From Cape Town to Hove (actually) – a life supporting start-ups and entrepreneurs

11th June 2024

Posted on Categories LifestyleTags , , ,

How business mentor Fiona Anderson is nurturing the next generation of women-owned businesses, thanks to her background in banking.

Fiona grew up in Cape Town, South Africa and spent her childhood mostly outdoors in the sunshine. She had a difficult childhood in a single parent home where money was tight. Born in Zimbabwe to Scottish parents ,Fiona grew up in Cape Town, South Africa with her mum, younger brother and strict Scottish granny from Glasgow.

She moved to the UK in 2001 after her mother, relocated to Somerset in 2000.

Arriving  with no real plan, she eventually found her groove in Brighton, after initially living in South West London whilst working for Royal Bank of Scotland.

From an early age, she had to stand on her own 2 feet, being the eldest child in a single parent family, She learnt to always look after herself and quickly became very independent and self sufficient.

Her parents got divorced when she was 5 and her brother a baby.

Her gran lived with them and brought her and her brother up, as in South Africa there is no income support or child benefit, so her mother had to go and work.

Her father remarried and had nothing to do with the family from around the age of 9.

By that time she had become used to doing things for herself and had her first job at the age of 15. She went on to do several jobs including working in a department store at weekends and school holidays, taking orders on the phone for a pizza delivery company, working on the cash desk at a pharmacy, and the inevitable waitressing job at the local steak house.

That didn’t last too long as she didn’t like people telling her what to do!!

By the time she left school, she didn’t know what she wanted to do, so went to do a diploma in Human Resource Management (but never utilised the diploma or worked in that sector), but part of the reason she wanted to do it, was to work with and help people, something that is at her core.

Her working life in South Africa was brief and spent as a Business and Finance manager for a VW dealership from 1997-2001, where she learnt about PCP contracts, maintenance plans and selling! She loves cars and has always a VW.

By the time she came to the UK in August 2001, most of her friends were here already. Her mum was living in Somerset, but Fiona preferred it in South West London and then Brighton. Opposite ends of the country, but Fiona loves living in Brighton (well Hove actually!) and is an integral part of the business community in wider Sussex.

Fiona began working for the Royal Bank of Scotland group in April 2002. She enjoyed a lucrative career with the bank, taking on many different roles until the end of 2017. Despite not considering herself a banker, Fiona acknowledges that her time at the bank provided numerous opportunities for personal and career growth, for which she is incredibly grateful.

The culmination of that career was the impactful work at the Entrepreneurial Spark powered by NatWest, Accelerator in Brighton. During her tenure from 2015 to 2017, Fiona collaborated with nearly 300 businesses, spanning from pre-revenue idea stages to high-growth and scaling enterprises. A large number of these businesses are still active today and that makes her feel incredibly proud.

A huge part of her success is the incredible business community in Brighton and Sussex, which has enabled her to really grow as an individual. The support, care and inspiration is truly uplifting and unlike anywhere else in the country.

Over the past 8 years, since leaving Natwest, Fiona has worked in South Africa and the UK, supporting mainly women owned businesses on accelerator and innovation programmes.

With her strong background in finance, she is able to assist with accessing the right finance at the right stage of business and the process involved in preparing for that.

She has a lot of insight and experience  in grants, investment and funding.

She has expanded her knowledge of innovation and creativity and recently took an accreditation with Creative ID, a unique tool that enables individuals and teams unlock their potential through understanding creative styles and behaviours.

This tool can help teams really collaborate, innovate and inject fresh thinking into business processes. Teams become more cohesive and create a strong culture of creativity and sustainability.

As part of Fiona’s portfolio of work, she is now running workshops and programmes for teams looking to leverage more creativity and become truly innovative.

Sem, boost staff morale, work towards a common goal and enhance productivity.

Fiona is now in the next chapter of her life, focusing mainly on helping others through mentoring, coaching and being a trustee for a womans’ charity called Wayfinder Women, which helps women from challenging backgrounds become more confident and take advantage of opportunities to enhance their lives.

She is a fantastic people person, well connected, and a key collaborator in assisting businesses with navigating entrepreneurial growth, accessing funding and finance, and fostering creativity in business owners and leaders. Her expertise and dedication have significantly contributed to the entrepreneurial landscape, fostering innovation and driving business success in the Sussex region.

The need to help people is something that is a core value and a calling of Fiona’s – possibly something that comes from her past – helping others stand on their own two feet and thrive in the face of adversity.