Have you ever wondered what it takes for Indigenous owned and run businesses to be successful?
“It’s about timing, marketplace, pricing, and the types of services. It’s also about how you manage your own business. But really it’s the same as managing any kind of business…But It’s what you put into it that makes it successful.”
These are the key tips from Noongar man Gordon Cole who is one of Australia’s top Indigenous entrepreneurs. He specialises in Indigenous Services, Coaching, Mentoring and Leadership along with exploring Global Markets expanding outside of Australia. He is leading the establishment of the Noongar Chamber of Commerce and says Indigenous business is booming.
Mr Cole says it’s not about your head; it’s about your heart.
“I think it takes people with a good sense of courage. Your heart has to be in it, and it’s the amount of heart that you put in to it that helps you to be successful."
"If your heart isn’t in it, then you aren’t going to make it very far, so your heart really has to be in it if you want to go well.”
Indigenous business is booming, with the latest top 500 snapshot of the sector showing an 8.2 per cent income rise to $1.88 billion a year.
A corporation providing retail, employment and community services across the Northern Territory, Cape York and the Torres Strait is the national leader, with income of $89 million last year, up from $60m the previous year.
The Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation, which has 25 shops in remote communities, headed the annual table produced by the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations.
The results stem from a Centre for Independent Studies report finding a lack of accountability for $5.9bn of spending.
The Registrar of Indigenous Corporations released its 8th annual report on the top 500 earning corporations. It highlighted that there was growth of 9.4% over the last 10 years for indigenous corporations. Mr Cole says there’s more to be done.
“It’s a good start, but there are much more that we can do and so much more that can be done. As a collection though, indigenous businesses have done very well. Opportunity is always going to be there and it is going to come and come."
"For us it’s about capturing that opportunity.”
Having branched out from its early 1970s origins in retail, the not-for profit Arnhem Land corporation now has interests in trades and mechanical work, job-placement services, social club management, accommodation and hospitality, and is a large provider of the federal government’s work-for-the-dole program.
It has 933 employees, 83 per cent of them indigenous.
It was in third place on last year’s top 500 list.
Average income per corporation last year was $3.76m and total assets under management by the 500 were up 5.7 per cent from the previous year, to $2.22bn.
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The report also found health and community services providers were the sector’s largest, making up 197 of the top 500. There were 2688 registered corporations in total, with 165 of the top 500 in the Northern Territory.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said 55 per cent of funding under the federal government’s Indigenous Affairs Strategy was now going to Aboriginal organisations and 45 per cent of successful funding applicants were indigenous, up from 30 per cent before the system was introduced in 2014.
He said indigenous businesses had also won more than $200m in government contracts during the first year of the Indigenous Procurement Policy, up from $6.2m before that policy was introduced.
The corporations in the top 500 list are overwhelmingly not-for-profit, meaning inclusion is based on income, not profit; 173 of the 500 recorded a loss for the year.
The average loss, at almost $300,000, was greater than in any previously recorded year, but of those making a profit — which was not a requirement for many of the corporations — the average was more than $700,000.
For Indigenous Australians who are considering opening their own business Mr Cole says you have to take the risk and jump higher than you have before.
“Look from a personal opinion I say go for it. It’s important to have passion and confidence in yourself. If you can do that, then take a leap of faith, throw yourself right into it. Really just go for it. And of course don’t wait either, you’ve already waited long enough, so jump to it.”