In Brisbane, as I would imagine it is in the rest of the
world, there is a slowing in the market that is now creating a cause for
concern for both industry leaders and, more importantly, government leaders on
the local, state and federal levels. If
you were to ask any of them directly, you would find that they would certainly
tell a different story of positivity (but that is a different blog post all
together); however, when looking on the local level at least, there has been
some action in an attempt to spur business leaders to come up with something
new and interesting. Many forums are
being held where leaders present their ideas in the hope that new and potential
businesses take flight creating an overall better economic outlook for the
In discussing the current situation with Jelenko over coffee, he expressed the need to help encourage younger people attempting to start a business and the need for there to be some way like-minded people could get together. At this point in the conversation, I suddenly saw the roles of local, state and federal government and how they are going about it the wrong way. Now before I get flayed at the stake for besmirching any political party or any efforts currently going on in and Brisbane as well as the world, I would like to clarify that the way they are currently going about generating business is the best way they know how. I believe this new concept could potentially be adopted in any city, anywhere in the world and is not too far removed from anything already in place.
I am talking about any of the local, state or federal governments setting up and supporting on an on-going basis, industry specific incubators for anyone looking to start or run a business. The core of the idea is not new, but not being locked down to IT (typically where business incubators are commonplace) is where this idea differs.
Let me give you a personal example of what I mean. A few years ago when I was graduating university I came out clutching my Master’s degree with the idea that I wanted to start my own business. Talking to many fellow students many also had the same idea, but as we were university students we were all itching to bring in some sort of income. So starting our own businesses quickly became that – merely an idea. Whilst many of us had visions of what we would do, many of us had no idea on where to start or any inkling of what would be required in terms of licencing or complying with regulations. In the years since that time, I have gone down the path of starting a business and have found that whilst there is a plethora of information available, I have had to dig through great swathes to find information pertinent to my situation. At the time, and in the intervening years since, I have found there isn’t anywhere where I can sit down with like-minded individuals to network, collaborate and find inspiration on how to do things differently to find my market niche.
So, how to resolve the issue?
Based on my experiences, I believe local council an opportunity to (gets up on soapbox) leverage unused space they have in and around the city with the aim of using this as a place for people to gather, work on their ideas and eventually their own business. An essential element of the idea is to not limit it to a specific industry, or to just graduates, but open to anyone attempting to start a business or seeking to collaborate with others.
As an example, fashion students working together in a common space that requires no upfront cost to them other than to bring what they need. It would be open during business hours for a full-year, giving them a place to go and design new items. Working together in a common space allows everyone to be inspired from like-minded individuals potentially influencing designs similar to what I have seen on certain reality shows (I swear I stumbled across them). Twice a year, an industry expert or similar could be a guest to the incubator group, providing input and review of designs, advice or inspiration on how to start business. Having this common space also provides plenty of opportunity for like-minded individuals to collaborate, share information and maybe start a business. In this environment, local councils have an opportunity to provide a representative on a monthly basis to provide information on licencing, permits and other regulatory requirements for starting and operating a business in that city. Similarly, on the state and federal levels representatives from each have an opportunity to provide information and pathways on financing, taxation and most importantly, information on grants available to assist new business. I know that something like this would have assisted me.
The essential element (and perhaps the most crucial) is hold an incubator forum on either a bi-annual or annual basis where each incubator gets together under one roof to showcase their ideas. Using and marketing the theme of cross-pollination, seeding and collaboration with the overarching aim of generating new ideas and new industry synergies, participants would be encouraged to explore and actively seek out inspiration from others. As an aside, business leaders and venture capitalists could be invited providing opportunity to be both guest speakers and provide real world market exposure.
In economic global down-turn, significant economic benefits could be realised including the revitalisation of existing or creation of new industries. There is also opportunity to create new hubs of innovation and collaboration providing opportunities for individuals to showcase their new business and for the city to be admired on the world stage as an innovation leader. I believe it is the responsibility of local, state and federal governments to do all they can to foster and create new opportunities for economic growth (steps down from soapbox).