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Lifestyle, cost of living, and work-life balance are all reasons people leave the city for regional areas.
What’s not to love about ski fields, rivers, and world-class wine regions at your doorstep? However, it’s easy to think that moving to a regional area means foregoing some of the business and career opportunities more often associated with city living. After all, many of the most well-known Australian innovators in recent years have come from places like Sydney (Atlassian - project management software) or Perth (Canva - DIY graphic design software).
This assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. Albury Wodonga and the North-East region are home to a vibrant startup and entrepreneurial community. But, what can sometimes be missing from regional areas is the support, community and education needed during the early phases of a start-up or new business to help it grow into a thriving venture. Fortunately for the Border and North-East, organisations like Startup Shakeup, Charles Sturt University and co-working space, Hustle, are filling these gaps and providing the much-needed resources for local and regional entrepreneurs to thrive.
Startup Shakeup is a regional innovation ecosystem working to build regional support for startups and innovators, whether they are entrepreneurs themselves or looking to help the companies they work for to innovate.
Startup Shakeup CEO Ilena Young says that developing skills and connections are two of the most essential areas startups need help with to take the next step. Startup Shakeup is there to assist with a network of around 700 people in the region. They also offer an accelerator program, which Ms Young likens to “high school for a startup”.
“The program takes you, in a small group of 10 people with some online and some face-to-face, through everything you need to get to MVP or minimum viable product. It really takes you through your new start-up from whoa to go, and at the end of [program], you’ll know if it’s a goer or not.” Ms Young said.
Over 50 startups in the region have worked with Startup Shakeup, and Ms Young says there are many more who they haven’t worked with.
One startup they have worked with focuses on enabling wifi connectivity on large properties, making it easier for farmers to implement smart technology solutions to improve productivity. Ms Young believes it will change the face of agriculture.
‘We’ve got people in this region with amazing ideas; they’ve just been hidden until now.”
Importantly, Ms Young says anyone who has an idea and wants to test its viability is welcome to come along and see how Startup Shakeup can support them.
“[We have] all sorts. We find that people ready to go for it have been into the incubator already, and sometimes they work part-time and like doing startup after startup after startup. In the latest incubator, we have people who are working and doing this around their work,” she said.
Similarly, the Charles Sturt University Innovation Hub has been supporting the regions' innovators for over four years. The Innovation Hub offers pre-accelerator programs, founder events, innovation and entrepreneurship programs for university and high school students.
What happens when you graduate from one of these programs or just need a space that gives you the flexibility and freedom to create and be productive that isn’t the guest bedroom or kitchen bench? This is where co-working spaces like Albury’s Hustle come into the mix, offering the facilities and community connection needed to be successful.
Hustle is filling a significant gap in the market between working from home and renting a commercial office space for remote workers, small businesses and startups.
“We’ve had quite a few people testing out the area coming through from Melbourne and Sydney – not necessarily just startups – but looking to base themselves here,” Hustle co-owner Kate Moras said.
Kate says one of the biggest challenges for people in regional areas is knowing that co-working spaces exist and understanding the concept. Co-working spaces provide opportunities to network, meet new people and find new partnerships that working solely from home or in your own office space doesn’t offer.
“We find many people join to use the facilities [we offer] but stay because of the community. And I think that is the key point to co-working spaces,” Ms Moras said.