University of Brighton Alumni Association

Picture of Ella Gilchrist

Gaining the confidence to launch her own award-winning business

Despite it not being directly linked to her degree, the confidence Ella Anais Gilchrist gained at the University of Brighton inspired her to start her own business.

Career paths aren’t linear – your time at Brighton might inspire you to embark on something that isn’t directly linked to your degree. It’s the personal experiences that can shape you and set you on a different path to one you hadn’t even considered.

For example, Ella studied Textiles with Business Studies and since graduating has gone on to launch her own successful and award-winning social media business Sociella.

We caught up with her to learn more about this journey, her work with Beepurple (the university’s entrepreneurship support service) and advice she has for current students who might be considering going freelance with their new found skills after graduating.

Experiences at Brighton that shaped her both personally and professionally

“My experience at the University of Brighton helped me to build confidence and learn to say yes to every opportunity. Saying ‘yes’ has led me to create long lasting relationships with many people I met at university, who have gone on to be huge supporters of my business!

“During my final major project, I decided to focus on highlighting the refugee crisis that was extremely prevalent during 2019. Because of this I was encouraged and supported to go over to Calais to volunteer with the charities Help Refugees and Refugee Community Kitchen. This experience was truly eye opening and is something I will never forget.”

What is Sociella?

“I am a social media manager and content creator based in Brighton and Hove. I help busy business owners create incredible strategies and content to help them grow through the power of social media. I do this by helping them to save time and brain space, so they can get on with the tasks that they truly value whilst knowing that their online promotion is being taken care of.

“Sociella was born from a desire and knowing that I wanted to have something for myself, a business to call mine, and a lifestyle that I enjoyed and thrived in. Whilst travelling in the summer of 2020, I listened to business podcasts, went through my ideas, drafted branding ideas, and thought about the type of content I could share on social media to help me get my first client. This three-month period equipped me with everything I needed to finally launch in October 2020. Since then, I have been continually learning and perfecting my craft to help benefit my business and my clients in the best way possible!”

Taking Pride in her company and giving back with talks to students

“I’m so proud of myself for launching my own business, Sociella. After not knowing what I wanted to do I am so proud of myself for just ‘going for it’. I am also proud of all the speaking events I have been invited to at the University of Brighton. Educating, connecting and working with students to help them launch their own businesses is truly incredible.

“It feels so surreal to be the person at the front after spending 4 years being in the audience and learning from others!”

Success, recognition expansion of the business

“In the last 6 months, I have received two awards and a finalist of another! This is a huge achievement for me and something that I didn’t think would be possible as a self-employed business owner. I have won Most Impactful Social Media Agency Founder 2023 (East Sussex) by CEO Monthly and Best Social Media Management & Content Creation Company 2023 – East Sussex by SME News 2023 Business Elite Awards and I became a finalist for Young Professional of the Year 2023 by The Dynamic Awards.

“Recently, I have onboarded a team member who has been assisting me with the day-to-day running of Sociella and helping me with client work, which has been a huge but vital investment for me. This support has allowed me to focus on other parts of my business that needed work so that I can continue to grow Sociella in the future. It has been so wonderful to know that I am investing in Sociella and myself in this way.”

Working with Beepurple at the University of Brighton

“One of my favourite roles in my freelance career is the opportunity to speak to students at the University of Brighton about my experiences as a business owner. As a student, I felt that I didn’t know much about the opportunities that can arise when going down the freelance/self-employment route, which is probably why I felt so apprehensive about choosing this as my career path! To be able to share my learnings and achievements and offer honest advice and tips to budding entrepreneurs is a rewarding and special opportunity.  

“It is a pleasure to work with Beepurple and the University of Brighton, as I think it’s super important when you’re learning and trying to figure out what it is you want to do with your career to listen to other people’s experiences. Also, to understand that just because you have chosen to do something in a particular way at this time, it doesn’t define you or what your career can look like in the years to come.”

Clare Griffiths, Business Development Manager (Entrepreneurship) at the University of Brighton has this to say about working with Ella:

“I often invite Ella back to the university, to talk to our students about her journey into self-employment. She always delivers an engaging talk, reflecting on her personal experience of setting up her own social media consultancy. The students really appreciate her candid approach, and relish the practical tips she shares with them, informed by her experience of setting up her own business. She is a fantastic guest speaker!’

Advice for people considering launching their own company

“I am a strong believer that you don’t need a particular skill to be a successful business owner. There’s no one answer to this! A lot of the skills that I have learned since launching in 2020 have been entirely self-taught and picked up along the way. I built my website by myself by watching YouTube videos, I took part in free online courses for marketing to brush up on my skills and I have collaborated with experts when there was something that I just couldn’t wrap my head around. 

“Not knowing 100% of your interest or skill shouldn’t put you off launching ‘that thing’. Make that your mission and keep learning along the way. Speak to people with different opinions from you, learn from people who may be further along in their journey than you, and keep pushing on, even when it feels like you can’t do it anymore!

“I have had to learn the psychology behind selling and the thought process of business owners who are looking for support within their businesses. Selling is a skill – it is something that is vital when talking to potential clients and convincing people online that you are the best match for them! It is also good to understand how people’s minds work when it comes to pricing your services or products and how to pique their interest to get them to the next stage in your business – whether that is a follow on social media, an enquiry or a sale of your product!”

Words of wisdom for students

“You don’t need to have it all figured out. I certainly didn’t! Your degree doesn’t define who you are or what you need to do in life. Explore, have fun, try new things and keep saying yes to opportunities that excite you!

“Success to me is being happy! I used to think it was earning a certain amount of money, but I think to be successful is to have a well-balanced life. Work hard, but play hard too! Make sure you make time for yourself.”

Alumniawardaward winningawardsbrighton effectbusinessbusiness studiesgraduatesocial mediatextilesUniversity of Brighton

Alex Petrovic • March 7, 2024

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