Building community one founder at a time

Last week, Gideon Shalwick, one of our SPARK members, and I went through a visioning exercise based on his recent experience working with several entrepreneurs and founders at a retreat in Bali. This session clarified a few things for me in relation to what we’re trying to achieve here at SPARK BUREAU and my role in making it all happen. Some of this stuff represented some pretty transformational realisations that I’m now feeling compelled to share. Why are we doing all of this? In recent posts, I’ve talked about us being a not-for-profit, I’ve quoted our constitution, cited the importance of evolving our economic base through innovation, yada yada yada. All of these things are important but really more on a macro level and probably not so much for our members on a practical level. I do have a tendency to get stuck in a long-term vision and look beyond the day-to-day, which is where most early stage startups operate. So why are we doing this? Because I’ve seen individuals transform here at SPARK BUREAU over the past year. I’ve seen products launched, capital raised, partnerships formed, companies started and revenue generated. Ultimately, all that big picture stuff boils down to helping one founder at a time achieve measurable outcomes for them and their business and I want to see more of that here on the Sunshine Coast.

My twin daughters are graduating from Year 12 this week and the stark reality remains that if they want to build a career here on the Sunshine Coast, they’re going to have to do it for themselves. But that doesn’t mean that have to do it by themselves. This goes for everyone living here, or wanting to live here, who has a passion, a fire and a hunger to create something for themselves, and is willing to hustle and give and take to get there. For those people, SPARK BUREAU has the resources to help you realise your potential and create something great. That’s realisation number one. Yes, it’s about the community but it’s really about the individual.

One such individual is Jess Thoms. Jess finished her university degree at USC in November 2015 and started working at SPARK BUREAU the same month, launching her social media strategy agency White Lane Creative. Within one year, Jess is earning more running her own company than she would have had she gone to work for an agency in a capital city and has made connections in Sydney, Melbourne, Silicon Valley, New York and LA that are already leading to collaborations and new business opportunities. And what started as a side hustle with a couple of other SPARK members has evolved into the full-fledged revenue-generating tech startup Xandra Labs that is fielding inbound enquiries from global brands across Australia and the U.S.

Jess has achieved all of this for herself, but she hasn’t done it by herself. What the session with Gideon helped me realise was that SPARK BUREAU doesn’t exist to to build a community. SPARK BUREAU exists to support people like Jess, and those people form the community. It’s a subtle but important distinction. Realisation number two is that my skills and talent are at the higher levels of vision, partnering, building connections and designing programs. The day-to-day making a physical space hum with energy, creativity and imagination, along with putting on events and scheduling meet ups is not my forte and, I suppose if I’m honest, not my passion. Creating and executing on the vision of SPARK BUREAU is both fulfilling and rewarding but, you know what? It seems that I suck at bringing my passion for that vision into the tangible day-to-day stuff that a space like ours affords. And because of that, our venue and our fantastic location on Ocean St. is currently under utilised.

So, the other outcome from my session with Gideon is that I need help. I need someone who absolutely LOVES running events, hosting meet ups, scheduling speakers, talking to our members and everyone else about what we’re doing here. Remember that “best job in the world” campaign to find a caretaker for the Great Barrier Reef? Well, if you’re a startup founder who loves vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems just off the beaten path but still globally connected with unparalleled natural beauty and unlimited leisure activities this may actually be the best job in the world. I’ll be promoting this opportunity globally via video pitch and can’t wait to see who comes forward to take advantage of this unique opportunity to help build SPARK BUREAU into a world-class startup hub so I can focus on helping individuals create world-class businesses. This campaign will launch soon so stay tuned and check our Facebook page and our blog for updates.

Originally published at on November 15, 2016.