Words by Nagaraj Ramaraj
Operations Manager at Shell’s QGC business
& Business Navigator Program Ambassador
The Business Navigator Program is a social investment initiative of Shell’s QGC business. It was launched last year in a bid to meet the needs of local communities and support local businesses to innovate and develop new products, whether established or just starting out.
We’re proud to say it’s an Australian first.
We know economic diversification is vital to the health of local economies and communities, so the program is dedicated to supporting local businesses from across many different industries.
How the program works
The program is delivered by partners Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise – an independent advocacy organisation with a record of linking businesses in the region with opportunities.
It links businesses from the Western Downs region in Queensland with full-time coaches, or ‘navigators’. These navigators are employed to provide personalised coaching to businesses to help them turn ideas into a commercial, marketable product. Basically, to make their ideas into reality.
The navigators are based in the Western Downs and travel across the region to provide ongoing support and assistance to the businesses involved in the program.
Businesses also have networking opportunities and the chance to pitch their ideas at the program’s annual business innovation competition – The Pitch Challenge. The Pitch Challenge draws out ideas from start-ups to spring-ups in a competitive setting. There is also prize money awarded to winners for developing and maturing their business ideas.
How it came about
The Western Downs has a large number of developments and projects which provide opportunities for businesses to develop and grow. As a partner in the community, we are determined to ensure we are continuing to do our part to assist local businesses to capitalise on these growth opportunities.
So we engaged extensively with the community to find out what was important to them and where to direct our focus. They told us that economic diversification and business support were their top priorities.
Business Navigator aims to meet community need and to help established and new businesses to innovate and develop new products. It has proven to be a valuable and worthy initiative, because strong and diverse local economies benefit everyone. For Shell’s QGC business, they keep our supply chains short. For the communities they create jobs and keep rural towns vibrant and attractive to new residents.
Shell’s QGC business also wants to broaden economic opportunities for all businesses in our operational areas, not only our own suppliers. We know what’s good for communities is good for us as well. That’s why we engage and work with the community to deliver programs that foster regional economic development and meet local needs.
Participants broadening horizons
The feedback we have received through the program so far has been extremely positive.
We’ve had participants say the program is helping to bring new employment and tourism opportunities. One of the winners from last year’s pitch challenge said the program pushed him to go forward with his idea to help others be more productive.
The program started last year and many businesses are gearing up for product launches in 2019. We’re encouraged by the fact that the 45 businesses involved come from 20 different industries, that 60 per cent of the businesses in the program are new businesses, and 60 per cent of participants are female business leaders.
The businesses also come from right across the Western Downs region, from Tara to Chinchilla to Wandoan and everywhere in between. It’s great to see the amazing ideas that are coming from people in different communities, from the smaller towns through to the Western Downs’ major centres.
It is a testament to the talent residing in our local communities. We are excited at what’s been achieved and what will come from the Business Navigator program in the years to come.
Find out more about the Business Navigator Program here.