You’ve got the idea, you’ve done the research and your plans are ready and waiting; but finding someone to invest in an untested business model seems nigh on impossible. It’s the usual conundrum. A recent report from the UK suggested that despite high levels of confidence amongst younger entrepreneurs, many are being held back by lack of finance. Then – even when business takes off, cash flow issues can weigh down on your ascent.
Dynamic Business spoke to Cathy Yunken, General Manager of Business Banking at St George Bank, to find out what motivated this financial provider to initiate a grants program, specifically designed to back new Australian business ideas. Since 2014, the St George Kick Start Your Start-Up program in partnership with TEDxSydney, has issued $200,000 in grants to small businesses and start-ups that have been operating for three years or less. As the applications open for this year’s program, St George have announced the increase of individual grants from $10,000 to $25,000 which will be issued to four selected recipients.
‘Small business is the engine room of our economy’
Cathy said: “We understand it can be a challenge for business owners to get access to funding without any assets or property security.
“Our vision is to help Australian businesses start, prosper and grow. Kick Start was created so we could give tangible support to small and start-up businesses in an area where they traditionally struggle – funding.”
Driven by the idea that small business is “the engine room of our economy,” Cathy says that small business is a top priority for St George. “It’s the fastest growing segment, the biggest employer with 4.5 million employees, and accounts for 96 per cent of all Australian businesses,” Cathy comments.
“Put simply – if small business wins, we all win.”
And there have been some unexpected, albeit welcome outcomes of the Kick Start program so far. From feedback received since 2014, Cathy says the win has helped businesses gain credibility and confidence in their business ideas and has allowed them to go out and seek other grants and apply for industry awards.
‘We’re particularly looking for entrepreneurs who are passionate about innovation’
Designed to do exactly what it says on the tin: ‘kick-start’ new ideas; four promising start-ups will receive a much needed cash injection without jumping through the [flaming] hoops typically thrown in their path. But what are St George looking for in their selected winners?
Cathy said: “We’re particularly looking for entrepreneurs who are passionate about innovation and are ready to take the plunge with interesting and new concepts, or ground-breaking products and services.
“We’re looking for applicants that are clear on who their target market is, what it is that makes their product or service better than their competition, and who have a business model that can sustain success.”
Job sharing company, Gemini3, were one of last years’ successful applicants.
Founded in 2015 by Madel Giles, Sarah Liu and Mariebelle Malo, Gemini3 is an online platform that matches employees with employers willing offer flexible working via job share arrangements.
‘We relied on winning competitions and grants to kick everything off’
Co-Founder, Sarah Liu, told Dynamic Business: “The idea was conceived to help companies and individuals match compatible and successful job share partners to build a more flexible and diverse workforce.
“Our research uncovered that 76% of Australians would consider job share and almost 1 in 3 are ready to job share now – confirming that there is a large and immediate appetite for job share.”
The Gemini3 team from left to right: Madel Giles, Sarah Liu and Mariebelle Malo
You’ve got the idea, you’ve done the research and your plans are ready and waiting.
Gemini3 had the idea, did their research and laid out their plans; but they were not spared from the usual financial challenges.
“We relied on winning competitions and grants to kick everything off. We found out about St George’s competition and the grant as part of TEDxSydney 2015,” said Sarah.
‘It’s added credibility to our business and has been valuable in opening new doors for us’
Sarah commented that winning the grant provided validation of their business idea and has accelerated the growth and recognition of their business. This cash injection has been used to develop their online platform and has contributed to their market research costs.
Sarah said: “It’s added credibility to our business and has been valuable in opening new doors for us.”
For St George, Gemini3 simply ticked all the boxes. This business was a prime example of a unique Australian idea with the right human power behind it – it just needed a kick-start.
“The concept of normalising job sharing in the market place and changing the way Australians live and work is an untapped market,” said Cathy.
“Gemini3 were able to bring their business idea to life by demonstrating they are a strong team of entrepreneurs who have the innovation and awareness to build a thriving business.”
This years’ successful finalists will be invited to deliver their elevator pitches at TEDxSydney on 25 May 2016 at the Sydney Opera House.