A year of making connections

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Robbies by Mrs Pickles founder Josie Robinson (left) and COIN South's chief activator Louise Evans at the collaboration network's first birthday in Invercargill last week.

WHEN collaborative innovation network COIN South launched, the expectation was to see 10 start-up businesses come through its doors.

A year on, there had been 174.

Chief activator Louise Evans said at the time of its establishment, no-one else in Southland was connecting investors with start-up businesses.

“There needed to be a pipeline to see more businesses coming through.

“It was identified there was a lot of capital in Southland… and there were a lot more clever ideas in the region than we thought.”

The establishment of COIN South was part of the Southland Regional Development Strategy.

Those who had approached the network, had business goals which extended across many industries.

From farmers to retired fishermen, technology specialists and foodies, multiple entrepreneurs who had been “sitting on ideas” and needed a platform to turn them into a fully-fledged business venture had come forward, she said.

“We have a lot of start-ups centred around food and fibre, which comes from the heritage of farming [here in Southland].

“There’s manufacturers and engineers who go into it with a view to solve a problem, not to make money out of it.”

Described as the Pic’s Peanut Butter of pickles and preserves, Robbies by Mrs Pickles, a business started by Gore-based couple Josie and Gus Robinson, was a prime example, she said.

“They went from hobbyists to a true start-up.

“Josie is so coach-able and truly authentic, Robbies is one of the biggest success stories we’ve seen.”

Other stand-outs included Nate Smith, who came up with Gravity Fishing, a fishing business which operated solely by use of hook and line, as well as BACKLANZ founder Ethan Todd with his hunting and shooting Bipods, and Bill Blakie with his Very Eco Bikes.

Southlanders with a business idea could approach the COIN South team, take part in an activator session and collaborate to draw-up a business plan, she said.

“The two main questions we ask people is your idea at?’ and stopping you from growth?’.”

From there, each start-up would be linked with a Southland-based accountant and lawyer to get the process started, she said.

Start-ups could also apply for a Industrial Innovators Fund grant of up to $5000 supported by COIN South and the Southland Chamber of Commerce.

In the past year, the initiative had hosted several events including Angel Investment workshops, Morning Mahi meetings and even launched a free online start-up course, StartIt.

While some entrepreneurs had small business goals in mind, others had dreams to showcase their product on national and international stages, she said.

One year on and with plenty of support from its partners, this was just the beginning for COIN South, she said.

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