The Bega Valley’s “Factory of the Future” is at work with seven start-up businesses stepping forward to take part in a unique business accelerator program run by the University of Wollongong and the iAccelerate Innovation Network.
Twenty-one applications were received to be part of the first cohort at the Bega Valley Innovation Hub. The seven selected were chosen because of their business readiness and scalability.
Covering ideas and industries ranging from health care to publishing, to skin care, and game development, the Innovation Hub promises to broaden the local economy beyond its famous dairy and tourism drivers.
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All seven businesses and services will take part in training, education and mentoring out of Hub HQ – the Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre. Seed funding is available at the end of the program to put in place some of the outcomes.
The Bega Valley Innovation Hub is the first regional outreach centre for the iAccelerate Innovation Network which has built a strong reputation for fostering innovation and entrepreneurship from their base at North Wollongong.
The 12-week program, starting this week in Bega, has contributed to the creation of 517 jobs in the Illawarra community over the last two and a half years.
The first iAccelerate Bega cohort includes:
Jackie Parry, Sistership Press
“I want to take you back a few centuries when we used to navigate our oceans by the stars, then we had paper charts, and now boaters have electronic navigation,” Jackie explains.
“Paper charts are making a comeback and this is where Sistership Magazine has come in and created the right courses, teaching women and their families correct navigation to be safe on the water.”
Kay and Greg Saarinen, Saarinen Organics
“We are a sustainable eco skin care business, we have a permaculture farm out the back of Wyndham where we grow all our herbs,” Kay says.
“We grow the herbs and make our skin care products – it’s a real passion. We’ve been doing it for 11 years now, we have 42 products and we are growing.
“Now it’s time to step it up on the world stage with the Innovation Hub.”
Kristi Sproates, Appy Connections
“I provide one-on-one mobile technology support and training for people who experience barriers to communication,” Kristi says.
“People with disabilities experience lower levels of participation in our community, and I am all about how people can connect using technology.
“So for example, one man here in the Bega Valley living with autism is non-verbal, so we programmed his iPad to augment his speech, which meant he was able to order his own fish and chips.”
Meghan Campbell and Jodie Meaker, Teen Clinic
“About four years ago we had a spate of youth suicides in the Bega area and we were literally sitting around our staffroom wondering what we could do to help young people get help before they got to that point,” Meghan says.
“Out of that, Teen Clinic was born. It’s a nurse-led drop-in clinic where young people can come and talk to nurses about absolutely anything.
“We now have Teen Clinics in Bega, Kiama, Narooma, Merimbula, and Eden and we think this model has huge replication potential and that is why we are here.”
Cheryl Nelson, Natural Chicken Health
“Natural Chicken Health promotes the knowledge, interest and natural care of backyard chickens,” Cheryl says.
“There are two arms to the business, one is the production of a unique product called Super Mash – which has 10 ingredients that all perform various functions to keep chickens healthy.
“The other emerging aspect of my business is Chook Chat which is a video blog and newsletter once a month talking about all things chooky.”
Gemma Ansell, Silver Service
“We will provide tech support to seniors to help them navigate the IT world and undertake fundamental everyday tasks that might present a challenge,” Gemma says.
“I picture Silver Service being an information hub where people go to get answers to all sorts of technology issues.
“The iAccelerate program provides the ultimate opportunity for me to develop and launch my business idea.”
William Sharples, Eden Gaming Development Centre
“We teach disengaged and disadvantaged youth how to make video games – coding, art, music, stories,” William explains.
“The problem in the tech world is that there are not enough people to hire, so we are trying to give these kids the skills.
“There is one kid already who has been employed as a junior software developer through our course, we want to improve that.”
The Bega Valley Innovation Hub is funded by the Federal Government, Bega Valley Shire Council, Bega Cheese, the Bega Chamber of Commerce, and the University of Wollongong and is committed to helping start-ups stand on their own feet, get a foothold in global markets and support regional development.
To learn more or consider applying for the second cohort later this year, register for the tour and information session on April 4 from 2 pm. For more information on the Bega Valley Innovation Hub, check the website.
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