START UP: Coffs Harbour Innovation Hub Coordinator Tony Rothacker.
START UP: Coffs Harbour Innovation Hub Coordinator Tony Rothacker. Tim Jarrett

FUTURE CV: Startup culture needs a space in the Valley

WHEN it comes to fostering a culture of entrepreneurship, sometimes you don't have to re-invent the wheel.

The Coffs Harbour Innovation Hub is a place where you can do anything from rent a co-working space to hear from an entrepreneur whose idea has led to a multi-million dollar contract and Susan Ferguson from Yamba start-up Tripasista thinks it could work here.

"I have lived in Yamba for the last 10 years and I can see the change that is occurring. I think there are a lot of opportunities for new businesses to start taking off here in the Valley," she said.

"We need to be supportive of entrepreneurs, fresh ideas and innovation. Access to programs like Startup Onramp, Startup Grind and Six Degrees will help facilitate our local start-up culture."

Susan Ferguson and Kim Burgess are the founding directors of the online directory Tripasista which helps women planning travel connect directly with female focused tourism operators.

The pair had benefited from the support of Coffs Harbour Innovation Hub in particular through the Startup Onramp program which helped first time start-up founders put together a business model, do financial planning and help them with the all important "pitch".

The Innovation Hub was an initiative between Coffs Harbour Council, Southern Cross University and Tafe.

Innovation hub co-ordinator Tony Rothacker said to make spaces like the hub work had required input from as many key stakeholders as possible, including business leaders who may have been retired.

"Quite often you find those business champions, innovators or entrepreneurs wanted to give back," he said.

Mr Rothacker agreed that organisations could leverage their older demographic by encouraging those who used to be in business to become mentors for young people looking to get an idea off the ground.

While co-working spaces and innovation hubs became "magnets' for business people Mr Rothacker said it was important to have someone driving the project otherwise spaces could become "just a cheap rental space".

"They need to be driven by someone who is independent and with long-term vision," he said.

Ms Ferguson said there was plenty of opportunity to work with our neighbours to achieve positive outcomes and stressed the importance of having a dedicated space.

"There is a thriving start-up culture in the Byron and Coffs Harbour shires and I think the groundwork has been laid for the Clarence Valley to emulate. Even if it was piggy-backing on these other hubs - I think it would greatly benefit the area," she said.

"We would love to see a hub for start-up culture to thrive in the Valley. I think there are a lot of exciting business ideas that people are trying to get off the ground and they could really benefit from some kind of co-working space to meet, network and pitch ideas."

With the experience the pair had gained through their contact with the wider start-up world they acknowledged it was possible they would be the ones young entrepreneurs would be coming to for advice.

"Well we definitely have our top 10 'ways not to do a start up'."



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