Teō Haka
Centre for
growth &

Southern Series Start-up Clinics @Ara Get Off To A Great Start in Ashburton

Last week Ara Institute of Canterbury, in partnership with the Ashburton District Council, Te Ōhaka and Ministry of Awesome held a series of start-up workshops for the people of Ashburton and surrounding areas.

During the day-long event, a range of visionary individuals came to discuss their business ideas with Jacob Varghese, Te Ōhaka’s’s resident entrepreneurial expert, Bevan Rickerby and Janice Mckay from the ADC, Jason MacRae from the Chamber of Commerce and Charlie Auty from Ara Timaru for the first of the ‘August Southern Start-up Workshops @ Ara’ series.

A second event was due to be held later in the week in Timaru, but due to COVID-related complications, this follow-up event has had to be delayed until conditions improve. 

During the course of the Ashburton event, held at the ADC on the 10th of August, a pizza afficionado wished to bring a moveable feast to the public via a mobile pizza oven operation. He was followed by a health & safety expert who wanted to set up an independent consultancy that provides bespoke health & safety planning for smaller companies. Later, two financial consultants explored their idea of developing the town’s historic grain store building into a local entrepreneurial hub, and received the advice that a useful first step might be to develop one-to-one events, talks and meet-ups to gauge interest and develop the community even before looking into a physical location. 

“These two were capable financial professionals who wanted to give back to their town and region. In coming here, they were looking for a bit of validation, some confirmation that they were onto something. This is what I refer to as ‘getting over the chasm where ideas come to die’ –  sometimes all people need is a little bit of direction, and then they’re enabled to go on to the next stage” says Jacob Varghese.

Janice Mckay from the ADC commented that “The idea of using the historic grain store as a business incubator is really well aligned with the ADC Strategic Plan, which includes priorities around ‘place-making’ and the grain store would be a very visible destination, visible from the State Highway, and would showcase to young people what’s possible.”

She also commented that “The agricultural sector is very strong here, and people involved within the industry would be able to come to the hub and see what professional services are available to them – that they may not be aware of – and that could help to support their core business, so it would be a win-win-win situation.” 

The next entrepreneur had hoped to attend the Timaru event as she was based out of Temuka, but couldn’t gain a slot that day, so made the extra effort to come to Ashburton. Dale Boat is a farmer who appreciates the importance of data collection to effective modern stock management, and who is  keenly interested in the technology now available to managed information such as physical measurements and genetic information. 

With a lot of possible software solutions in the market, the right choice can be hard to evaluate and Dale is interested in developing a business which will take this task off a farmer’s hands, by assessing all of the options, making recommendations and in some instances individualising the program to create a bespoke system. Dale would also be able to input data for her clients, train them to use the system and support them through any transition. 

The team saw Dale’s experience as a farmer herself as being a huge asset. “Being a farmer is actually your selling point!” commented Janice. “You’ve done the job, you know the job – you’re the expert!”

Jacob from Ministry of Awesome, based out of Te Ōhaka at Ara, is enthusiastic about the value of these kinds of events. He says “In the uncertain economic climate that many employees exist in today, and during a time of definitive government support for technological and business-process innovation, now is a better time than ever for entrepreneurial individuals to explore their ideas and bring them to life.”

Regional economic development and city profile agency ChristchurchNZ has just signed two agreements with Ara Institute of Canterbury and Ministry of Awesome through the Te Ōhaka – Centre for Growth & Innovation and with University of Canterbury (UC) Business School.  These are both designed to “identify, support, and accelerate” the growth of Christchurch start-ups, with a focus on those that are aligned with ChristchurchNZ’s ‘Supernodes’ sector strategy.