Starting a business is tough. You have to be committed to your idea. You have to have an abundance of confidence. You need to have people around you who will encourage and support you when your confidence waivers. You also need finance to get you off the ground. But what happens if you’ve faced serious hardship and are welfare dependent, or if you’re a single parent or a refugee? What happens if you don’t even have a bank account? What happens when those around you expect you to do nothing but fail? Would you even dare to even dream it? Where would you go to get started?
For those who find their way to Many Rivers and strong support is at hand. Many people in Newcastle and Hunter Region been able to create new businesses with their guidance, from florists and express delivery services, to hairdressers, cafes and wellness therapists. As a micro-enterprise development support organisation, Many Rivers helps these entrepreneurs with business support and access to bank loans.
‘We’re not here to judge. We’re here to help provide support for those who want to start a business.
We want to help marginalised individuals overcome the barriers that exclude them from participating in mainstream society,’ says Dylan Dyer, Field Officer, Many Rivers.
But Many Rivers does more than helping with access to loans and setting up bank accounts. It also runs a business mentoring program with support of volunteers from the Newcastle and Hunter business community.
‘We help our clients become comfortable with the uncertainties of business. It’s about giving access to finance sure, but it’s also about now-how and giving emotional support during a time of growth and learning,’ says Mr Dyer.
One of Many Rivers success stories is the café One Penny Black, which is located in the Hunter Street Mall. As one of the first cafes to establish itself in the Mall, it is in large part responsible for attracting shoppers back to the centre of town playing a strong role in revitalising Newcastle.
‘I’ve worked with One Penny Black since the start. They’ve worked hard to earn the reputation of having one of Newcastle’s best coffees. And the business has thrived. It’s it even had to relocate to bigger premises,’ Mr Dyer says.
Another client, Cherie Johnson, Founder of Speaking in Colours, has also felt value in the mentoring program when Many Rivers connected her with Penny Winn, Port Waratah’s Chairperson.
‘It been brilliant to be able to bounce ideas with her and look at different options,’ says Johnson.
In the last three years, Many Rivers has helped 96 businesses start in Newcastle and the Hunter Region, with these businesses provide jobs for 351 people, including the business owners. Of these people being employed, either part or fulltime, 138 are female (39%) and 114 are indigenous (32%).
Many Rivers supports small businesses in Newcastle, the Hunter and NSW. It directs resources and provides mentorship to those who face disadvantage related to income and access to finance. It helps them overcome barriers in mainstream society and to develop thriving businesses.