I’m not sure if it was more luck or serendipity, but a few years ago I entered a Facebook competition being run by Venture Centre for a spot at their Techstars Startup Weekend™. When I found out I had won, I was delighted and excited, as I had no idea what to expect.
My husband Julian and I had owned our 13-bedroom Poripori Homestead since 2011 and had so many ideas for its reinvention as a unique accommodation retreat and small events venue with universal and invisibly accessible features that would make it welcoming and barrier free for everyone. However, what we needed was some ‘know how’, some expertise and support structures around us to help us realise our vision. Cue, Venture Centre and the wonderful people who work there.
Julian and I are both experienced senior nurses, and as such, our mindset is one of caring rather than focus on the business bottom line; and we were acutely aware that without more business ‘savvy’ our project would not be sustainable, let alone successful.
Knowing that an accountant alone was not going to have all the answers for us, I came home buzzing after the Startup Weekend™ and stayed in touch with the Venture Centre as I could see tremendous value in what they offer. Conversations with Pascale and Jo to seek further guidance saw us move into their Co.Starters® programme (designed for start up business owners), facilitated by Maria.
What I particularly enjoyed about this seven week programme, was being able to tap into Maria’s experience and expertise. She had a humility in the way she worked with us, but she also expected us to apply ourselves to the tasks and decisions at hand. We also had guest speakers on all aspects of business start up which was really enlightening. Importantly, Venture Centre didn’t do the work for us.
Instead they instilled in us a wonderful confidence to believe in ourselves, and with guidance and direction, to take the steps necessary to pursue our dream. It’s an intangible thing, but it felt like they were encouraging us to trust ourselves, and to adapt a ‘we can do it’ attitude. At the end of the Co.Starters® programme we certainly did feel better equipped to move on with our vision, with a sound and realistic business plan. We also now had the courage and trust in ourselves to ‘go for it’, knowing that there were these amazing people at and through the Venture Centre networks who believed we could do it too, and whom we could go back to, to seek further advice and direction from should we get stuck.
Later, we also met a range of professionals through their Office Hours events including marketing experts, accountants and lawyers. What I learned from these interactions is that you have to listen to your customers. If you don’t want to do what they want, then you’re probably in the wrong business!
Looking back, I know that Venture Centre gave us the confidence to hold true to our vision. What we saw as possible obstacles and barriers, they helped us reframe as positive challenges, and they held us to account through their genuine and long-term interest in us.
If someone asked me about Venture Centre, I would definitely say get in touch or pop in, as you will be warmly welcomed and be shown interest in your venture or start up. The Venture Centre isn’t an old boys network, but has a young and hip vibe, and in my view, is perfectly aligned with how Tauranga is looking to develop.
The Venture Centre is also there for the little people, the novices and the starters – and the tools they give you, stay with you. I think they are great.