Press

GO YOUR OWN WAY

Help is at hand for people busting to turn their great ideas into a rewarding reality. You’ve just had the most brilliant idea, a wonderfully fantastic and original thought, a concept every bit as useful as the paperclip or Post-it note, something so ingeniously simple that everyone will wonder why they didn’t think of it themselves. And it’s going to make you fabulously rich.

Or perhaps you yearn to be your own boss, set your own hours and enjoy the fruits of your labour without The Company extracting its pound of flesh.

There’s just the small matter of getting a small business up and running that stands in your way. Oh, and the stark reality that the odds are stacked against you, as the majority of small businesses fail in the first year. But don’t let that get you down – there are ways to turn the odds in your favour. And being accepted into the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme is a pretty good start.

Craig Ruddy, winner of the 2004 Archibald Prize for his portrait of actor David Gulpilil, completed NEIS small business training through the Eastern Suburbs Business Enterprise Centre in 2001, which gave him the confidence and structure to pursue his art full-time.

“It was just a fantastic help, first of all, to pay the rent and put a bit of food on the table and to allow me to focus on it full-time, put my head down and just work hard,” he says. “Also the moral support along the way, and to help me to structure myself and work into the future and plan the future.”

Having worked as a graphic designer, Ruddy was able to turn his hobby and passion into a full-time, viable business. “I found out that they respected artists as small businesses, which I didn’t think they would do, and I was struggling at the time and wanted to be a full-time artist, so I decided to do the course.

“I think, being an artist, you need to be 100 per cent present and focused in the moment. I think it’s very difficult for a lot of artists to actually work into the future and plan the future.”

NEIS is a federally funded small-business program that equips participants with business management and planning skills. It provides an initial six weeks of intensive small-business training culminating in a business plan, then mentoring and financial support for one year.

David Baumgarten, chief executive of ESBEC, says making the decision to start a small business can be the most rewarding decision you will ever make. “It gives people an opportunity of combining lifestyle with what they really want to do … [where] you’ve got total control over your own destiny.”

ESBEC is one of a number of community organisations established to assist the successful development of small businesses and provides NEIS training as well as business consultancy, access to business mentors and other small-business support programs. Eighty-five per cent of small businesses trained and mentored by ESBEC are still in operation after 15 months.

Baumgarten says strong motivation is the key to surviving in small business, and warns the market soon catches out those who don’t have the drive to succeed.

“It does take certain attributes and I think you’ve got to have a fire in the belly – you’ve got to want to do it, you’ve got to want to succeed. I think the market will sort out those people that shouldn’t be in small business, because it can be a cruel master at times.”

To qualify for the NEIS program, applicants must be receiving unemployment benefits and have a strong idea for a viable business. Baumgarten says those currently employed are also eligible for ESBEC services, including small-business training and mentoring.

So what makes for a great business idea? Anything that is going to make you happy to get up and at it each and every morning.

“What NEIS is, it’s a true reflection of the mix of small businesses in Australia,” Baumgarten says.

Publication: Sydney Morning Herald Section: Radar Page: 10Craig Ruddy, winner of the 2004 Archibald Prize for his portrait of actor David Gulpilil, completed NEIS small business training through the Eastern Suburbs Business Enterprise Centre in 2001, which gave him the confidence and structure to pursue his art full-time.

BACK TO PRESS OVERVIEW