Chalk Newsletter: February 2021

This month's newsletter is full of some great local stories about businesses and digital education in our town. Read on!


Zoonou founders launch new software training company, Enhance QA

A new training company is to offer a range of courses designed to give learners the skills and knowledge to succeed in the computer software industry. The courses will allow businesses and individuals the opportunity to take a competitive advantage of this rapidly growing sector.

Launched by the founders of Eastbourne-based software testing and Quality Assurance services company Zoonou, Enhance QA will offer a variety of courses from beginner’s level to advanced courses including a range accredited by the British Computing Society (BCS), and has plans to add further courses to its training portfolio later this year.

Zoonou company directors, Nick Turton and Jonathan Rogers, have established Enhance QA as a partner company to meet an increasing requirement for those with the relevant sector specific software skills and qualifications.

Nick Turton, Managing Director of Zoonou said: “As more and more businesses look to improve the digital experience for their users, here at Zoonou we have seen an increase in the requirement for effective software testing. Our experience in this sector has identified that there is now a growing need for individuals who have the relevant skills to become test analysts.”

Led by Director of Training, Suzi Jones, Enhance QA's range of online courses are ideal for businesses looking to upskill their workforce or individuals hoping to diversify into the digital technology sector.

Visit Enhance QA

Esports L3 Foundation Diploma coming to East Sussex College

East Sussex College (Lewes Campus) will be offering an Esports diploma from September 2021, helping enthusiasts to prepare for a career in this growing industry.

This is one of the few courses of this kind available in the South East and students will learn industry-standard software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and After Effects.

The course will cover game theory, character design, marketing, business, event management, IT technical support and cyber security, as well as offering game play in national competitions.

Those interested are recommended to apply early.

View the course


This month, we caught up with Justine O'Connell and Rachel Bateman, cofounders of The Olive Social, to find out more about their business.

The Olive Social - what's it all about?

The Olive Social provides social media and marketing strategy and implementation services, primarily on a retainer basis for hospitality, wellbeing and lifestyle clients in Sussex.

Where did it start?

Although their business is based in Brighton, co-founders Justine and Rachel are both Eastbournians at heart. Both grew up in the town and then met at Bournemouth Uni. Rachel now once again lives in Eastbourne and Justine is looking to relocate back here from Hove.

After uni, Justine and Rachel moved to London and had similar marketing roles in the hospitality industry. Having worked the long and demanding hours necessary in the industry, they decided they wanted to do something by themselves and have the freedom of owning their own business.

They have vast experience with restaurant groups, such as Gordon Ramsay, Caprice Holdings (which includes eateries such as The Ivy and Scott's restaurant), The Coal Shed and The Salt Room, and with hotels like The Grand Brighton and Firmdale Hotels: the industry expertise Rachel and Justine gained from these roles led them to focus on this particular niche with The Olive Social, however they have rolled out their offering to other industries and SMEs too.

They tend to have separate clients but work on larger projects together.

Tell us about your clients?

The Olive Social work with ChickBox, a female focused fitness facility in Eastbourne. It's a 360 gym, so alongside small group and 1:1 personal training in the gym and online, it offers other lifestyle services such as fitness accelerator and wellbeing programmes and specialist nutrition coaching.

The Olive Social works with ChickBox on their member relationships, particularly focusing on nurturing their membership programme throughout the pandemic. During the past year, their business has moved online, so The Olive Social has helped them set up the online portal, on-demand training, videos, and programmes, and looked at their system integrations to help support the membership experience.

As a result, The Olive Social has helped ChickBox keep a solid business going throughout the pandemic and keep their members happy.

Justine and Rachel have also worked with Hotel Du Vin in Brighton on their social media and strategy, as well as the Real Eating Company, a british-led chain of cafés. Their work with this client has been particularly interesting during the pandemic as the government rules have led to them opening and closing many times: this is challenging from a marketing point of view when work has started on building up a particular campaign. They've helped to define their message regarding opening for takeaway.

What challenges have you faced during the pandemic?

As you can imagine, with a niche in hospitality, The Olive Social's clients have faced a difficult year. Despite the challenges, The Olive Social have only lost one client over this period - all their other clients have kept them on in some capacity as they needed the support.

At the start of the pandemic, Justine and Rachel were on hand to help their clients, such as Kindling Restaurant in Brighton, pivot to online collections, both in terms of ensuring the customer retention was there and also with the practicalities: how to transfer a restaurant meal into a box, how to sell it, how to message it, how to take orders.

Previously where they'd work out their strategy, make a plan and follow the plan, they find they are regularly having to come back to the drawing board to stop, start and reevaluate their next steps as the situation changes.

Their clients have really appreciated the value they've added to their businesses, by having someone external to discuss things with and help to guide them through the process. Justine and Rachel are usually the first people they call when government advice changes - for example, when they put together a comprehensive 'Eat Out to Help Out' campaign in just a day.

Justine and Rachel themselves are planning to pivot their business a little in the wake of the pandemic. In addition to offering ongoing monthly packages of marketing support, they will also offer small businesses the opportunity to book marketing consultancy by the hour. This is a chance for independent businesses to access expert marketing knowledge on an adhoc basis - whenever they need! Anything from a plan or idea run through to social media advice or a social content brainstorm, this new service will offer succinct, valuable and actionable marketing advice for those small founder-led/solopreneurs in particular, helping to drive their business goals forward.

Why Eastbourne?

Rachel and Justine certainly fly the flag for Eastbourne, but they do believe it gets a bad reputation. There are a lot of youngsters in the town who enjoy eating in nice restaurants and cafés, and Eastbourne is starting to offer that; there's now much more variation in cuisines. We're also known for our theatres; some amazing acts have played in the town. The sense of community in the town is also a big factor.

Eastbourne's house prices provide lots of potential for people in a position to move: for the price of Justine's two-bed flat in Brighton, she has realised she can afford a decent-sized house in Eastbourne.

Justine and Rachel believe the seafront in Eastbourne is prettier than Brighton's (of course!), and the access to the sea and the Downs is great. Eastbourne has nice pubs, a great beach, and is perfect for families - especially during lockdown when it is so easy to get out into the countryside.

They'd love to see Eastbourne making the most of all of its opportunities in a similar way to Visit Brighton, filling its hotel rooms every night and attracting Londoners down to our many historic and iconic hotels - especially as our room rates are cheaper than Brighton's. With more marketing support, they believe this can improve. Perhaps Justine's experience as a judge for the Afternoon Tea Awards can help!

If you'd like your company featured in this section, please click here to book in a chat!



25-26 March 2021, online, free.

The popular BrightonSEO event is back this spring with 50+ bitesize talks to stream for free. The talks cover everything from technical SEO and content to outreach, data, user experience and accessibility. There are also social and relaxation sessions on mindfulness, yoga and craft.

View event

Chalk Talks


You might have missed it in the news, but scientists have taught spinach to send emails, which could warn us about climate change.

Engineers at MIT have transformed spinach into sensors capable of detecting explosive materials and wirelessly relay this information back to scientists. When the spinach roots detect compounds in groundwater, the plant leaves emit a signal. This is read by an infrared camera and the scientists are alerted.

Although the technology was first developed to warn of explosives, the plants absorb vast amounts of data so are ideally suited to monitor ecological changes.

It's exciting to see such advances and the amounts of information we can harvest from our living world around us. Perhaps one day we'll be using these plant-based indicators for local projects, such as Eastbourne Air.

What's next? DMs from your grass, telling you it needs a trim? A video call from your apple trees? Spam spam?*

*Check out what the professional comedians came up with instead: You've Got Spinach Mail | The Last Leg

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