Brighton business leader’s growing role

Posted On 30 Oct 2012 at 8:18 pm

Steve Allen’s career has taken him around the world but just over ten years ago he came back to his roots in Brighton where he was born.

The 48-year-old former Sussex Police officer started a home care business which now extends from the Kent border to Dorset, mostly in coastal towns like Seaford and Worthing.

From modest beginnings the company now employs nearly 300 people and cares for many more.

Last year he joined the board of Coast to Capital (C2C), the new local enterprise partnership.

He spends about eight days a month – unpaid – using his experience to help and guide others. But he didn’t follow a typical career path for a high-flying businessman.

Mr Allen ended up joining the police at 19 after enjoying two weeks of work experience.

He said: “I was booking people for motoring offences before I had a driving licence.”

Steve Allen

He served in Brighton, Worthing and Gatwick for seven years. The he saw an advert for a “Boy Friday and bag carrier” and switched to a new role with a consultancy called Network International.

One job involved helping Standard Chartered bank try to recover a £500 million investment which had been money laundered. He said: “We got two thirds of it back.

“I worked for Network for ten years and absolutely loved it. I headed up their operations in different countries in Latin and South America, India, Africa and the Caribbean.

“I spent a year as customs officer in Jamaica. Then my kids came along and I moved back to Sussex.”

At about the same time Control Risks, another big player in the market, took over Network.

Mr Allen cashed in his shares and invested in his own business.

Prime Care has won awards for the quality of the care that it provides to old and vulnerable adults in their own homes.

It has also proved profitable and it expanded significantly five years ago with the help of something called the Accelerator Fund.

The fund was half owned by SEEDA, the recently abolished regional development agency.

Alongside the funding, Mr Allen was put through a mini MBA at the same time.

He is mindful of how both aspects of this support spurred the growth of his business. And now he’s giving his time to C2C – effectively SEEDA’s replacement – he’s trying to repeat the same success with others.

C2C operates the Growth Fund, which lends sums to projects that have stalled as a result of the banking crisis.

One of the projects, which has attracted critics, is the i360 viewing tower next to the remains of the West Pier in Brighton.

He said that the critics had been concerned about whether the i360’s projected visitor numbers were realistic.

And he said that the protracted due diligence, which is still taking place, had been looking at comparable attractions to check their numbers. They look realistic, he said.

After all, the Growth Fund is lending £3 million, not giving a grant.

The aim is to unlock jobs and growth. C2C’s remit is all about enterprise and internationalisation.

And Brighton’s tourism and conference market brings millions of pounds into the local economy every week.

He and his colleagues are looking at another project locally, known as Block J, the final plot in the revival of the area behind Brighton station.

Separately they are looking at ways to encourage the entrepreneurs of the future.

He said: “I don’t think profit is a dirty word. Even charities need to make a surplus or they can’t do their job and they can’t employ people to do good work.”

C2C is producing guidance on enterprise education. It has a similar focus to some of the ideas being put into practice at the academies set up by Sir Rod Aldridge, the Portslade schoolboy who went on to found the outsourcing company Capita.

More immediately Mr Allen, a father of two teenagers, is finalising his preparations for a fundraising trip to Everest base camp.

He is joining Phil Frier, the recently retired principal of City College Brighton and Hove on the trek next month.

Mr Allen is raising money for Sussex Community Foundation and Action on Elder Abuse.

The pair worked closely on a jobs and skills strategy for Brighton and Hove. After Base Camp, it remains a challenging peak to conquer.


  1. Valerie Paynter Reply

    Re: the i360, it is not good enough to look at comparable attractions. How irresponsible! You have to look at comparable SITES. Comparing the London Eye, say, with the i360 is plain laughable.

    London is a vast, deeply historic site with a lot to look at. The i360 would overlook the sea, some countryside around the Downs and a lot of not very notable rooftops in a smallish town (the Pavilion and seafront squares apart, if you are an architecture enthusiast). A visit using Google Earth would suffice.

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