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Working with Indigenous Businesses

I've been wanting to write a blog post for the last couple of weeks, I actually had one sitting in draft related to my recent study at University of NSW UNSW and my pathway to my Master of Business Administration MBA. But I haven't gotten around to finishing it, I think I'm bored with that one and I'll just move on.

With four hours to burn on a plane back from Perth, I thought it was about time to write about my recent adventures.

I've been working with Indigenous Business Australia delivering 'Procurement Workshops' for Indigenous businesses. It's a new pilot program aimed at providing Indigenous businesses practical tools and advice to navigate procurement within the context of the Indigenous Procurement Policy IPP. So far we've delivered in Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth. I also facilitated City of Sydney Councils Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Procurement Workshop in Redfern to coincide with Indigenous Business Month, which again was a pilot program that had a lot of success.

City of Sydney Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Procurement Workshop

In the past 4 weeks, I've met over 50 Indigenous business owners who've participated in my workshops. Every workshop has had a diverse mix of participants. A wide range of industries have been represented from printing, video production, construction, consulting, recruitment and security to name a few.

Levels of business experience have also varied including budding entrepreneurs, to new businesses within their first year, to businesses with 3 or more years’ experience, not for profits seeking to introduce new revenue streams through a for profit arm and the more mature businesses with up to 19 years’ experience.

As a facilitator, my approach is to foster an inclusive environment where we're all learning from each other. As someone who has only been in business for 2 years, I'm clear that I don't know everything. I draw on my experiences from my time at Supply Nation, and the things I've learnt through trial and error along the way as a business owner. I feel honoured to share my business experiences, knowing that I'm helping other businesses reach their potential. I genuinely want to give every Indigenous business the skills and knowledge to compete competitively in our sector for IPP contracts. I've had to pinch myself a few times at how lucky I am to be involved in projects like these, doing what I love and am so passionate about (learning & development and Indigenous business).

It might sound cliché, but I've been truly inspired by many of the Indigenous businesses who've attended the workshops. As Aboriginal people we're naturally storytellers; and there is no greater way to articulate yourself than the power of the narrative. So, when I hear their 'why they are in business' my heart beats with joy. Seeing the pride on one Aboriginal man’s face, when he explains he's in business ‘to create jobs for his mob' or when an Aboriginal woman says to me 'she's learning to take the knowledge back to her community to show them the way' it gives me a buzz, because I know the social change that Indigenous business can create for our communities. The stories I've heard acknowledge the intent of the IPP to overcome Indigenous disadvantage through economic development and growth.

I want to thank all the business owners who've taken time out of their business to spend a day with me, it demonstrates an investment in yourself and a commitment to continuously learn and grow. I hope you’ve enjoyed exploring the IPP, demystifying the tender process and practising your why business pitch. You all have been deadly! Remember to speak from the heart, connect your why, give them something to remember you by.

Business owners in Brisbane practising their pitch

At the end of each workshop these business owner’s confidence soar with new knowledge and an action plan of what they are going to do next. It's been wonderful to see the cross pollination and networking between the businesses. Having a yarn, sharing stories and swapping business cards. I encourage you to continue to connect and use each other's businesses to help your own business. We too can help our sector grow by working together and buying from each other.

Whilst I'm racking up the frequent flyer points, I must admit travelling is so tiring. Some perceive travelling for business glamorous, it is very far from it. Planes, hotel rooms and room service. It can get lonely on the road, which is why I'm grateful for the family and friends who've managed to catch up with me when I've been in your neck of the woods. Thank you!

You'll next find me delivering in Sydney 24 November and Melbourne 7 December. And I'll also be a speaker at the Indigenous Business Enterprise and Corporations Conference IBECC in Perth on 1 & 2 December. I hope to catch up you soon