3 August 2020

Collaboration and support is key to Bega Valley business success

| Karyn Starmer
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From left: Greg Saarinen, Kay Saarinen, Jackie Parry, Mia Maze, Christie Sproates, William Sharples.

From left: Greg and Kay Saarinen of Saarinen Organics; Jackie Parry of SisterShip Training; Bega Valley Innovation Hub manager Mia Maze; Christie Sproates of Appy Connections; and William Sharples from Eden Game Development Centre. Photo: Supplied.

After two years of helping Bega Valley entrepreneurs bring their business ideas to life, the Bega Valley Innovation Hub (BVIH) is hoping for news of a new round of funding to keep the successful business startup program going.

BVIH regional manager Mia Maze says the locally delivered and facilitated program has now supported more than 120 local businesses. With a thriving community of innovators and aspiring businesses now trained and supported, she says the whole Bega Valley community will benefit through employment opportunities and cultural benefits the businesses provide.

The idea behind BVIH is to engage the entrepreneurial culture of the region’s existing businesses as well as startup-minded individuals wishing to explore new sectors and markets, and to offer training and support to move their business or idea to the next level of operation.

“The Bega Valley Innovation Hub has now created a community of innovators, changemakers and business owners who actively collaborate and support each other,” says Mia. “They are a part of leading a successful innovative economy and will create jobs for the future of the Bega Valley.”

The BVIH Accelerate Program was developed at the iAccelerate Centre at the University of Wollongong’s Innovation Campus and is a part of the university’s commitment to growing a thriving regional economy.

Program participants co-working and training at the Bega Valley Innovation Hub. Photo: Supplied.

Since the past summer’s bushfires and COVID-19, BVIH has been assisting businesses with workshops and programs to stabilise after the disruption to the region.

“We have called it the Phoenix Program,” says Mia. “We moved our sessions online and introduced digital technology to our programming to keep the support and training going so we can help each of the businesses to survive, grow and stay connected.

“We have connected local knowledge and expertise with our 120 business owners to deliver training and support for the economic recovery of our region.”

Andrew D’Arnay from Mondo Grass Garden Design built his website through the sessions and has been able to design gardens for two people who lost their homes and gardens in the Tathra bushfires. He is hoping more locals will take up the garden design service when spring arrives.

“The Bega Valley Innovation Hub course taught me how to put a website together and how to market on social media,” he says. “I am now working with a local landscaper who is good at construction.

“I always knew the Innovation Hub was there. I was on its mailing list so after the fires and COVID-19, I thought it was a good opportunity to do one of their courses.”

Participants of the first program pitching their ideas to the market in 2019. Photo: Supplied.

Wonboyn Cabins & Caravan Park owner Luke Burch also took the opportunity to do the Phoenix Program’s WordPress course as he wanted more website-building skills. He says the course was ideal for getting the ball rolling with the building of his website.

“The help from the innovation hub and [Bega Valley Shire Council] has been amazing,” he says. “We only moved here in October and instantly there was ample help for anyone who reached out.

“I’ve built our new website and have got business through it already.

“I’m looking at starting a microbrewery now, and they are helping me with that idea, too.”

Bega Valley Shire Council’s manager economic development, Daniel Murphy, has advised that an application for more funding for the Hub is being prepared and, if successful, it will start back up again in late 2020 or early 2021.

“We want to see the Innovation Hub journey continue in the Bega Valley, and through the further support of our key stakeholders, we will have the chance to embed a culture of entrepreneurship that can help our region recover from bushfires and COVID-19,” he says.

Mia agrees: “After the success of our first programs, we are hoping we can meet and help more people to bring their business ideas to reality and continue to make Bega Valley a place for businesses to thrive.”

To make an enquiry or learn more, visit Bega Valley Innovation Hub.

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