• Loddon Herald

Collaborate and innovate


WHAT value has Startup Central Victoria contributed to our entrepreneurship ecosystem over the past 10 months?

Perhaps it would be best to start with: Why is this important?

Having studied this topic for over a decade and written two books on the topic, my stock answer is ‘Entrepreneurship is Everybody’s Business, and ‘Community and business go hand in hand.’

As Christine Coombes from the Loddon Shire added when I asked her thoughts: ‘Business builds. Business builds our region. Business builds our hubs. Business builds our people.’

With our peers from across the region, Christine and I spent a fun day exploring what our entrepreneurship ecosystem currently looks like and what we’d like it to be into the future.

The reality is that an ecosystem is quite complex, and we all have a role to play even as individuals, whether it be as a customer, investor, or supporter.

An ecosystem needs brave entrepreneurs willing to start something new to meet needs and benefit our communities through creation of jobs. But they also need the support of ‘champions’ who give encouragement and help open doors.

While entrepreneurs learn in very different ways often outside the system, educators will create the talent to work in their businesses.

And of course, we need the groups that bring people together to spark new ideas and collaborate.

While building a strong ecosystem takes time and needs to be constantly nurtured, Startup Central Victoria has successfully strengthened this process.

To collaborate and innovate we need to bring a diverse group of people together. Not from the same town or the same sector. Not with the same skills sets. This program with a regional focus has tapped into aspiring entrepreneurs and champions to create new conversations and pool our knowledge and resources.

A resident of Wedderburn volunteered as one of our many mentors and another from Dingee explored a new business idea through the Startup Central Victoria Accelerator Program.

The Kooyoora Women’s Network celebrated women in business as part of International Women’s Day.

Loddon Shire residents logged into the 16 online Meetups presented by businesspeople from across the region generously sharing their knowledge.

Over the past 10 months 28 businesses were accepted into two Accelerator Programs that ran for a total of 12 weeks each.

Everyone was at a different stage in their business development – ideation, startup or scaleup. The program consisted of workshops with experts, but the most valuable component according to the participants themselves was having a volunteer mentor who helped to answer their questions and guide them in the right direction.

At the start of the program participants ranked their confidence in driving their businesses forward and then again at the end.

Their confidence levels all ranked significantly higher at the end and for very good reason.

They made a commitment to find the time in their busy lives and were given the support to focus on testing and growing their business idea.

Along with seven others, Jo Allan from Castlemaine launched her vision for the Australian National Transcription Service at a Showcase event on June 9.

Afterwards she was approached by a prospective customer, and she was asked to submit a pitch to three different investors. ‘This has validated that my idea has merit and is taking me a step closer to achieving it,’ she said.

Some of the ideas sparked at two open Forums have included a Tech Park and Post Screening Production Company and discussions are continuing. These events are clearly of value.

But where to now?

We are very grateful to the State Government for funding this pilot project and to the City of Greater Bendigo for leading it.

A consortium of private and public entities is now being explored to continue the legacy of Startup Central Victoria.

A short video has been produced to help explain why it is worth continuing.

In the meantime, we can all do our bit. To shine the light on our local businesses, be a customer, and give an encouraging word. To introduce an aspiring entrepreneur to a ‘champion’ for support.

And for inspiration and practical advice, don’t forget to access the wonderful resources, including recordings of Meetups, on the website.

* Kerry Anderson has been the Startup Central Victoria project lead

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