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Young blood gets business savvy

Business & finance

Young blood gets business savvy

The Sunshine Coast’s first Youth Chamber of Commerce is inviting all local business people under 35 to join the organisation for moral support, mentoring and networking events targeted at a younger demographic.

The Sunshine Coast’s only Youth Chamber of Commerce is full of optimism as it heads into its second year.

With the Sunshine Coast attracting more and more young business professionals, Mooloolaba-based residential sales consultant Jordan Barden saw the need for a united body to support under 35s.

About three years ago, Mr Barden established Young Professionals Sunshine Coast and out of that evolved the Sunshine Coast Young Chamber of Commerce, a group of young, driven, professionals.

“I founded the Young Professionals Sunshine Coast because I felt [there] was a real lack of opportunity for young like-minded individuals to catch up and chat about their business, plus any challenges they may be facing,” he says. “It was a bit of an informal networking group.”

The group continued to attract interest and its membership increased to 20.

Mr Barden admits at that point they “hit a bit of a ceiling” with the group and needed to look at other avenues.

“We got too big for how informal we were, so needed to do something to make it more formal.”

Along with the help of successful businesswomen Bronte Cresswell and Katie Wass and the Maroochydore Chamber of Commerce, they launched the first youth chamber on the Sunshine Coast.

Now one of four executive members, Mr Barden says the SCYCC is an amazing opportunity to help like-minded young professionals achieve their goals, helping each other with challenges along the way.

“I play a big role in helping educate the SCYCC through organising guest speakers every second month of the year to tell their story on where they started and how they have built a successful brand and/or business,” he says.

With a strong culture developing on the Sunshine Coast of young individuals pushing to make an impact in the business and professional world, Mr Barden says the Young Chamber of Commerce network offers an essential platform.

“The younger generation of professionals are not only complementing the current local business environment, but taking their own unique approach and having real influence in their industries.

“Our purpose and goal is to nurture this drive and allow for an environment where members can gain further insight and understanding, while having access to a trusted group of fellow professionals for support, collaboration and referrals.

“Having a platform to support each other is crucial in driving the culture forward and we are excited to play a role in this.”

Mr Barden says young business people are looking for an element of fun when networking, which they perceive as missing from traditional chamber groups.

“We’re bringing the fun back into networking,” he says.

“I think the biggest complaint for young people with [traditional] chambers is there is a bit of an older vibe there and they can’t relate to everyone.”

He says the SCYCC mixes professional workshops with networking and events.

“At the end of the day, we just wanted to create a really cool space where we could all have a bit of fun in a like-minded community.

“We’re flat out with our own businesses and trying to further our business and help the Sunshine Coast, but at the end of the day we are keen for a beer and to have a bit of fun.”

The youth chamber includes under 35s in the real estate and insurance sectors, graphic design and social media marketing, plus home building and pool companies, cafes and small businesses.

“It’s one way for people to get their brand out there,” Mr Barden says.

“We all plug each other as well, so we are always shouting each other out, constantly getting each other’s brands out there, supporting each other to help everyone grow.

“We make sure we make the effort to visit those who own businesses and restaurants too.”

SCYCC is aligned with the Maroochydore Chamber of Commerce, something Mr Barden says establishes credibility and offers valuable insights to members.

“They have given a bit of a platform to launch the young chamber, but we are 100 per cent our own young chamber and anyone from the Coast can join us.”

With nothing set in stone for 2021, Mr Barden says the chamber is hoping to hold a few charity events and grow its membership, which currently sits at 30 paid members. “Our goal is to get 100 members,” he says. “We are the first young chamber in Sunshine Coast history, and we want to grow a huge platform for people to come and hang out with like-minded individuals and grow their business.

“We just want to get bigger and better and the bigger and better we can get, the more avenues we can explore with training, and big successful companies and entrepreneurs can come and chat to us.”

What you get from your  Chamber membership

The Sunshine Coast Young Chamber of Commerce membership provides you with access to a wide community of experienced and successful business professionals on the Sunshine Coast, mentorship, industry support and a platform for the younger generation in our community to have a voice.

SCYCC is perfect if you:

  • Are a professional under 35 years of age
  • Own your own business or are an employee in a role where you want to progress and make an impact through your work
  • Want to meet new people, hear their stories, connect with them and build an authentic relationship with them
  • Want to help others in any way you can
  • Are driven and motivated
  • Want to make a positive impact on the Sunshine Coast
  • Want to get involved in the Sunshine Coast community
  • Are keen to better yourself and your business/profession
  • Are open to opportunities
  • Want to make new friends and set the roots of your business/profession on the Sunshine Coast.


Mentored to success

Cate Milton (centre) ready to make fudge with her staff

Instead of going under, one business owner put up her hand and engaged volunteers from the Sunshine Coast Chamber Alliance mentoring program to show her how to work through adversity. WORDS: Gail Forrer.

When Cate Milton’s business hit hard times, she came up for air and signed up with the Sunshine Coast Chamber Alliance mentoring program. Since then, with a diverse range of business strategies in place, these days her head is well above water.

Ms Milton bought the Fudge Cottage in 2005. The business made and sold the fudge in its own shop, located in the strip of shops connected to Aussie World on the Highway, near Caloundra. At the time of buying the business, Ms Milton says she felt secure about the purchase for a few reasons, including the fact that this was her second foray into business and the previous owner had successfully operated the business for 10 years.

“However, during 2018 a number of changes were occurring that were adversely impacting my business,” Ms Milton says.

“The revenue was under pressure and the profitability was on a downhill slide.”

Ms Milton says her first meeting with Sunshine Coast Chamber Alliance mentors Barry O’Rourke and Steven Haites involved explaining her problem and concluded with advice from the mentors to manage costs of operation and to find new channels to market and/or relocate.

“I managed to take a range of steps to reduce my overheads,” she says.

“But relocation, because the shop was both a place of production and a retail outlet, was problematic.”

Ms Milton says she had started a redevelopment of design and package production that was more suited to the presentation and shipping of the fudge. With that in mind and at the suggestion of her mentors, Ms Milton successfully developed a wholesale channel where the product would sell through other retail outlets. Additionally, she completed a course to enable her to set up online selling.

Over a period of a year, Mr O’Rourke and Mr Haites met with Ms Milton on a regular basis. When appropriate, they included other mentors with various expertise to assist the business.

“The process of articulating my challenges, having mentors with significant business experience question and recommend ideas gave me substantial confidence,” she says.

Importantly, Ms Milton always says she felt completely in control of the decision-making process in her business.

Looking back now she says, “There is a good chance that without their advice my business would have failed, whereas now I have an expanded, more resilient and profitable business.

“I encourage all Sunshine Coast business to investigate the mentoring service even if your business is not in any imminent difficulties.

The Business Mentoring Program is a not-for-profit program to help small and medium-sized businesses on the Sunshine Coast reach their full potential. Contact Business Mentoring

Key benefits of the mentoring program:

Enables you to step out of the day-to-day and take an objective look at your business. Provides you with a space to brainstorm ideas and plan for the future. Offers you an independent sounding board via an impartial source with no vested interests. Acts as a catalyst to inject new energy into your business and take it to the next level with local mentors who have global reach.

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