Off the Top of My Head
By Paul Murray
The remote rural town of Karamea at the top of the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand apparently set a world record Monday night by being the smallest community to ever host and successfully complete a Co.Starters business development course.
Co.Starters began in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2008 in a region that was facing similar economic challenges the Buller District is currently experiencing from the closure of several large businesses, a downturn in established industry and the associated loss of employment.
In Chattanooga, the Co.Starters programme was instrumental in turning the situation around and renewing the local economy by supporting small business start-ups, fostering entrepreneurial ideas and helping people prepare their ideas for market success by networking with others to develop mutually beneficial synergies. The region is now considered one of the most economically stable in the United States, has a vibrant artistic community, a successful small business sector and it has also attracted some large corporations.
The nine-week programme attracted 12 participants with a diverse range of entrepreneurial ideas including; a yoga studio, café, gold-panning and mini golf activity, hairdressing salon, several horticultural enterprises and a publishing company. Ten of the participants graduated on Monday at Presentation Night where they pitched their business ideas in a five-minute address to members of the community, West Coast business leaders, government officials and potential financiers.
Awards were given on the night for the best presentation, for the participant who made the most progress throughout the course and the Customer Count Prize for the participant who spoke with the most potential customers about their business idea.
Brendan O’Dwyer with his pitch for One-Man Band Publishing a venture that seeks to collect, edit and publish local anecdotes, poems and photographs took home the best presentation prize along with a jar cash donated by people attending the evening and an accounting package from F.T. Dooley Ltd valued at $1,500.
The Customer Count Prize of a six-month accounting package from First Class Accounting and a six-month West Coast Awards membership went to Vinnie Dunford and his business “Karamea Kitchen Café,” and Andy Austin of “Best Gold Panning and Mini Golf Experience” also took home a business mentoring and accounting package valued at $1,000 from Peter Campbell and Associates in Westport.
The Co.Starters programme is instrumental in bringing communities together. The course would not have been possible without the financial and logistical support of the many sponsors, the generosity of local people who offered their time to share their business knowledge and experience as guest speakers and mentors, the hard work and dedication of Buller Community Development Facilitator Peter Howard to bring it all together and the vision of the Buller District Council to support the programme and subsidise the cost by allocating money provided by Development West Coast through the Buller Economic Stimulus Fund to mitigate the cost to participants.
Corporate sponsors Buller Real Estate and EPIC Westport and support from Buller REAP was instrumental in enabling the Co.Starters course to be held in Karamea and allowed Karamea entrepreneurs to attend the programme.
The graduates now have a template to successfully establish a self-sustaining business that will enable them to live and work in their communities, employ others and benefit the Buller District by developing their respective ventures, diversifying the local economy and making it stronger and more resilient, providing services to the local residents and visitors to the region…Everybody wins!
Vinnie Dunford, Head Chef at the Karamea Village Hotel is planning to open Karamea Kitchen Cafe in Market Cross, Karamea, showcased his culinary talents by catering for the Co.Starters Presentation Night event and produced a stunning array of food prepared from locally grown produce.
For more information about the Co.Starters Programme click on the following link: