The rise of the regional entrepreneur

Bold new business initiatives in regional Australia are on the rise. So if you’re sitting on a big idea, now is the perfect time to share it with the world and become the next regional entrepreneur. Throughout regional Australia, innovative individuals with a vision for change are embracing start-up communities and helping to grow the regional ecosphere – one big idea at a time.

Visionary and queen of the start-up scene in regional New South Wales, Di Somerville, is making daring and groundbreaking change as The Regional Entrepreneur. Backed by 20 years of project management and leadership experience, Di is an advocate for starting, accelerating and nurturing business in rural and regional Australia. Her rich experience in regional entrepreneurship includes her roles as co-founder of Incubate@35 Degrees, facilitator and mentor with the AgriTech Incubator, founder of Regional Pitchfest, and most recently, founder of 8point8 and co-founder of Working Spaces HQ.

“I am passionate about regional Australia and wholeheartedly believe regional communities can drive innovation and create opportunities outside metropolitan areas,” Di said.

Di’s upcoming regional business conference 8point8 – to be held in Wagga Wagga from 22–23 August – will bring together councils, business chambers, universities, government bodies and co-working space entrepreneurs with expert panels and keynotes from acclaimed regional entrepreneurs.

“8point8 is about bringing all the decision-makers to the table to learn and share the best ways to grow our regions and embrace entrepreneurship and innovation,” Di explained.

“Regional people are inherently innovative – they have to be! That’s why our regions are full of such amazing ideas. It’s about time that we not only heard them but also celebrated them.”

Growing a regional ecosphere

By Di Somerville, The Regional Entrepreneur

‘Ecosphere’ – I love that word. I first heard it from Trent Bagnall (Slingshot) a few months ago. It gives the notion that we are all interconnected… globally. And isn’t that the ripe opportunity sitting at our regional area’s feet?

The internet is undertaking its ‘third wave’, as AOL’s founder Steve Case speaks so much about. It’s infiltrating our everyday lives and is the great equaliser in terms of access to markets outside your city limits.

More and more regional businesses are starting from the kitchen table or garage and selling their products and services globally… no matter where they live. So the third wave is bringing the regional wave. Breaking down geographical disparity, offering quality of living, affordable lifestyle, great access to health/education and the arts AND building rocking areas of new business activity.

“There are some inspiring examples sprinkled across regional Australia of organisations daring to be the early adopters, and now it’s time to share, learn and build across the regional ecosphere.”

How many people do you know who have returned or relocated to a region and found themselves motivated to start a business? Our 20- and 30-somethings are returning to our regional centres in droves, maybe because they need grandparents to babysit and so they can afford to get out of the shoebox apartment and have a real backyard. With them they are bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience – and also a demand for culture and events.

They are also starting globally reaching businesses, exemplifying a new wave of economic development in the regions. So with this new ‘start-up’ landscape, who are the support organisations that can play a role? Councils, business chambers, universities, accountants, lawyers, marketing and creatives, real estate agents, ecosphere builders and more all have an opportunity to contribute to new economic development.

The barriers are often that people in these organisations may not know what their role is, how they can interact and provide more aligned services, how they see past the traditional shopfront business. There are some inspiring examples sprinkled across regional Australia of organisations daring to be the early adopters, and now it’s time to share, learn and build across the regional ecosphere.

This really is my drive for creating 8point8 – Regional Innovation and Small Business Conference. Our speakers include the best examples from across regional councils, business chambers, universities, business, corporate innovation, space activation programs and future workforce planning.

To move forward, regional decision-makers and influencers must take the time to develop a good understanding of start-ups and the future of work. They must network and learn from people right across regional Australia because the region’s future may depend on it.

Regional Innovation and Small Business Conference

8point8, Regional Innovation and Small Business Conference is an opportunity for the two sides – business and government – to get together and transform the conversation. The 2018 theme is ‘The Future of Work in the Regions’.

Why 8point8? Because there are 8.8 million people living in regional and rural Australia.

Some of the most innovative, influential and brilliant minds of regional and rural Australia will be joining forces at the Regional Innovation and Small Business Conference to be held at Wagga Wagga on 22–23 August, and you’re invited. Get set to better understand, embrace and take advantage of innovation and entrepreneurship in a regional context.

Get your ticket to this inspiring, not-to-be-missed event in the heart of beautiful Wagga Wagga.