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CSU CenWest Innovate helping business prosper


Friday, 30 Nov 2018

* Next Stage Growth program helps refine products and develop business skills

* Expert guidance and fellow businesses provide insights and refinements

* Program offers flexibility and potential to seek export markets

Charles Sturt University’s (CSU) CenWest Innovate has helped a former farmer develop his technology company through the Next Stage Growth program.

Mr Hamish Munro is an unlikely tech entrepreneur, coming to it from a life on the land, but alongside business partner Mr Robbie Scott, the two are growing a business with eyes fixed on offering cloud-based technology solutions.

With their business based in Central West NSW, Mr Munro found out about CenWest Innovate and decided to apply for the Next Stage Growth program to help him refine one of his products and to develop his business skills.

“Coming off the farm I needed to understand marketing, social media, networking, customer management and even human resources ,” Mr Munro said.

“We launched Zipmin and two other products which we are still trying to get off the ground but because it is expensive to tweak the products, I decided to apply for the program to help guide me in refining them.”

Six months on and after completing Next Stage Growth, Mr Munro said it helped him evaluate the business model he was operating with and to “smooth out the rough edges”, especially when he turned his attention to the other less developed products he was offering.

During the program Mr Munro and others completing it would meet on the first Thursday evening and full-day first Friday of each month so they could talk about a particular issue.

“Over the eight-hour workshop a speaker would talk to us in-depth about a topic, like pricing or consumer insights, that I could apply to the business.

“I struggled with pricing in the past, so now I am toying around with different models to find the one that gets the greatest acceptance,” Mr Munro said when talking about one of the topics that stood out for him.

“On top of the mentoring we also got to know one another’s business and were comfortable in offering advice or a perspective that we may not have considered.

“People spoke freely. Someone would throw in an idea or decision they thought of doing in their business which the collective thoughts of the group could then refine,” Mr Munro said.

An added benefit of the program according to Mr Munro was its flexibility, and that it had the potential for helping him look at export markets.

“As we offer a cloud-technology product we aren’t restricted to the Central West or Australia,” Mr Munro said.

CenWest Innovate program coordinator Ms Christine Sweeney who is involved in Next Stage Growth program said Mr Munro was a great example of the type of people and businesses who benefit from the program.

“Hamish had an innovative product but didn’t have the knowledge or the confidence needed to promote and sell it,” Ms Sweeney said.

Next Stage Growth works well in these situations because business owners can tap into the resources and network made available to fill the gaps and build the confidence they need to promote their business.”

Ms Sweeney said the CenWest Innovate incubator had been developed with the NSW Department of Innovation and funding from the NSW Government.

“The Next Stage Growth program works with a variety of businesses, from small, to large manufacturers, construction, and machinery, and small tech.

“Businesses in the regions are even more reliant on innovation for growth than those in metropolitan areas because the stakes are a lot higher if they lose a customer or income stream,” Ms Sweeney said.

Ms Sweeney said CenWest Innovate and the program had received state funding for two years and that it had been extended another two through to 2020, its success and the confidence in the program.

Aside from CenWest Innovate, CSU operates an AgriTech Incubator in Wagga Wagga, and the Walan Mayinygu Indigenous Entrepreneurship program.

Media contact: Chris Gillies, 0439 068 752

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