All around Australia, business owners are working hard to grow their business and, increasingly, they’re turning to the internet to do it. The Regional Australia Institute and Google are on the hunt for those businesses.
We’re looking for Australia’s top ten Regional Online Heroes to fly to Google’s HQ in Sydney for a unique, money-can’t-buy masterclass – with the flights and accommodation on us! Because when regional businesses grow, it’s not just good for them: it creates jobs, prosperity and thriving local communities.
Any regional small or medium business* that uses the internet to grow is eligible.
Being a Regional Online Hero could mean anything from using online marketing to attract interstate customers, expanding a traditional bricks and mortar store to selling online, or managing a team across borders using shared documents on the cloud.
*While there are many great businesses in capital cities, in this case, we’re looking for businesses in regional Australia with less than 200 employees. You can check your eligibility via the terms and conditions.
MEET THE JUDGES
Jane Cay - Founder of BirdsnestBirdsnest is an online fashion business based in Cooma NSW, population 6,500. The birdsnest story should give hope to many small, independent businesses out there trying adapt to this new global and technology led world. What started out as a successful bricks and mortar clothing store servicing a country town has become one of Australia’s most respected online stores, employing over 120 locals. Jane has won accolades for her entrepreneurial skills, most recently placing 8th in the Australian BRW’s Best Places to Work Study and 11th in Asia for their company size. Birdsnest has been a finalist in the Australian Online Retail Industry Award for Best Customer Experience for six years running, winning in 2013, 2015 and 2016. The best bit is she gets to live in the slow lane, and work in the fast lane. Her home, where she lives with her farmer and three young children, is a 130km round trip for a litre of milk!
The Hon Michael McCormack MP - Minister for Small BusinessBorn and raised on family farms at Marrar and Brucedale in the Riverina, Michael McCormack was educated in Wagga Wagga and went on to a 21-year career at Wagga Wagga’s The Daily Advertiser. Aged 27, Mr McCormack became the newspaper’s Editor, the youngest person to be appointed to such a role at a daily newspaper in the Australasia at the time. Following an 11 year career at the helm of the Advertiser, Mr McCormack then co-founded a media and publishing small business in Wagga Wagga, which he owned and operated in partnership until he was elected to Parliament. The successful business went on to encourage expansion and growth of a Wagga Wagga printing firm, including additional staff and a new printing press, to keep up with the business’ work. Mr McCormack will work with the Small Business sector on regulatory reform, as well as championing the success stories of Australia’s 2.7 million small businesses and the 4.7 million Australians which they employ.
Jack Archer - CEO of Regional Australia InstituteJack Archer has been with the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) since its inception in 2012, and developed the RAI’s policy and research program including major products such as [In]Sight: Australia’s Regional Competitiveness Index and [In]Form: Australia’s Online Library of Regional Research. Jack took up the role as Chief Executive Officer on 1 July 2015. In previous roles as a consultant and public servant, Jack contributed to major regional reforms in water, climate change, indigenous issues and industry. Jack holds a Bachelor of Natural Resource Management (Hons 1) from the University of New England and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Originally from Paterson in the lower Hunter Valley of NSW, he now lives in the hills west of Canberra.
John Ball - Director of Google Marketing Solutions, Google AustraliaJohn joined Google in November 2014 to lead the Australian and New Zealand Google Marketing Solutions team, with a focus on helping AUNZ businesses grow and compete on the global stage. Prior to joining Google, John worked for Microsoft for 18 years during this time he held sales leadership positions in Australia, China, Singapore and the US, during this time he spent 13 years working with SMB organisations. Before joining Microsoft John gained 16 years’ experience in the IT industry in Australia, in various roles from custom application development, consulting and sales and marketing of ERP and CRM solutions. John received his MBA and his bachelors in applied science from the University of Technology Sydney.
Robert Ravens - Managing Director of Bridestowe Lavender EstateRobert Ravens was born and educated in Sydney, and is a graduate of Sydney University (BA, BSc,) and of the University of NSW ( MBA). After 40 years in senior management positions within the chemical industry both in Australia and Asia he retired from his last full time role as CEO of Incitec Industrial Chemicals in 2003. Since then, he has been engaged in chairmanship and mentoring roles in start-up and small business enterprises and purchased Bridestowe Estate in 2007. Since acquisition, Bridestowe Estate has grown to become one of Tasmania’s most acclaimed small businesses and has been recognised for agricultural and commercial excellence nationally and internationally. Bridestowe Estate was recognized as the Telstra Tasmanian Business of the Year in July 2016. The business was the winner of Telstra Regional Small Business Award for Tasmania in July 2015 and in August 2015, American Express nominated Bridestowe Estate as one of Australia’s forty most inspiring and engaging small businesses.
Meet the 2016 winners
Meet the 2015 winners
Alison Shaw, Tambo Teddies
The day at Google was amazing! The one-on-one session was excellent and I had several ‘take-homes’… that we have gone on to implement. Being the inaugural winner was an amazing experience- we never really expected that a small business in such a tiny Outback town (of only 380 people) could win and it was wonderful to be recognised and to participate in the masterclass, meet the other finalists, judges and the Google and RAI representatives.
Mae Connelly, Farmanco
We’d like to thank the Regional Australia Institute and Google for the great opportunity that the competition gave us. It has given our small business some great ideas and the impetus to grow by increasing revenue via the internet.
Linda Nadge, Outback Astronomy
In November 2015 we operated out of a shipping container. I returned to Broken Hill [after the Masterclass]… and we were very clear about buying our own land and building for the business. We came back with clarity and a no-nonsense focus on where the business was going. The clarity and robust approach to our business change and growth culminated recently with a gold award at the NSW Regional Tourism Awards 2016.
Rebel Black, The Rural Woman
The highlight [of the 2015 Regional Online Heroes competition] was the recognition of our work in the online space and then of course the opportunity to have one of our team members be so wonderfully treated to the Google HQ Experience. It gave us a great deal of confidence in our direction and some excellent tools and leanings…Our business has doubled in the 12 months since the competition and that growth has been completely from our online presence.
Simone Dudley and Sue Cameron, Therapy Connect
Our business is experiencing strong growth through use of the internet. This last quarter financial year (April /June 2016) we achieved over 300% growth in occasions of service compared to the quarter (July/Sept 2015) last year…You could definitely say we have employed new strategies as a result of our involvement in the Google Masterclass and the benefits are paying off.
Michelle Evans, 4 Ingredients
Since our visit to Google we have been able to confidently navigate our way online and increase our international following, sales and leverage from new markets. Personally I’ve been able to further my online learning/understanding and share that within our community across local business networks and at the Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast.