Mentors mean business

WHAT started as just an idea could soon be a profit making business for 20 University of New England students.

These five bright business minds are going to share their brainpower to help these visionaries’ ideas come to life as part of the university’s Small Business Toolkit program, and met up last week to plan their next stage.

Around the table was Armidale Business Chamber’s Tracy Pendergast, NSW Department of Industry’s Peter Sniekers, Regional Development Australia’s David Thompson, Armidale and Region Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place’s Daisy William and consultant Will Winter. 

Associate Professor Bernice Kotey, one of the minds behind the program, said it was great to see so many business leaders willing to help the students fine-tune their ideas as mentors.

“The big thing that I’m very grateful for and very humbled by is the number of people who put up their hands to help,” Associate Professor Kotey said. 

“This actually tells us that this is not just the university, but it’s the community that’s wanting to help.

“That marriage between the business community and the expertise within the university I think is a very powerful thing.”

One such person lending his expertise is Mr Winter, who is leading the mentor team.

“We’re here to contribute back to and shape budding entrepreneurs who, are from Vanuatu through to Papua New Guinea and then onshore as well,” he said.

“This is fledging program we’re hoping to develop further and really ground some of the education processes that the University of New England offers but also with others.”

There are some interesting ideas brought to the table, including a low calorie, high protein restaurant serving kangaroo meat, setting up a resort in Vanuatu, financial planning services and farming succession planning. “A lot of these people are really quite experienced in their fields,” Ms Pendergast said.

“It looks like their doing this program to gain entrepreneurial skills and commercial expertise.”

“They’ve actually had to climb through some hoops to get into this 20 that we’ve chosen,” Mr Winter said. 

“There are another 20 that didn’t get here to start with.

“So it’s not just pie in the sky sort of stuff.”

It is hoped the program will create a comprehensive tool kit to start up successful businesses. 

“They are not big time IT [ideas] but they are your everyday family businesses,” Associate Professor Kotey said.

“If any of this is successful, in 10 years time it could be an empire.”

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