Indigenous Business Networking – Friday Coffee Morning

This morning I was honoured to host the very first Indigenous Business Networking (IBN) – Friday Coffee Morning. It was an informal affair, with twelve people coming along to a small cafe tucked away in Brisbane’s North West.

The idea for the Indigenous Business Networking (IBN) – Friday Coffee Morning came from Sydney via Twitter. I was inspired by Gavin Heaton’s blog post a while back about how seven years ago (or maybe more) a group of Sydney marketing/advertising/social media bloggers got together in a Sydney cafe on a Friday morning, and … seven years later they’re still connecting. I thought –

imagine what kinds of connections we, as Indigenous business people and entrepreneurs create if there was a regular space for Mob to get together.

When I started my first business in 1994, I knew nothing. No-one in my family owned a business, none of my friends were interested in being in business and predictably, I stumbled through it. I made one thousand mistakes time and time again. Twenty years later, I may still be stumbling because my business is constantly evolving, but I certainly know more than I did back then. I can’t imagine what the past two decades would have looked like, had I been able to associate with other Murris who were also in business. We were too few and far between back then. But not anymore.

The SEQICC directory alone, attests to the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses today. I believe that in South East Queensland we have Indigenous businesses enough to warrant a weekly networking event. There are enough of us that being an Indigenous entrepreneur is “becoming normal”.

How does the coffee morning work?

The idea of the IBN – Friday Coffee Morning is that whoever is in town turns up – you don’t need to RSVP, you don’t book. You literally just “turn up”. There is no cost (apart from your coffee and/or breakfast), and you stay for 20 minutes or two hours. When you arrive, you work the room, swap cards, meet new people, and catch up with Mob you already know.

If no one RSVPs, how do I know who will turn up?

You don’t. In some circles it’s called serendipity (or luck). Because it’s a weekly (and somewhat random event), it’s up to you to find the positive in the people around you. How about, don’t turn up and just talk about yourself and your own business, but rather listen to other people and find out what they’re up to. Be open to opportunity. Be the entrepreneur you say you are, or are aspiring to be.

As one famous business woman, one who is a huge influence on me, once said,

“You never know where the big ideas could come from.”

Today, at the first IBN – Friday Coffee Morning there was a lot of discussion around the table about business challenges, technology (someone bought along a new gadget, and it got passed around the tables so we could all have a closer look), we swapped business cards and we talked about what our organisations and business are looking for. I have no idea what we will talk about next week, but I’m excited even through the unknown.

We’re going to rotate the venues throughout South East Queensland

The SEQICC’s original brief when it was established was that it service the whole of South East Queensland. This huge area extends from the Sunshine Coast down to the Gold Coast, out to Toowoomba and Ipswich and all parts of central Brisbane. This means that necessarily, to be fair, the IBN – Friday Coffee Morning will have to move across the region. I don’t know what a good cafe is in your area, but you do. So why don’t you volunteer to be a host? See the link below to find out what is involved in being a host.

Where could this event lead? 

Even after just one morning, I personally have two visions for the future of the IBN – Friday Coffee Morning:

  1. That connections and relationships are created that lead to the establishment of new and stronger Indigenous businesses.
  2. That each person who attends learns something new or makes a new connection so that their own organisation and/or business is strengthened.

I also have two other visions that right now are just In my imagination but are just as imperative, that I will share with you:

  1. That the IBN – Friday Coffee Morning becomes such a part of Indigenous business in SEQ, that people from outside SEQ seek it out when they get here.
  2. That the IBN – Friday Coffee Morning becomes something that other communities see as being useful enough to start their own. (I’d love it if one day I turned up in Cairns on a Friday, and expected to head to the local IBN – Friday Coffee Morning!.

I know I’m jumping the gun a bit. But imagine it. Imagine what kinds of national connections could be made when we swap ideas and build relationships across regions? I know that my imagination is probably getting carried away with me (something that happens often), but everyday I’m inspired by our Mob who own their own businesses.

Being in business is a hard gig. It’s often so much harder than pulling a regular fortnightly wage. We have challenges that others can only imagine. But the freedom and creativity that we experience in the end, are for the most part, well worth the cost. I’m also 100% committed to South East Queensland and growing our business sector here. I hope you are to, and I sincerely hope that you will join me in this initiative, and in growing and supporting our Mob in business.

Cheers, Leesa Watego, CEO Iscariot Media, Acting-President SEQICC

Links

  • More about the original Sydney Coffee Morning: http://servantofchaos.com/social-media-coffee-mornings-sydney
  • How to become a host, what’s involved and the 2014/2015 Calendar https://docs.google.com/a/iscariotmedia.com/document/d/1F8-9bv57-37kVmhBJ8Ex_FaRYOeDm_yZkrbqYFTzYmg/edit?usp=sharing
  • The SEQICC Facebook page (see our few photos from this morning) https://www.facebook.com/seqicc