This Sussex Life. Alumna Sara Osterholzer: "People are fed up with sacrificing themselves to big corporates."
By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Thursday, 30 September 2021
There's something about Sussex that connects so much to who I am. I was born in Berlin and grew up in India and loved that I had a very international friendship group at Sussex. The diversity of thinking I experienced at Sussex really helps me now. It gave me space to explore things and to go out into the world confidently and passionately, believing in what I do.
It’s been great reconnecting to become an Entrepreneur in Residence, I was so flattered to be asked by the Careers and Employability Centre, particularly as the role is so aligned to what is important to me - helping young people into the world of business. It means I can share my experience to help others. I’m really looking forward to getting involved with the Sussex team, academic staff and the students.
I chose to do a BSc in International Business at Sussex because I had plans to travel, but I also knew university wasn't just about a degree, it was about the experience and all the other opportunities on campus. When I started looking for courses, Sussex came up as one of the top places for international business - with the bonus of being in Brighton!
Business studies is predominantly about problem solving and realising that there’s not a right answer, just different solutions. I decided it would be the most useful degree I could do because whatever you do, you're going to be working in a business, right?
I went to a Refresher Fair in my second year at Sussex, and I saw a banner that said, ‘Do good through business’. It was for a society called Enactus, which supported students to set up social enterprise projects while at university. It combined everything that interested me, so I just jumped in. I ended up creating a role that brought project leads together, allowing them to learn from each other rather than working in isolation.
When I left university, I didn’t have much experience but I had bucket loads of energy and passion. I did a marketing internship for a company in Brighton through Sussex Santander Internship Scheme, and then I freelanced, helping to get different start-ups off the ground. I got the experience of doing a variety of roles, from the admin, to event co-ordination, to client management. I realised I really like working with early-stage businesses. I couldn’t see myself going down the big corporate route.
Because running a good business isn't easy, at The Good Business Club we figure out all the hurdles collectively and to see how businesses can support each other and learn from each other rather than struggling in isolation.
For us, it's about working with businesses that have a purpose beyond just making a profit. We follow a framework that includes looking at how the business creates work that’s fair for everyone, whether the supply chains are sustainable and ethical, and the impact of the business on the local and wider communities.
Members of The Good Business Club include a London cleaning agency that pays the living wage to all its cleaners, an ethical supermarket in Brighton, a company that recycles textiles left over after festivals, a Hove bakery that also runs mental well-being breadmaking sessions, and a green energy co-operative.
There’s a difference between the way men and women set up businesses. I’ve experienced that generally men are more willing to try something even before they have figured it out, whereas women sometimes feel the need to know all the details before getting stuck in. A tiny percentage of Investment is given to female founders. It's hugely dominated by men being able to access funding.
96% of businesses in the UK employ fewer than 10 staff, which effectively means that the the UK is run by small businesses. There's power in that. I meet a lot of people who have set up their own business because they’re fed up with sacrificing themselves for big corporations. Many people say they often feel more secure being self-employed than working for a company, where they don’t feel they’re being told what’s really happening. If you think about it, if all small businesses did something differently, approached things differently, we'd be more connected with people and the planet and together we can make changes that are beneficial to everyone in society.
This profile is part of our This Sussex Life series