions. Just like any other flexible workspace providers, we have been under occupied for 2 years now and our margins have suffered. We have, however, managed to freeze rent charges for our loyal tenants who have continued to support us by maintaining their office space. 

To do this we have  completely pivoted our funding process by applying for grants to help us survive as well as stripping back our outgoing costs to bridge the gap. We have sought sponsorship for events and done everything possible to prevent passing on costs to our service users.  

When I first joined the team at Start Up Croydon, we assessed our offering through a SWOT analysis and the one thing that stood out to be amiss was community. The breakout space on the ground floor was never used by tenants and lacked energy and purpose.  

It is now a work in progress with upbeat music, a quiet co-working area and drop in work stations. We have been able to develop community by providing time limited, free work stations for our Incubator attendees who are working hard to develop their business plans. We have a business library with resources that include research packages and training modules to upskill our ambitious entrepreneurs.  

Anyone renting office space with us knows they are paying it forward to support others, but they are also now part of a dynamic and supportive community. We have weekly accountability events, to bring tenants and alumni together, creating connections which deliver opportunity for our local economy, and our intention is to take these off line into ‘netwalking sessions’ around Wandle Park in March.

We have recently published our latest Impact report for 20/21 highlighting the hard work we have delivered throughout the pandemic especially through our incubator programme – it’s been a year of change and growth and I am incredibly proud of everything we have achieved and the people who have developed their dreams.

We continue to plan and deliver more exciting events and projects to enable economic growth in our borough, after meeting with one of our original founders Geoffrey Dove who started the organisation on 1983 and hearing more about how the organisation has evolved over the years,  I feel a great sense of responsibility to sustain this growth and impact more people positively.

If you would like to benefit from our training or support then please get in touch

If you are fed up with working from home and want to join our business community, we have excellent office space, 2 mins walk from Wandle Park tram stop, but also have a secure carpark and even electric charging ports, in addition to a lovely café over the road and free meeting room use.  All at frozen 2020 prices!

We are now offering Flexi office space – Have an office with us 2 days a month for only £100 including VAT.

Don’t hesitate to reach out for a free trial day at our hub – we very much look forward to seeing you. 


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