Limestone Coast entrepreneurs poised to soar

Two Mount Gambier entrepreneurs are heading off to Silicon Valley, Austin and New York City after taking out the majority of a prize package totalling more than $45,000 in the inaugural Limestone Coast eNVIe Awards event on 12 June 2018.

Ashlee Kalantarian and Daryl Prunnell have both secured a 10-day United States tour by winning the 2018 Gold and Silver ‘eNVIe Awards’, in Flinders University’s New Venture Institute (NVI) Venture Dorm Limestone Coast awards.

Designer Ms Kalantarian and aquaculture entrepreneur Mr Prunnell will visit the innovation ecosystems in the United States as part of a tour in March next year, joining other business founders and South Australian eNVIes winners to attend more than 40 events, pitch competitions, site visits and networking opportunities.

The eNVIes are a celebration for the New Venture Institute’s ‘Venture Dorm’ entrepreneur development program, with finalists pitching their ideas as a culmination of seven weeks of practical learning with personalised mentors.

Left to right: Tony Pasin MP, Katie Fox (Little Pink Box), Ashlee Kalantarian (Ashlee Lauren Designs), Daryl Prunnell (Fish 4 Life) and Professor Clare Pollock (Flinders University) at the awards event.

The Limestone Coast program ran for the first time this year from the NVI’s new hub on the Limestone Coast that includes a $1 million innovation accelerator called eNVision, which was officially launched on 8 June 2018 at a ceremony at Mount Gambier.

The purpose-built incubator is set to become an engine room to expand the region’s economic development, through a co-working area with easy connection to a global network of markets and expertise.

Venture Dorm is a seven-week, hands-on course designed to help participants take their product or idea to the market, no matter the stage they started at. The first Limestone Coast program recently ended, with participants benefiting from twice weekly half-day sessions that helped them to clarify their ideas and develop scale-able business models, alongside carefully matched mentors.

NVI Director Matt Salier said “The NVI’s leading programs have a proven track record in South Australia, where we’ve supported more than 270 startups and created up to 60 spinoff jobs since Flinders established the institute at Tonsley in 2013.”

The incubator program at Tonsley is supported by some of the leading South Australian technology and advanced manufacturing companies that have already achieved international success.”

Flinders’ NVI was recognised earlier this year as the best university entrepreneurial incubator in the Asia-pacific region by The UBI World Benchmark Study – the world’s authority on university-linked business incubators and accelerators.

“We are immensely happy to bring this framework to the Limestone Coast, an economically significant region with enormous talent and opportunities. We’re keen to help break down the regional barriers and grow the diverse skills in this region.” Mr Salier said.

Gold eNVIe winner Ms Kalantarian, whose Mount Gambier business Ashlee Lauren Designs creates bespoke headpieces for customers around the world, has experienced a whirlwind year including supplying 10 pieces for New York Fashion Week in September 2017 and providing a creation to popstar Ke$ha to wear to this year’s Grammy Awards.

Her achievements whilst working out of a garage at Mount Gambier surprised her, prompting participation in the Venture Dorm program so she could investigate scaling up her business.

“It is a big investment of time and money, so it was vital to be lead in the right direction. Venture Dorm not only gave me the confidence to take the steps to start scaling, but also really defined my business model and how to project revenue.

“I now have so many plans not only for the domestic market but also for international expansion, and with all the amazing support I will receive after winning the gold eNVIe I will be able to achieve these goals quickly and effectively,” Ms Kalantarian says.

Silver eNVIe winner Mr Prunnell hopes to create a fish farm featuring rock lobster and atlantic salmon that would showcase the local produce to tourists, with a community space providing education, tastings and accommodation. He was recommended for the program by Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA), which is also the major sponsor of the Limestone Coast eNVIe awards.

“Through the program, my idea matured from focusing purely on salmon to incorporating rock lobster co-existing together. This would build on revenue greatly, taking it from a $16kg product to a $60kg product,” Mr Prunnell says.

Venture Dorm graduates from the Limestone Coast’s inaugural program included Conor Flanagan, Geoffrey Dening, Lizzie Clements, Phillip Clements, Sonia Bath, Eugene Coscarelli, Belinda Tilley and People’s Choice Award winner Katie Fox – who owns luxury gift box business ‘Little Pink Box’ and won $3,000 worth of business-boosting services.

Katie Fox, winner of the People’s Choice award

Located at Shop 1, 33 James Street, eNVision Limestone Coast provides affordable high-speed digital connectivity, large-file sharing and video-conferencing capabilities for local businesses, together with access to Flinders’ world-class resources and technology at the NVI’s Tonsley hub in Adelaide – including 3D printing, nanotechnology and robotics. Any business founders with global aspirations are invited to join eNVIsion Limestone Coast, and are encouraged to apply on the New Venture Institute’s website.

The innovation incubator is supported by the $23 million Australian Government’s Incubator Support Program, together with the Mount Gambier Council and the State Government.

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