SMALL businesses across the Western Downs are reaping rewards from a free business growth advisory service which helps to take their ventures to the next level.

The Western Downs Business Navigator program, an initiative of Shell QGC’s business, has helped the region’s entrepreneurs grow in all areas of business since 2018.

The Business Navigator team comprising Paulene Rorich, Ailsa Cass and Suzanne Wood provide tailored coaching and support to local businesses with expertise across accounting, advertising, digital, brand and strategy.

Lead business coach Paulene, whose background is in HR, business systems and strategy, said the Navigator team was excited to help business grow as the Western Downs begins to embrace the post-pandemic recovery.

“There’s a very diverse economy in the Western Downs, the region is bustling, and that creates a lot of new opportunities for sole operators who are just starting out or small business wanting to expand,” Paulene said.

“One of our focusses is on business model diversification – helping businesses take what they do well and adapting it for wider market.

““We can also support clients to expand and extend their reach. Just because a business is based in the Western Downs, doesn’t mean they can only serve the local community. There’s a global community for a product that has wide appeal.”

Paulene Rorich, lead business coach with the Western Downs Business Navigator program

Clients engage with the Business Navigator team at various stages of their small business journey.

The program has been vital in helping to commercialise what began as a simple product idea or a working passion- through assistance with business fundamentals, marketing or strategic direction.

The team also works with more established clients looking to super-charge their growth, whether by employing more staff or finding new markets for their product or service.

“Everyone starts off small. A lot of our clients are owner-operators who wear multiple hats and fill different roles within the business at one time or another,” Ailsa Cass said.

“They’re doing the HR, the marketing, the payroll. This can have a real impact on business owners. We help them take a step back to understand what is needed for the business to thrive and grow.

“Business Navigator can step in and help them with functions such as planning, marketing and strategy. We can also be hands-on with things like writing marketing content and developing social media posts, helping clients get to a point where they then can engage an outsourced service.”

Business coach Suzanne Wood, an accountant, said the team worked together to support clients with their individual needs and business fundamentals.

“Projects or clients are welcome to ask us for help or advice at any stage, whether they have just launched a start-up or have been up and running for a few years,” Suzanne said.

“We tailor the advice and support to suit the client and their specific business needs; one might need cashflow and budgeting assistance, another might need digital marketing help to better define their online presence.

Ailsa Cass’s background is in marketing, having previously held senior marketing roles in successful organisations based in Toowoomba, Brisbane and Sydney.

“We’ve helped a diverse range of clients from launching Jubri’s wedding and boutique function venue, helping bricks and motor stores launch online, delivering visual identity to pubs and hotels with their branding, and much more,” Ailsa said.

“A lot of small business owners are solo operators which can be lonely. Our clients really appreciate having someone to bounce ideas off and to provide structure and purpose to move their business forward.”

Among the success stories from the Business Navigator program are Jubri’s Hideaway, a boutique venue based in Dalby which this year won both the local Chamber of Commerce’s Tourism Award and finished in the Top 5 of the Brides Choice Awards from Country Queensland Weddings in its 12 months in business.

Having launched their venue in August of 2020, Jubri’s Hideaway owners Judy and Brian Harms said the Navigator service was crucial to their business’s success.

“Words could not possibly describe how helpful they’ve been,” Judy said.

“We wouldn’t be where we are today without them. They’ve been so important with all of our website, social media and marketing, and we’re still using their services today.”

Another grateful client of Business Navigator is Miles-based homewares, clothing and accessories retailer Lisa Kennedy Collections.

With the help of the Business Navigator team, Lisa Kennedy has been able to take her products to a national and international market with a new online venture to complement her bricks and mortar store on Murilla St, Miles.

“We all know retail is tough in regional areas. To grow and expand, I knew I needed to get online, so I was delighted to be introduced to the Business Navigator Western Downs team,” Lisa said.

“Just having someone to push me along who is as invested in my business as I am is great. I’ve really appreciated the advice and assistance of their marketing guru Ailsa Cass in creating the online store.”

Business Navigator Western Downs is supported by Shell’s QGC business and delivered by Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise. The social investment program, supported by Shell’s joint venture partners Tokyo Gas and CNOOC, contributes to a strong and diverse economy within the Western Downs.

The program was developed in consultation with Western Downs business communities, who indicated that a strong, diversified economy that was important to them; Business Navigators was designed to support and enable local small business to grow sustainably.

Business Navigator is now accepting new program participants for 2022. For more information, visit the Western Downs Business Navigator website.

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