Call for creativity to drive economy
A passionate new group of Nelson entrepreneurs wants to help kickstart a new economy for the region.
The Nelson Entrepreneurs Exchange, known as Next, has just held its inaugural meeting of more than 40 Nelson businesspeople.
An organiser of the Next event, management consultancy Business Lab director Colin Bass, said: "It is well accepted that to emerge from these tough economic times will come down largely to how successful we are as a region and a country in producing successful innovative start-up companies. These will be the main source of new employment and export growth in the future."
The group wants to work with the city council, the Nelson Tasman Economic Development Agency and other organisations "to build a culture of entrepreneurship, innovation and collaboration locally".
The voluntary group of businesspeople plans to create events that foster networking opportunities, support projects that foster innovation, and possibly initiate projects.
Chris Rodley of SnapIT, who created a livestreaming 360-degree location camera now used by TV3 weather news, said after Next's first event that that he hoped it would become something lasting and instrumental in Nelson starting to think of itself as an innovative place.
Entrepreneur and founder of the Bridge Street Collective, Galen King, said that for him, it was about collaboration.
"Nelson is full of amazing, interesting and talented people, and a lot of them don't know each other. A lot moved here to retire, and they still have a lot to offer.
"What's exciting about the group is its ability to foster a culture of entrepreneurship."
Nelson city councillor Ruth Copeland, a strong supporter of the group, said an Innovation and Incubator Feasibility Study which the council had commissioned the EDA to produce had highlighted a lack of collaboration.
"From Nelson City Council's perspective, this group has exciting potential."
The group was also involved in discussions on regional branding ideas, she said.
Mr Bass noted that Virgin billionaire Richard Branson had said last year he suspected New Zealand needed a few thousand businesses to keep the recession at bay.
Mr Bass said they could be called "the new economy" where potential existed for higher wages.
At the Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce Aspire conference last month, Sir Ray Avery had said that to be successful at innovation, the region first had to understand its assets, then develop new products off the existing ones.
The region had some of the best scientific research institutes in the southern hemisphere, NMIT was stepping up as an economic development solution, and Wakatu Incorporation and companies such as Sealord were assets to the region, Mr Bass said.
"Connecting those with the innovation ecosystem is a way to move forward."
Ms Copeland said the inaugural meeting was full of vibrant, dynamic people.
"I believe this Next group will provide a platform of support to birth some amazing projects."
Mr King said it was about stepping beyond the traditional "bricks and mortar" models of business.
A problem for Nelson was that it had such a focus on primary industries, which were great, but they fluctuated dramatically.
Nelson needed to create more products – either physical, intellectual or virtual products, he said.
Mr Bass said that for retailers, the pace of change was so fast that traditional models were under real threat.
"It doesn't mean the operator of one of those businesses cannot shift their focus a little bit and do something a little bit more entrepreneurial.
"It requires a little bit more creativity, but a lot of those businesses are not used to doing that."
Retail could be more successful where a retailer built a community around its store, but competing on price was the weakest place to be in businesses.
Mr King said there was a lot of energy and enthusiasm in Next, and collaboration would bring new ideas.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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