Indigenous entrepreneurs shared their successes and struggles at a business breakfast event in Tamworth today.
Held on the last day of Small Business Month, the event at the Mercure Hotel Tamworth included speakers from fashion design, Aboriginal employment and community development realms.
The Inspirational Indigenous Business Thought Leaders event attracted about 40 people and was emceed by Jobs Australia Aboriginal enterprise development officer Kirby Mills.
Award-winning designer Colleen Tighe Johnson spoke of her aim to open a fashion house in the city, which would train and employ young people as graphic artists, photographers and more.
She said a talk on the vision for Tamworth's growth, from regional mayor Col Murray, had given her more confidence about the potential of "setting up a worldwide business ... from a regional country town".
"It means that I don't have to leave Tamworth - what I do in my business all over the world, I can do from Tamworth," she said.
Ms Johnson said she wanted to encourage young Indigenous people to "look outside that box" of "what we normally do ... go to school, do our thing and not really think about the future".
"If I could do it all again, it would be a different perspective - but now that I'm here, my aim is ... to encourage and mentor them and be able to show them 'If I can do it, you can do it'."
Purpose, plan, path
Bonnie Cochrane also spoke at the event; she makes teaching resources to bring an Indigenous focus to subject areas including maths, geography and history.
She said three keys to her business were "purpose, plan and path".
"Make sure you know your purpose: mine is to be of service to help teachers to become confident in delivering Indigenous perspectives," she said.
"'Path' is figuring out where you want to be in five years, your overall plan of the future and how you're going to get there ... And then break it down even simpler, by the plan: make a monthly plan and break it down into tiny little steps to achieve that."
Ms Johnson said school-based apprenticeships and traineeships were "an excellent resource and tool for our kids to be able to look forward to the future".
"We're so hands-on and we learn differently," she said.
She aimed to work more with schools and employment agencies "so that we can say that these things are available - that's something I'm really passionate about".
The session also included 2 Rivers managing director Lorrayne Fishenden; Aboriginal Employment Strategy executive director Jason Smith; and Jobs for NSW client engagement director Tony Stephens.