Inspiring Indigenous entrepreneurship

Inspiring Indigenous businesspeople through entrepreneurship

Charles Sturt University is taking to the streets to help inspire Indigenous entrepreneurship.

Associate Professor Michelle Evans’ dream of taking business education to regional communities has become a reality with the creation of the Walan Mayinygu Indigenous Entrepreneurship Pop Up Hub. Having co-founded the Melbourne Business School’s MURRA Indigenous Business Master Class, a business leadership development program for established Indigenous entrepreneurs, she saw a gap in the market.

“The MURRA program is focused on growing businesses, but there’s not really any educational offerings for Indigenous businesses around start-up, and nothing really offered in regional towns where people are located. I was interested in designing an offering we could take out into regional places like the Northern Rivers and Dubbo, where there is already momentum in the Indigenous business community, and to other spots like Albury, where we hope to ignite an appetite for thinking about entrepreneurship and Indigenous economic development.

“The idea of the pop up hub is to overcome geographical isolation and provide productive spaces for individuals and communities to generate their own business ideas. Ultimately, we hope to build momentum for the Indigenous Australian entrepreneurial sector.”

Walan Mayinygu, which means ‘strong for people’ in Wiradjuri, is about strengthening Indigenous entrepreneurship at a grassroots level. Herself a Charles Sturt graduate, Associate Professor Evans said the program is intentionally broad in its focus. To cater for each of these groups, the pop up hub includes business 101 sessions for those new to business, opportunities to present and pitch business ideas, trade shows and networking events, and masterclasses for people running established enterprises.

“There’s different audiences, so the program hits at all those levels. We have a youth program that focuses on technology and innovation, and a program for Aboriginal community organisations that want to think more entrepreneurially and perhaps explore a framework for developing a social enterprise.

“We are bringing as many resources to the hub as possible that people may not get the opportunity to see first-hand, so banks and investors will be there along with established Indigenous entrepreneurs themselves.”

In her work with the MURRA program, Associate Professor Evans has seen the benefits of people building a strong Indigenous business network.

“For me, this is absolutely a priority. It’s important to encourage people to see they’re not alone, to meet each other, to have a chat and think about business opportunities together. We want people to be opportunity-thinking and to see how they might work together and build the business sector together.”

Building on strength

Associate Professor Evans believes Walan Mayinygu closely aligns with the university’s remit as both a regional university and a university committed to the education of Indigenous people.

“The idea of Walan Mayinygu, as named by Stan Grant Snr (honorary doctorate of Charles Sturt University and Wiradjuri Elder), is about creating strong hubs for our people and really driving the strengths. We aim to amplify regional dialogues on Indigenous entrepreneurship and encourage strong, resilient businesses and business owners.

“I didn’t want this hub to just be about the transfer of knowledge. This is about driving strengths through the community, through capacity development, through networks, through resources and making it all available.

“I get phone calls nearly every week about different ideas for Indigenous pop up hub programs in the business sector and that’s exciting because it means things are catching fire. It makes sense to go out and work regionally with Indigenous communities where they are. It’s not all about urban centres and we know that a lot of great Indigenous businesses are regional and we want to help them grow because they are going to employ more Indigenous people, they are going to use their profits to build infrastructure and success and wealth in their communities. This is fantastic self-determination.

“And the talent out there is just extraordinary. We need to open up our eyes, and make space, and get out of the way!”

The Walan Mayinygu Indigenous Entrepreneurship Pop Up Hub is an initiative of Charles Sturt University, in conjunction with the NSW Department of Industry, and is sponsored by Indigenous Business Australia.

Indigenous Access Program

Are you curious about university, but not sure if you’d get in?

You’re not alone. We have developed the Indigenous Access Program, a five-day alternative entry program for Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of all ages wanting to study at Charles Sturt.

How does it work?

You’ll undertake a range of testing and assessments which will determine your suitability for study. It’s a chance to work out what you want to do and see if your chosen course is a good fit. Together we’ll create a personalised plan for your academic future. You’ll also get to try out uni life and discover all the different services available at the uni. If you’re successful, you’ll be guaranteed a place in a host of our undergraduate courses.

Editor’s note: Michelle Evans is now Associate Professor of Leadership at University of Melbourne.