Phil Ashford

Phil Ashford
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Tell us about you:

A social entrepreneur who co-owns and runs a growing not for profit agency (Enterprise Exchange) that helps people from disdvantaged backgrounds into self employment. Phil has an extensive background in business development in both the private and public sector ranging from dealing with City firms to Universities and SMEs. He also worked in the corporate world for 14 years as a planning manager and business analyst for Panasonic business systems and technology start up Sky active. Phil found his calling in business advice when working for businesslink as an adviser to SMEs and as Director of their East Sussex Enterprise Gateway. He is a Prince2 Practioner and has an MBA, diploma in performance management and is going through the PTTLS teaching course. He is also the Chair of Trustees for local charity Furniture Now.

The beginning - your ‘eureka’ moment:

Businesslink ran a service in East Sussex which helped people from disdvantaged backgrounds into self employment called the East Sussex Enterprise Gateway. Phil became the Director and found it the most rewarding role he had ever had. When the service was cut, it became clear to him and his co-directors that there was a huge gap that mainstream business support would not fill for the client group. It was at that point that they thought they could do it themselves - so they set up the agency Enterprise Exchange. 

The best and the worst of times:

The best of times is when the clients are progressing, feedback is positive from all concerned, the contract holders are paying on time and the business development pipeline is full and responsive. The worst of times are VAT returns, clients that fall off the rails through external influences, and weekends doing administration!

What gets you out of bed in the morning - what motivates you?

Having a passion for the client group and the knowledge that you are getting paid to fundamentally change someones life for the better.

Luck or skill - what gets your further?

Luck will always have a part in any business, but unless you have the commitment and skills in the first place you are less likely to make that luck happen.

Define ‘entrepreneur’:

I think there is no one size that fits all - but I think an entrepreneur is someone who can make a positive difference in the world.

Moving on up - your ambitions and the next big thing:

Enterprise Exchange wants to be the number one provider of specialist self employment help for disadvantaged people in the South East. In the longer term we would like to be involved in micro enterprise projects in the third world. We are currently working with prisoners in HMP Lewes, the unemployed in London and young people in Newhaven. We would like to expand our service to more prisons and to work with more young people.

Your top tips:

Passion and belief, business planning, resilience, ability to work long hours, never be afraid to learn from others.

"Enterprise Exchange have inspired me to turn my life around and have a real future" Prisoner, HMP Lewes "I personally think Enterprise Exchange is a truly innovative way of helping prisoners both inside and out of prison" Prisoner, HMP Lewes "The Enterprise Exchange workshop was the most inspirational thing I have been to all year" Work programme client, London. "I would happily recommend Enterprise Exchange to funders and would be glad to work with you in the future as you grow." Caroline Lucas MP

Phil Ashford