Economy

Sea weed farms, surf board manufacturing, tiny house ownership – Bega Valley Innovation Hub creates economy of the future

Ian Campbell5 December 2019
Jeb Done, Patricia Mills, Karolina Russell, Sarah Campbell-Lambert, Leanne Atkinson, Jo Lane, Dinah Facius - start ups from the Bega Valley Innovation Hub. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Jeb Done, Patricia Mills, Karolina Russell, Sarah Campbell-Lambert, Leanne Atkinson, Jo Lane, Dinah Facius – start ups from the Bega Valley Innovation Hub. Photo: Ian Campbell.

The next wave of entrepreneurs has emerged from the Bega Valley Innovation Hub. Six unique ideas that span a range of needs and ambitions. The one common bond is that all are keen to grow the region’s economy and employment opportunities.

Last week’s Pitch Final was the culmination of the 12-week business accelerator program through the University of Wollongong’s (UoW) iAccelerate Innovation Network.

From it’s base in North Wollongong iAccelerate has created over 500 jobs and 60 companies; UoW has similar goals for regional areas as their network widens. The second cohort from the Bega Valley link in that program boasts job potential in health, education, manufacturing, construction, and aquaculture.

Around 100 people attended the Pitch Final at the Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre to hear what ideas have emerged from the Innovation Hub now.

An audience of around 100 people attended the Pitch Final of the Bega Valley Innovation Hub, Sarah Campbell-Lambert makes her case. Photo: Ian Campbell.

An audience of around 100 people attended the Pitch Final of the Bega Valley Innovation Hub, Sarah Campbell-Lambert makes her case. Photo: Ian Campbell.

All six new business made strong, dynamic pitches to the four judges.

Karolina Russell of Festival Director broke the ice announcing a new name for the online ticketing business she runs with her partner Shane – Eventslab.

Festival Director and now Eventslab offers customised online ticketing with website integration, allowing clients to sell under their own brand – their own website and social media pages, rather than providing links to websites of third-party ticket sellers.

The Eventslab software was originally written to manage their own events and grew in popularity due to the logistical and financial challenges event managers face. Since early 2016 they have helped their clients sell over $13 million in tickets.

“We are currently building version two of our platform which will see full customisation and automation for all of our users – meaning that we can support tens of thousands of events at any one time,” Karolina says.

Dinah Facius is the founder of Freedom Health and Yoga, and creator of the ‘Back-Pain Recovery Kit’.

“Back Pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide with 540 million sufferers. 40% of sufferers go on to develop chronic back pain,” she says.

Dinah suffered her own acute back pain episode 15 years ago and has turned her own experience into a back health online program.

Dianah is hoping Bega Valley locals and businesses might be interested in being part of her further product testing and refinement. You can make contact via the Innovation Hub.

Pambula based Jed Done has a life-long passion for designing and shaping surfboards. He is fuelled by his commitment to raising the bar in surfboard design and performance.

For Jed and his wife and business partner Patricia Mill, joining the innovation hub has been an opportunity for them to refine and market their product and make business connections at a national and international level.

“At this point, we are building eight to ten boards a week,” Patricia says “beyond that we have thought about building our own factory and getting people in and training them up.”

Jed Done and Patrica Mills make their pitch to the judges - Omar Khalifa, Stephanie Kimber, Cr Kristy McBain, Zoe Naden. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Jed Done and Patrica Mills make their pitch to the judges – Omar Khalifa, Stephanie Kimber, Cr Kristy McBain, Zoe Naden. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Sarah Campbell Lambert is Ginger the Frog and uses fun interactive educational programs to establish healthy emotions and mindfulness in parents and kids aged 3 to 7 years.

Sarah says the Innovation Hub has helped with her ambitions to get Ginger the Frog into schools and homes around the world.

“When I trialled Ginger at Bermagui School with kids and their parents, as the stories unfolded they all wanted to help Ginger feel better – they learned together as they did the exercises because it was fun and it made them feel good,” Sarah says.

Well known political candidate, Leanne Atkinson has taken a different approach to one of the issues she looked to tackle as a politician.

“Homelessness and housing affordability for our most vulnerable is a serious issue across the region. It is not just a city based problem, it is less obvious in the country and is often hidden,” she says.

Leanne’s social enterprise Road to Home creates an alternative path to homeownership for people who are currently being left behind.

“I believe that I can help people make that transition from renter to buyer and I also believe that ‘tiny houses’ could be that way to finding a pathway to home-ownership,” she says.

Road to Home is an online platform that connects future homeowners with tiny house builders, people with land that could accommodate tiny houses and money lending institutions. Leanne would act as the facilitator and coordinator that brings it all together.

Jo Lane is ‘The Kelp Lady’ from Tilba based Sea Health Products and wild harvests and processes kelp for use in health and food supplements.

As a Yulgilbar Churchill Fellow Jo has not long since returned from a study tour of Asia, Europe and America where she was investigating kelp farms.

“I feel more than ready to introduce kelp farming to Australia – right here on the South Coast,” she says.

Aside from the health and nutrition benefits, Jo points to pharmaceuticals, farm feeds and fertilisers as other uses for seaweed as well as drawing carbon out of the atmosphere in these days of climate change.

“We’ve received support and initial funding from UTS (University of Technology) to develop our pilot hatchery and optimise breading techniques – I want to be a kelp farmer,” Jo says.

Jo Lane - the judges 'winner' with Stephanie Kimber, Omar Khalifa and Innovation Hub Manager, Mia Maze. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Jo Lane – the judges ‘winner’ with Stephanie Kimber, Omar Khalifa and Innovation Hub Manager, Mia Maze. Photo: Ian Campbell.

It’s a vision the panel of four Pitch Final judges believe in too, awarding Jo and Sea Health Products their top prize on the night.

The panel included Omar Khalifa, CEO at the University of Wollongong’s iAccelerate, Bega Valley Mayor Cr Kristy McBain, Zoe Naden from the Australian Government’s Entrepreneurs’ Program, and Stephanie Kimber from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

“There is no such thing as a loser tonight, everyone has delivered fantastic ideas and presentations,” Omar says.

Jed Done Surfboards picked up second prize from the judges and Road to Home was third.

Jo Lane also won the People’s Choice Award from the audience gathered.

All startups shared in cash and advertising packages from About Regional/Region Media, East Coast Radio, Australian Community Media, and Nine Entertainment.

Having spent the last six months working out of the Bega Valley Regional Learning Centre in Merimbula, the Bega Valley Innovation Hub will return to Bega for its third program in early 2020.

This is a sponsored article, though all opinions are the author’s own. For more information on paid content, see our sponsored content policy.

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