A Queensland government program one year into its operations is helping regional Queensland Indigenous startups flourish into thriving businesses.

INDIGENOUS BUSINESS SERIES: A Queensland government program one year into its operations is helping regional Queensland Indigenous startups flourish into thriving businesses.

The One Business program, coordinated by Iscariot Media director Leesa Watego, is designed to forge pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) people to secure opportunities and incubate ideas into fully fledged businesses.

One Business’s coordinator Leesa Watego

As part of the three-month business development program, a state-wide Indigenous business roadshow kicked off last week in Townsville that saw start-ups, innovators, and entrepreneurs pitch to potential government, corporate, council and community customers.

Watego was pleased with the response from customers at the expo and said it was a valuable experience for the Indigenous businesses involved. For Townsville-based roofer David Bulsey, the program has opened the door for his company, DJB Roofing, to help it grow.

“Every person I met was giving me opportunities or passing on my info that leads to me finding work.”

He hopes the program will help him secure ongoing work, such as a contract with the Townsville City Council, so that he can afford to pay apprentices.

The plan is to bring young roofers from Palm Island, an island off Townville where he started the business, into permanent positions to help upskill the local workforce and give these workers the experience of working in new places.

Watego says One Business is an ecosystem of support. It helps startups as well as for more established business with a an orientation of skilling up Indigenous trainers from different parts of regional Queensland.

These leaders will serve as points of contact for Indigenous people who are thinking about starting a business, offering local know how and expertise that is specific to the area. Watego says this is a sustainable way to strengthen local Indigenous business communities.

“To have a sustainable business, yes, you need access to capital etcetera, but you also just need advice and someone to talk about running a business.”

People need help to demystify procurement policies, such as the Indigenous Procurement Policy, and learning how to respond to tenders, for instance.

And not every business can sell to government; Watego says a big part of her job is contacting people from a variety of sectors to see if Indigenous businesses are on their radar.

There’s signs that other sectors are adopting Indigenous procurement policies, she says. One example is James Cook University launching an Indigenous procurement panel, which is supported by Queensland government’s Advance Queensland and TAFE Queensland. 

Watego’s Indigenous creative, training and digital agency, Iscariot Media, is partnering with TAFE Queensland and the Department of Innovation and Tourism to deliver the program throughout 2021.

This article is part of a series on Indigenous businesses and was produced with the support of the City of Sydney.

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