Last week marked an enriching milestone in our Charles Sturt: Indigenous Entrepreneur Scale Up Program. A vibrant boot camp held at the Charles Sturt University AgriPark Innovation Centre, where our founders immersed themselves in a week of collaboration, workshops and tours.
Designed in partnership with Charles Sturt University, this scale-up program focuses on providing comprehensive support to entrepreneurs with an already established business or developed MVP in the native agrifood sector. The program aims to enhance entrepreneurial skills, foster business expansion, community impact and encourage innovative ventures across the agrifood sector.
All of our entrepreneurs are actively engaged in a variety of innovative business ventures that honour and sustain the land, contribute positively to the community, and celebrate cultural heritage. Stacey Mathers of Native Fusion is on the brink of unveiling her distinct coffee brand, featuring exceptional Aboriginal flavours. During her time in the program, Stacey will focus on enhancing and developing key aspects of her business, including growth, distribution, and export strategies.
Chocolate on Purpose, a 100% Aboriginal-owned luxury chocolate company infused with native Australian botanicals, is set to expand its influence, aiming to benefit people, the environment, and the community. At Laguna Native Grains, Jasmine and Josh are creating a serene eco-friendly cabin experience on their farm, integrating a business model that includes native bushfoods and regenerative farming practices. Co-Founder Fiona and Jami from One Honey Australia are due to launch their premium, eco-consciously sourced manuka honey, boasting a 30-year legacy of beehives in the secluded Noosa hinterlands. Their focus during the program will be on optimising growth strategies throughout their supply chain and enhancing their marketing and sales channels.
Sam has introduced his unique native gin infusion, Wandering Emu, and is dedicated to fine-tuning his business model and growth plan during the program. Kera and Robert, who recently inaugurated the Kempsey Health Food Shop and Cafe, are using this opportunity to further develop their business concept. They are also exploring a range of agritourism initiatives to broaden their enterprise. Several other founders in our group are carefully seeking approval from community Elders and leaders for their business models. In respecting these cultural processes, they're currently holding off on any promotional activities.
The week was jam-packed with activities offering founders a chance to network, tackle business challenges, meet with program mentors and discover the latest facilities at Charles Sturt University's Innovation AgriPark.
The bootcamp commenced with a heartwarming Welcome to Country from Aunty Isabel Reid and a Smoking Ceremony from Luke Wighton; grounding us all onto beautiful Wiradjuri Country. Aunty Deb Evans then hosted a yarn to further connect us all, set intentions and the tone for the week ahead.
Day two propelled us into the heart of business dynamics. Founder presentations were a highlight, a forum to celebrate success and identify and address collective industry challenges. This set the stage for a collaborative atmosphere where the founders shared insights, exchanged ideas and got to know one other and their businesses better. The afternoon was spent on a tour at the Charles Sturt AgriPark’s Winery and Cellar Door; guided by winemaker Johnny Clarke and Mark Bourne, Associate Director of Academic and Education Partnerships for the Wine Industry. From the intricacies of winemaking to palate training, the experience was both educational and palate-pleasing. We highly recommend stopping by in Wagga Wagga!
On day three, our focus shifted towards developing communication strategies and cultivating meaningful connections with the program experts. Program expert Luke Marshall led a Growth Marketing Masterclass, featuring strategies for brand-building, digital marketing optimisation, efficient social media leverage and the establishment of partnerships with broader audiences. Following this masterclass, the atmosphere was filled with energy during the Expert Speed Meeting Session. The founders and experts moved around the room in a rotation, spending 10 minutes at each station. This format gave the founders the opportunity to seek tailored advice on specific business challenges from each expert. After lunch, we delved into a goal setting and roadmaps workshop, where founders meticulously crafted their six-month business roadmaps. The afternoon was spent participating in a mouthwatering Meat Tasting at the AgriParks’ Red Meat Innovation Centre, where we anonymously taste tested and compared the flavours of a variety of feed stock. That evening, the AgriPark Industry and Innovation Hub opening took place, fostering an opportunity to network over delicious Paella and wine from the Charles Sturt Winery and exclusive guided tours of the new AgriPark spaces.
On the final day of the program, we engaged in a workshop that combined reflection and forward planning. Participants shared their entrepreneurial journeys, highlighting key successes and learning points. This session served as a celebration of progress made and as a valuable exercise in self-recognition and affirmation of each founder's strengths. The atmosphere was one of camaraderie and mutual support, with founders exchanging stories that spanned the spectrum from early challenges to triumphant breakthroughs. This exchange provided an opportunity for each founder to gain insights from their peers' experiences, fostering a sense of collective achievement and resilience. We then transitioned into a more dynamic and solution-focused mode. Culminating in founders engaging in an interactive strategy session aimed at addressing current obstacles impeding their progress with practical solutions. We then said our goodbyes, with some of us boarding flights and others hopping into cars, embarking on our journeys back home.
The boot camp has not only set a strong foundation for our program but has also significantly enhanced our sense of collective purpose and vision. This experience marks the official beginning of the program, which will involve a blend of interactive online group sessions, in-depth masterclasses, practical workshops, and personalised business coaching. This integrative approach aims to foster both learning and professional growth. Keep an eye out for further details on the founder and the program's journey.