18 September 2020

The first cohort of graduates from Bega Valley Innovation Hub – where are they now?

| Sharon Kelley
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Jackie Parry onboard yacht.

Jackie Parry is an accomplished seafarer who teaches safety courses including navigation and seamanship. Photo: Jackie Parry Facebook.

The first cohort that graduated from the Bega Valley Innovation Hub (BVIH) included some very determined, very business savvy and very bright people running diverse businesses.

Jackie Parry was in that first graduating group that attended BVIH for three months, three days a week. She did so while running SisterShip Training, which conducts courses in sailing, navigation and weather, deck and maintenance skills for people wanting to make their dream of cruising the ocean in a yacht come true.

She thought she knew about business skills before attending BVIH, but admits she learned so much information that she never knew.

“A year later I can see the effects,” says Jackie. “I can see the training going really well; my website is really good; and I’ve hooked up with Pantaenius Yacht Insurance, which has taken me on as its safety partner.

“When we finished the program, our projected increase in domestic trade was up 50 per cent from activity prior to completion of the program.”

Saarinen Organics cosmetics.

Saarinen Organics cosmetics. Photo: Saarinen Organics.

Wyndham-based Saarinen Organics is another graduate of BVIH, and it recently won an AusMumpreneur Award for handmade excellence.

Kay Saarinen started her business with support from BVIH. She says what she learned there, and the confidence she gained from communicating with media and pitching her business, was invaluable.

“We won the business pitch for the Innovation Hub and that gave me a lot of confidence in pitching,” she says. “What we learned took a lot of the guesswork out of it and helped my pitches for AusMumpreneur flow.”

Saarinen Organics began from a desire by Kay and her husband, Gregg, to live an organic lifestyle. They were accepted as one of the seven original businesses into BVIH.

“It was a very intensive business course,” says Kay. “We were overwhelmed most of the time with support; we got a lot out of it.”

She has since grown her business to include more than 30 cosmetic products made from the organic herbs grown on her farm.

Free-range chickens on farm.

Cheryl Nelson’s chickens are healthy and happy with her natural supplements. Image: Natural Chicken Health Facebook.

Cheryl Nelson was also a member of the first cohort of BVIH. She now runs an extremely successful business, Natural Chicken Health, supplying natural chicken health products – such as chicken super mash – to chook owners across southeast NSW, which treats chickens for parasites and intestinal worms, but also provides additional nutrients to boost and vitalise chickens in a non-toxic way.

“I was really thrilled to be part of the first group,” says Cheryl. “It was a tremendous kick-start for my business. It was fantastic to learn a lot more of the strategies and approaches, and bounce ideas around and get ideas. It’s been a wonderful flow-on effect.”

Teen Clinic has also gone from strength to strength, opening more centres across regional Australia. Appy Connections founder Kristi Sproates is now in a senior role in disability support. William Sharples, from Eden Gaming Development, has received a number of youth grants, while SilverService has formed a partnership with local clubs.

If you have a business idea, or are interested in learning about the startup ecosystem on the NSW Far South Coast, contact the Bega Valley Innovation Hub.

The hub’s federally funded project officially ended on July 31, 2020, however it is hoping to secure funding to continue programming from October.

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A lovely article. Thank you Sharon, it was such a pleasure chatting with you!

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