A free Federal Government service that actively supports entrepreneurship in Cairns and its surrounding region is helping to make a difference for people who want to set up their own business or for those who are exploring a start-up idea.
More and more people today are venturing into the entrepreneurial and start-up arenas with ideas that can – and have – changed the way we do things. Just look at Uber and eBay as examples. With an objective of encouraging entrepreneurship and self-employment, Cairns’ Young Entrepreneurs Project – Y(E)P – offers free advice, mentoring and coaching to help future entrepreneurs start and run sustainable businesses.
“Our passion is young, unemployed people; however, our services are available to anyone who would benefit from working with us or from attending our events,” says Entrepreneurship Facilitator Tara Diversi, who has first-hand knowledge and experience from starting her own business. “We provide mentoring and support to people who are looking to start their own business or have some entrepreneurial barriers in their current business that we can help them with.
“Most of our target market is job seekers – people who are unemployed or those who are at risk of unemployment. We provide support so they can start their business, make it more sustainable, grow it, employ more people and keep themselves employed.”
Y(E)P provides one-on-one mentoring, advice, coaching, group workshops and seminars run by local business owners and inspirational seminars.
The program, funded by the Australian Government’s Depart of Jobs and Small Business, was started in 2016, with Cairns being one of three pilot programs.
“Based on the successful results we had, the government has just launched 20 other new sites across Australia,” says Tara. “In Cairns, we also reach out to people up to the Douglas Shire, down to Cassowary Coast and including the Tablelands.”
Y(E)P offers a number of helpful services, including face-to-face mentoring, weekly informational networking, weekly workshops, full-day conferences four times a year, webinars and start-up weekends. It also hosts inspirational speakers, develops a resource bank for small businesses and creates opportunities for clients to build their connections to help their ideas succeed.
“We’re also helping people with the first steps to starting their business, such as getting an ABN (Australian Business Number), registering their business name and making sure they have their finances right,” Tara says. “There are a lot of behind-the-scenes opportunities such as local, state and federal government grants, funding and tenders that we can help with. We also connect clients with mentors in specific business areas and also industry specific mentors from across the globe.”
Tara’s own path to entrepreneurship is a huge benefit to the clients of Y(E)P.
“When I graduated (two degrees – Bachelor of Health Science and Master of Nutrition and Dietetics), I never thought I would go into my own business,” she says. “Then I couldn’t find work, so I felt like I had no other choice. What was a negative situation then turned into so many positives in my life, and I feel lucky to have stumbled onto entrepreneurship.”
No two journeys for Y(E)P clients are the same, which is why flexibility is the key to the success of the service.
“There are some people who really need intensive support, others who just need a little direction and some we might only see a couple of times before we refer them on to different programs for job seekers such as the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS).
“We collaborate and work with a number of different groups throughout the region. We have great relationships with amazing organisations such as CQUniversity, which offers us their space for our Deep Dive full-day conferences, James Cook University, which helped us to run our Money Master Class, and Cairns Regional Council, which has been been a major suppoirter of our last two Big Fish Young Innovators weekends. We have collaborated with Advance Queensland, theSPACE, Tablelands Regional Council, My Pathway, Cairns Chamber of Commerce, Cairns and Cassowary Business Women’s Club and Cairns Forum for Business Growth.
“We are extremely grateful to mentors from local businesses,” Tara says. “They generously give their time and in-kind support, providing mentoring and running workshops. Most of that is on donated time, and we really appreciated it.
“I think that is the Cairns’ way in the sense that people are there to help you out. Cairns’ people and local businesses do want to help, and that’s something that I really love about our community.”