27 April 2020

The Bega Valley Innovation Hub nurturing local business during challenging times

| Lisa Herbert
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Screen grab of users on the BVIH Phoenix program.

The Bega Valley Innovation Hub has gone online to deliver its new Phoenix programs in 2020. Photo: Supplied.

The recent summer bushfires combined with COVID-19 have wreaked havoc on businesses across Australia.

In the Bega Valley and Eurobodalla regions, entrepreneurs and new businesses are being offered help to meet current challenges through free innovative accelerator programs offered by the Bega Valley Innovation Hub (BVIH).

Business accelerators, such as the iAccelerate program run by BVIH, offer access to mentorship, investors, peers, workshops and other support that will help businesses become stable and self-sufficient throughout these changing times.

BVIH has offered the iAccelerate program to the Bega Valley region since March 2019, initially selecting 14 businesses to participate. Since the summer bushfires, a new series of programs has been launched.

“The BVIH responded to the bushfires with a series of workshops – Phoenix Recovery – to stabilise businesses,” says hub manager Mia Maze. “Now we are launching the Phoenix Resolve [Workshop Series] to help drive economic development and assist businesses with the immediate challenges of workforce, technology and business assistance.

“The free workshop series will launch through the Bega Valley Innovation Hub website this week, with workshops kicking off online on Friday, 24 April, giving businesses a robust training and development series to focus on.”

Since its first accelerator program in March 2019, BVIH has created a nurturing and supportive business community. The founding businesses and entrepreneurs that join iAccelerate are supported for the life of the program. Of the 14 that began with BVIH in 2019, 12 remain connected and supported.

“Every Monday, we reconnect and share what’s been happening with our businesses, mentors included,” says Maze. “All of the businesses are still changing and pivoting as they grow, which is why we stay working with them … The cohort becomes like a team you are on. It’s a very active community and a very local platform.”

Room of people listening to mentor as part of BVIH Phoenix Resolve program.

“Digital Readiness for Facebook, Instagram and Google” is one of the modules available as part of the Phoenix Resolve series offered by the Bega Valley Innovation Hub. Photo (taken prior to social distancing restrictions): Supplied.

With enforced social isolation due to COVID-19, BVIH is now delivering all sessions remotely and has introduced digital technology to programming to enable businesses to survive and grow through the epidemic.

“The current situation has enforced pivoting again,” says Maze. “Where some businesses were gaining traction and becoming established, the bushfires set them back. Now COVID-19 is adding more impact. This proves they need to continue to think innovatively as they learn to do business in the new normal.”

The new Phoenix Resolve modules and workshops on offer from local experts and business mentors include: “Work from Anywhere and Any Device”; “Online Digital Skills”; “Living in the Gap”; “Financial Tools for Challenging Times”; “Strong Business Mastermind”; “Strong Team Building”; “Digital Readiness for Facebook, Instagram and Google”; “e-Commerce”; “Content Creation for Distracted Audiences”; and a “Test Your Business Idea” workshop to help startups with taking the next step.

In the spirit of a nurturing business culture, the Phoenix Resolve program is an excellent opportunity for local entrepreneurs and startups to take advantage of BVIH’s workshops and support, and pursue that big idea.

Merimbula entrepreneur and program facilitator Leigh Louey-Gung believes “joining an accelerator instantly connects you with a community of people who have walked this path before, faced challenges similar to those you’re up against, and know what it’s like to suffer through the pressure and stress of taking on a significant challenge. They can give you the emotional, physical, and sometimes financial support necessary to build a global business.”

Maze is constantly awed by the agility of regional businesses. “In our regions, we have seen businesses adopt essential technology, enabling them to get through not just the bushfires, but prepare themselves for the impacts now faced,” she says. “We are seeing businesses developing new product lines and new ways of doing business almost overnight.

“We are being tested, but this is an opportunity to rise up and embrace the meaning of what it is to be innovative, to embrace a culture of innovation, where we don’t fight science or technology.”

The program from the Bega Valley Innovation Hub Phoenix Resolve Workshop Series is now active on the BVIH website. View the modules and workshops offered here. The courses are free but places are limited. The program commences Friday, 24 April.

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