MyMahi’s Jeff King, Money Poppins’ Niki Vernon and WDETT’s Sally Ross have teamed up to bring Start it Up! Photo / Bevan Conley
A trio from The Backhouse Whanganui have launched a new online course for budding business owners.
In early 2022, the Department for Social Development (MSD) sent out a proposal seeking three
Providers across New Zealand to run online programs.
To start! won one of the contracts providing online training and funding to turn business ideas into viable businesses, said co-founder Niki Vernon.
Similar to MSD’s Be Your Own Boss initiative, Vernon said successful applicants for Start it Up! would receive $10,000 in seed funding and 28 weeks at $600 per week with a three-month overhaul.
She said the difference is that the course is entirely online.
“Building a business takes a lot of research, and when you’re doing one-on-one mentoring it’s very easy to get distracted and leave important gaps,” Vernon said.
“But when it’s online you can be sure there aren’t any learning gaps and it’s more consistent because everyone’s doing the same training.
“It’s really important that people understand everything from terminologies to taxes.”
To start! consists of Sally Ross from Whanganui District Employment and Training Trust (WDETT), Jeff King, founder of online learning platform MyMahi, and Money Poppins founder Vernon.
“We all come from completely different backgrounds, so it works,” Vernon said.
Vernon offers business consulting and coaching through Money Poppins. She recently moved into The Backhouse on Drews Ave, which sparked the collaboration with King and Ross.
“The whole idea of The Backhouse was for people to collaborate more, and now we are.”
The contract for Start it Up! began in July and applicants began their business plans last Thursday.
When applicants’ business plans are finalized, which typically takes about four weeks, they are reviewed and, if approved, receive funding, Vernon said.
She, King and Ross were also available to applicants online and in person.
She said one problem for people with no business experience who want to become sole proprietors is feeling alone when they hit a wall.
“In Whanganui, people are very good at helping each other, so we want to expand that to other regions.”
She said there were some applicants from Wellington and Palmerston North.
Initial business ideas included a bookstore in Marton, a home support service connecting people with health conditions with support workers, a tattoo parlor in Whanganui, an online clinical breathing retraining program, an online and in-person record shop, and a ceramics and art studio .
Vernon said the course is also available free of charge to anyone who wants to create their own business plan, regardless of whether they’re trying to get funding.
King said the new programs have helped ease MSD’s workload.
“It also means people can have a much more flexible learning environment.
“Geographically, it doesn’t matter where they are, that’s what we want after all.”
Amanda Nicolle, director of MSD industry partnerships, said successful applicants would have access to an online mentor via Zoom, desktop or mobile, providing a home solution for clients with child/care responsibilities.
“They can also start the program right away and work at their own pace.”
Nicolle said the other two successful bidders were Ocher Business Solutions in Auckland and Rebel Business School Aotearoa in Wellington.
She said that the structure of the Start it Up! the main point of contact for the client, avoiding the need for applicants to deal with multiple MSD stakeholders.
Whanganui & Partners corporate growth consultant Simon Putan said the number of companies in Whanganui is growing faster than the growth of the national business unit.
“In 2021, there were 4,341 companies in Whanganui, reflecting regional growth of 2 percent, which compares favorably with national business unit growth of 0.5 percent,” Putan said.
“These companies employed 20,973 workers in 2021, compared to 20,670 in 2020.”
There will also be slight growth in self-employment in 2021.
“Whanganui’s self-employment rate was 14.4 percent, compared to 14.2 percent in 2020 and 14 percent in 2019.”
Putan said anyone can start selling widgets or offer a service as a sole proprietor.
“The challenging part is running a successful business. It takes determination, skill and a bit of luck to succeed.”