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Indigenous food and ag businesses get a leg up to grow

David Prestipino -

Indigenous entrepreneurs established in the food and agriculture sector have been armed with new skills and knowledge to help promote and expand their existing businesses.

Participants in Charles Sturt's second Indigenous Entrepreneur Program, run in collaboration with Food Futures Company, gathered in Wagga Wagga last week to continue workshopping their business ideas, which centre on First Nations ingredients used in a variety of ways in food production and technology.

The second iteration of the program this year focused on business expansion and gave entrepreneurs insights and skills to help grow their small businesses, with four-day workshops alongside experts and mentors covering production areas including beverages, beauty, skincare, health, wellness and medical offerings.

Charles Sturt Innovation Hub manager, Ged Bourke said last week's program leveraged the success of the university's initial IEP held earlier in May, with some slight tweaks.

"The recent program provided culturally-sensitive and pertinent scale-up strategies tailored for First Nations businesses with established products or advanced prototypes," he said.

"Our primary objectives include maximising market entry strategies, refining business models and enhancing promotion and communication, to reach a broader customer base."

Mr Bourke said the program, on offer until February 2024 at CSU's AgriPark in Wagga Wagga, also encompassed online group sessions and masterclasses for participants, as well as regular one-on-one sessions with mentors, experts and service providers.

"The program is a catalyst for identifying new businesses for continued collaboration with Charles Sturt, especially in new research domains," he said.

The co-owners of NSW-based Bush to Bowl participated in May's program and, despite the growth of their business, identified areas that needed improvement, specifically enhancing operational efficiencies of staff and customer service.

Clarence Bruinsma, a Yaegl man, and Adam Byrne, a Garigal/Gadigal man, established their business in 2021 to create spaces where families and community members could engage with Australia's native plants and traditional Aboriginal knowledge and culture.

They desired a more structured sales funnel and robust approach to business development of Bush to Bowl, and guidance on drafting policy documents to protect their schedule of rates and conditions for harvesting native plants.

"The IEP gave us exposure to presenting our business in front of our people; the people we've just learnt with and the people we've just walked with, and also a chance to promote what we're about and what we've established over a four-month period, in just three minutes," they said.

The pair also gained vital insights to help grow Bush to Bowl, including an acknowledgment they don't have to be experts in all areas, as well as access to an abundance of services to help expansion.

Over the next few months, Mr Bruinsma and Mr Byrne are focused on upscaling their operation, ensuring infrastructure was in place to facilitate Bush to Bowl's expansion, particularly around investment strategies and staff training programs.

Food Futures Company is focused on agile start-ups, entrepreneurs and disruptive technologies, offering them support and investment to commercialise their business to be vehicles of change for a better food system.

To find out more about the program and how to participate, click here.

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