A proposal paper to assist the local economic development of the Noosa Hinterland

‘Energizing the local Noosa Hinterland Economy through Entrepreneurship’

By all accounts, the economy of the Northern Sunshine Coast Hinterland including the areas of Cooroy, Pomona, Cooran, Kin Kin, Carters Ridge, Federal, Coortharaba and Boreen Point have been under severe economic pressure in recent years. Some of the factors impacting on the local economy are rapid population growth, sustainability & environmental issues, ageing population profile, business & industry reorganization and effects from government planning decisions.

Currently, over 90% of businesses in the Noosa Shire Hinterland area (Noosa Local Economic Plan) are Small Businesses and therefore there is a natural opportunity for small business led economic growth in the area. Further, new jobs created in small business are most likely to stay local even in with the increasing global nature of economy. Thus the proposal is to support small business development with a dedicated small business development service (incubator).

Existing business support services such as the local Council Economic Development Units, Department of Training & Employment & State Development staff and business training programs at TAFE partially serve this function. However, limited time, resources and ability to practically help individuals ‘on the ground’ for free and ;one on one’ in the small rural and isolated communities means that they do not fully meet the demands of this important sector of the local economy.

In addition, private sector and other business service providers and venture capitalist are normally only able to service the portion of the market which can either afford their service fee or the small percentage (estimated at 1% by AusFirst and 3% by NSW TAFE Framing the Future), which can progress their potential business ideas to commercialisation under existing business support structures.

A community based business support program which has proved successful in over 250 communities world-wide including ‘rural’ communities similar to the hinterland is based on the work of Dr Ernesto Sirolli and his ‘Enterprise Facilitation’ model. The model calls for a competent and community friendly service to provide free, confidential business development, management and networking advice to aspiring entrepreneurs and existing businesses. The specialised support helps entrepreneurs to successfully navigate the intimidating process of starting and developing a new small business and or expand an existing small business to a more sustainable level.

The focus of the support program is on assisting entrepreneurs, both existing and new, with their various needs including business start-up and development plus management coaching customised to their specific circumstances. The service provider can also make referrals within local network for other available assistance and grants for the entrepreneur developing their business.

A major key to the success of the model is that the service is provided free of charge and at the request of prospective entrepreneur. Once contact is organized, the first task is to establish and understand the conviction, or passion, of the client. This can be accomplished by giving a simple assignment (e.g. a survey for an initial One Page Business Plan) that will require the entrepreneur to demonstrate their true motivation for their idea. As a result, roughly half of those first clients will not be heard from again, but the process becomes much more efficient that way as the committed entrepreneurs move into their next phase.

Returning entrepreneurs will be introduced to the concept that a sustainable business has three dimensions (1) the product or service, (2) the financial management, and (3) the marketing. The client’s passion in these three areas will be assessed noting that contrary to popular opinion no one person is capable of having the full range of skills necessary to successfully take on more than one or possibly two of these necessary functions of a viable enterprise.

Consequently, the client will be encouraged to form a team with at least one other person who loves to do one of the three vital functions in the business that the entrepreneur does not. This may include professional service providers such as accountants who can support the project through in-kind or sliding scale services or other creative arrangements that are initially affordable and eventually mutually beneficial. With a passionate team in place, a sound business plan is more achievable and in-turn lead to a sustainable business.

There is no doubt that a supportive free and competent service will help projects to become successful and not only create new jobs, but incubate businesses with a better chance of sustainable success. Businesses set up as a team and with community support enjoy a sustainability success rate of approx. 80% which is much higher than the usual approx. 40% rate of sustainability (as measured over 5 years).

The goal is to create appropriate scale new local small businesses for the betterment of the local economy. This can be effectively measured through existing techniques of tracking new businesses. However, there is another intangible benefit to note which is that some entrepreneurs will avoid starting unsuccessful ventures by drawing their own informed conclusions, rather than by costly trial and error. A pitfall or failed business avoided can be just as valuable to the local economy as a new job created.

Overall, the current efforts of all of the local and regional Economic Development Community have proven to be very important in setting the framework for the overall economic development of the region. However, there is an identified need for a more effective targeted ‘rural’ small business support service which can particularly service the component of the market which does not succeed under traditional business support mechanisms. There is also an identified gap in services to uncover ‘hidden entrepreneurs’ who do not access any traditional business support programs either because of cost factors, feelings of intimidation or lack of knowledge of how to best go forward.

For a hinterland small business support project such as is recommended and suggested here to proceed – the resources need to be gathered. NISER has available to oversee the project its CEO who has undergone official training with the Sirolli Institute International in local ‘Enterprise Facilitation’ as well as approved training with the Swiss Consulting Group and their community empowerment programs designed to unleash the leadership potential of people especially in the area of their own business development. In addition, Charles has operated 3 informal incubators assisting businesses with premises and services in the Noosa Hinterland over a 10 year period and in 2016 was seconded to set up a small business incubator for the World Incubator at Charters Towers –and so has the relevant experience to assist local hinterland entrepreneurs to succeed.

NISER will also underwrite the project (estimated contribution $8,000 + in-kind) by the supply of part funding for the facilitation as well as planning, administration, access to a vehicle and fuel and project management. We are seeking a modest contribution of $8,500 towards support for the project to cover facilitating.

Success Measures: It is anticipated that over the 16 weeks of the proposed pilot project:
15 people from the Noosa hinterland district will access the service to explore the development of their business ideas
10 new businesses will go on to jointhe program seeking to set up and register their new businesses (creating a very significant 15 new part time jobs in the area)
2 existing small businesses will access the service with a view to expanding their business effectiveness
I commend the proposal for your attention.

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