Creating a start-up business in her hometown – how Zoë made her next move count

Zoe Hida Public Relations start-up business SU

Zoë Hida makes things happen. When things got tough, she took her future into her own hands. She came home to regional Australia to set up a successful start-up business.

Zoë studied a communication degree at Charles Sturt University, specialising in public relations and organisational communication. But it took a little bit of time to find the right path for her…

How did you come to study with Charles Sturt?

“I’ve actually had a lifelong history with Charles Sturt University. I was born and raised in Bathurst. My father was a lecturer at the university there for 30 years and my mother was a student there. I actually went to childcare at the uni. So it was really logical to do my degree there.

“I started doing a business degree, and about one semester into that I thought, ‘Oh, this is not really quite for me’. So I changed to cultural studies, because it seemed like a really interesting, artistic, inspiring degree to study. And then a semester into that I realised this wasn’t quite right either. It was by very good luck that I came across the bachelor’s degree in public relations and organisational communication. For me, this was the perfect combination of the business subjects that I was really interested in, but also the artistic and cultural subjects that inspired me. And that really proved to be a winning formula for me.

“It’s true, I did change degrees twice. But at Charles Sturt University you have the freedom and the flexibility to change. If it’s not quite right, there doesn’t need to be a stigma about it. You’re free to change and find the correct path for you, and Charles Sturt University has a lot of options. So if you start something and it’s not quite right, you can speak to people because they can help you and guide you into what could be the perfect course.”

What were the highlights of your communication course?

“I will always treasure, and look back very fondly on my experience as a student. And while you’re young, why not have the most fun you can have while learning? Some people might say, well in the country there’s not that much to do. But I can hand on my heart tell you that at Charles Sturt University as a student, we had a lot of fun.

“When I was studying my degree at Charles Sturt University there were lots of opportunities for internships and practical work experience. And I think this is one of the reasons why the public relations degree is so widely regarded as a leader in this field. For instance, when I was studying my degree I successfully gained a scholarship that allowed me to attend a conference with UNESCO in Budapest on world futures planning.

“And the public relations degree that I got has really been the foundation of my career. It was really practical. So learning about writing media releases, pitching to journalists, writing reports – all of these are things I used them from day one when I started in the workforce, and that I still use today.”

Where did your public relations degree take you?

“After I finished my degree, I immediately went into a new job, which I got before I even graduated. I left Bathurst and moved to Sydney and went on to do public relations for many organisations, primarily government departments and not-for-profits. I worked with the likes of St John Ambulance, Family and Community Services and the Rural Fire Service.

“Then during the global financial crisis, when I was just about to have my first baby, myself and my husband moved back to Bathurst and started our own businesses. We wanted a better work-life balance, and financially it just made sense. And the Central West is just such a wonderful place to raise a family.

“When we came back we found that there were actually lots of people in our situation. There weren’t the quite jobs to match our skill set and our interests. And so the option really came back to: do we move back to Sydney or do we create our own jobs?”

So you created your own start-up business?

“Yes. You know, we’ve really created our own dream jobs.

“Today I’m the founder of Appiwork, which is a mobile app development company based in Bathurst. And we develop mobile apps for government departments and start-ups. My husband does software development, so he does what he loves every day and I do public relations, which I love. It’s a really great symbiotic relationship. And in 2016 we were recognised as the best small design studio in the World App Design Awards. So it’s a great testament to what you can achieve here in Bathurst.

“Plus, we have a new start-up, called Everywhere Venues. It’s a new marketplace designed to look and feel like Airbnb, but it’s actually an enterprise-level solution for universities and councils. This means that if you’ve got thousands of venues, you can list them and make them more accessible via our platform. We’ve actually been working with the facilities management team at Charles Sturt University to make sure that our platform meets the needs of a large university across multiple campuses. And recently we won the regional NSW final for the StartCon Pitch – a competition to secure funding for start-up ventures.”

Are you still connected to the university?

“Being located in Bathurst, so close to Charles Sturt, it has been easy for me to maintain my relationship with the university. And one of the things that really benefits my business is hosting interns. It’s a great way for us to give back to the university. Over the last 24 months, we’ve actually hosted 20 interns from Charles Sturt University. They have ranged from first-year business students to third-year marketing students. And we’ve got another one starting in a couple of weeks.

“It provides a great opportunity for businesses to engage with the university. And it’s a great opportunity for alumni to contribute their learnings back to current students. Plus, we benefit from the youth and enthusiasm that these young people bring!”

Find out more about Zoë’s journey

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