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Free Business Programmes to Drive Growth in Region

Free business training programmes will be available for South Waikato residents to help launch and grow businesses in the region.

Firestation, a central North Island business growth centre, is seeking applicants for their Activate and Incubate courses. The programmes will be fully funded by South Waikato Investment Fund Trust (SWIFT).

SWIFT chairman Ian Elliott says they are funding this initiative to spur business and economic growth in the district.

Ian Elliott, Chair South Waikato Investment Fund.

“We want to help businesses launch and existing businesses do better. For South Waikato to continue develop and grow we need to support initiatives that will boost the local economy. It’s crucial that we help and support people who want to take the risk and start a business or social enterprise.”

“We have appointed Firestation as they have a proven track record delivering these types of programmes in the regions,” says Elliott.

Firestation and SWIFT are seeking up to 20 participants in total for the two programmes to commence in October.

Activate is a six-week course and is for people who have an idea for a new business, product or service but are not sure how to get it off the ground. The programme focuses on idea development and the steps required for launch.

Incubate is for smaller, newer businesses and focusses on the foundation of setting up a sustainable and successful business. Participants present a business plan at the end of the 12-week course.

Both programmes have a mix of group training and one-on-one business coaching.

Programme director Darren McGarvie, co-founder of Firestation, says he is looking forward to bringing these programmes to South Waikato. “In three years we have had more than 100 organisations through our programmes in Rotorua, Taupo and Kawerau. We have run seven Incubate cohorts in Rotorua and the business survival rate after one year is 95%, significantly higher than average.”

McGarvie attributes the success of the programmes due to the focus on implementation and execution. He stresses these are not theoretical courses. “We provide best practice examples with tips for implementation. We share what we have done in our own business and why it works.”

All participants need to sign a pledge of commitment. “The pledge is an important part of our programmes as they are subsidised by councils and economic development agencies. We have found it is a powerful way to set the tone of the course. It highlights that it’s not just about sitting in a room for a couple of hours a week. You need to be an active participant and then execute what you learn. The training they receive is invaluable, but participants also get the bonus of developing business networks. The groups support each other, learn from each other and help each other,” says McGarvie.

Applications are now open for Incubate and Activate, with the programmes starting October. For more information or to apply go to http://bit.ly/SWProg

Firestation is the only Business Growth Centre in the central North Island with programmes and services covering leadership, sales, brand, governance, marketing and business coaching.

Origins of South Waikato Investment Fund

  • Investment fund set-up in the 1990s using the proceeds of the sale of power company shares.

  • Since 1998, the Council managed the fund in-house. It has mainly used income from the fund to subsidise rates. In 2006, the Council resolved to make a portion of the fund available for activities focused on economic development, including to build facilities and amenities, enhance local employment opportunities, and attract people to move to, and stay in, the district.

  • In September 2013, the Council consulted the community on an amendment to the 2012-22 long-term plan that would help to transfer the investment fund out of the Council’s control. The aim was to protect the fund should an amalgamation take place, ensure that the fund was safeguarded for the South Waikato District community, and ensure that people with the right networks, experience, and skills in driving economic development manage the fund.

  • The investment fund was transferred into two trusts outside the Council’s control. The trusts were established with a clear objective to maintain the goals of the investment fund that the Council had previously set. The two trusts were combined into one and now known simply as the SWIFT Trust. The Trust is pursuing a wide range of projects all with one simple aim – to generate more jobs and sustainable economic growth for the South Waikato