Business

From Eden to Bega to Bermagui young people are building businesses

Elka Wood 30 May 2019
Jason and Jess live and work in Bermagui, running That Geek Guy. Photo: Supplied.

Jason Akmens and Jess Collins live and work in Bermagui, running That Geek Guy. Photo: Supplied.

Starting your own business takes ticker, it’s a leap of faith that you hope your community will support. Three new Bega Valley business’ headed by young people caught our eye. It’s the sort of drive, ambition, and service that About Regional is keen to support – as a member of that same community.

“We both love Bermi,” says Jess Collins of That Geek Guy in Bermagui “and after a few years of working seasonal and part-time jobs in the area, we started to ask ourselves – what can we bring to this town?”

With an average of 6.4 screens per household and the nearest IT repair and support business’ an hours drive from Bermagui, Jess and Jason decided to try a mobile fixing service, drawing on Jason’s experience in the IT industry.

“Jason is an absolute wizard at anything to do with technology, his last job was in the IT department of Campbell Page,” Jess says.

On top of the business, Jess and Jason’s family is also growing, with baby Luna due right as things were taking off for ‘That Geek Guy‘.

“We decided that with the baby coming, we didn’t want Jason travelling as much and as far, so we opened our Bermagui shopfront one week before she was born. I was unpacking boxes and having contractions!” Jess laughs.

Knowing the pressures of running a small business helps this geeky duo understand that when technology fails, tempers sometimes flare.

“It’s stressful, we all depend on technology now to some extent and honestly, we’re all addicted to it,” Jess laughs “Jason is really good at calming people down.”

That Geek Guy offers a generous no fix – no fee guarantee and is currently operating on shorter hours [10:00 am -2:00 pm] while Jason and Jess take some time to tend to baby Luna.

Jason Heffernan, left and Alyce Snell have taken on ownership of Tuff-As Workwear in Bega as of April this year. Photo: Supplied.

Jason Heffernan and Alyce Snell have taken on ownership of Tuff-As Workwear in Bega. Photo: Supplied.

Alyce Snell, of Cobargo and Jason Heffernan, of Candelo, both had secure jobs. In April, Alyce left that behind to go into business, her partner Jason is still juggling fulltime work on top of their new venture together.

The newly engaged couple have taken over the established storefront Tuff-As Workwear & Safety on Carp Street, Bega.

“I have a background in safety management,” Alyce explains “so it wasn’t too much of a jump to take on the shop, it ties together. And Jason and I like to work together, we work well as a team.”

Admitting that it has felt like “a bit of a gamble” at times to make the leap from the security of their council jobs, Alyce says that having fantastic staff who have made the transition with them has made all the difference.

That and the fact that Alyce can continue offering her services as a safety officer on the side, which adds to the appeal and draw of the retail business for the couple and the town.

“I can help business’ build a safety system and I offer on-site random drug testing,” Alyce explains “employers have an obligation to provide a safe workplace and ensuring their staff are fit for work is part of that.”

As well as having a focus on safety and sturdy workwear, Tuff-As offers an embroidery service to give uniforms or sportswear a personal touch.

Jayde and Jacob in action on a dive near Eden this month. On this particular dive, they saw eight Port Jackson sharks and a mob of Little penguins, among other marvels. Photo: Louise Kelly Seascapes.

Jayde and Jacob in action on a dive near Eden this month. On this particular dive, they saw eight Port Jackson sharks and a mob of Little penguins, among other marvels. Photo: Louise Kelly Seascapes.

Moving south, Jacob Bradbury and Jayde Rankin, have recently established Dive Eden.┬áBoth grew up in the Bega Valley, but both work away at the moment – Jacob as a fly-in fly-out marine engineer in Queensland, while Jayde spends three days a week working in marketing and communications in Canberra.

The two have a one to two-year plan to live and work permanently in Eden and are trying to figure out the nuts and bolts of making an income and living in the place they consider home.

“We want to find ways we can contribute,” Jayde says.

At the moment, that means having a partnership with Pickles Fishing and Outdoors, a tackle shop in Eden, where they lease scuba diving equipment.

“Not everyone has the gear to get in the water and see the amazing world down there,” Jayde says.

“We didn’t want a lack of access to equipment to be a reason for not getting in the water,” Jacob adds.

“Buying equipment is expensive so by having it for hire, we hope to make it easier for people to get in.”

Jayde and Jacob are clearly in love with the underwater world of the Sapphire Coast.

“We’ve often thought – I wish we could show more people,” Jacob says “this coast is far more diverse than the Barrier Reef is now and you can see some amazing, unique things locally.”

A dive buddy is another barrier that Jacob and Jayde want to address. Down the road, this may mean giving guided dives and boat tours but for now, they are testing the water with regular social dives, advertised on their Facebook page – there is one this weekend!

“For a while, before I knew Jacob and the dive community here, I was diving on my own, snorkelling and diving for seafood,” Jayde says “it’s not advisable to dive alone so that’s something we want to address.”

The potential in a tourist town like Eden is big but Jacob and Jayde are not rushing into anything.

“Small business is different than it used to be,” Jacob muses “it’s not a shop front and someone waiting at a desk anymore.”

Shelly's beach, Eden, is a favorite dive location. Photo: Anne-Marie Bennesly.

Shelly’s Beach, Eden, is a favourite dive location. Photo: Anne-Marie Bennesly.

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