You have heard of the sea-change and the tree-change. In recent years, Australia’s regional centres have become home to a new breed of entrepreneurs who are making an “e-change”.
This has been identified by KPMG’s Bernard Salt, who has been travelling the country uncovering areas where local economies are evolving.
In his Bendigo Lifestylepreneur Report, compiled for NBN Co, Mr Salt found Victoria’s Bendigo is set to become a small business hotspot. This is a result of greater connectivity and projected population growth driven by the “e-change” movement.
Located 150 kilometres from Melbourne, Bendigo is Australia’s fourth-largest inland city. The town sprung up in the 1850s after the discovery of gold attracted immigrants from around the world.
After a post gold rush downturn, Bendigo’s economy regained momentum thanks to manufacturing and primary industry.
Over the past four years, Bendigo has faced a significant shift in its employment structure.
The town and surrounding areas are now transitioning away from the manufacturing industry. While employment levels have taken something of a hit, the Bendigo Lifestylepreneur Report (commissioned by NBN Co) reveals there has been a steady 2.3 per cent uplift in local micro businesses (1–4 employees) in the last two years.
Bendigo is becoming a more service-based economy, with professional services, accommodation, food, and finance businesses increasing since 2015.
Key pockets including Strathfieldsaye, Bendigo South and Maiden Gully are leading the startup charge, with small and micro-business numbers rising by up to 32 per cent.
It is easy to think of entrepreneurs as burning the midnight oil, striving for growth, and using every hour of the day to make more money.
However, a new breed of entrepreneur is emerging. Known as the ‘lifestylepreneur’, these business owners range from the semi-retired to Gen-Xers who are looking to escape the rat race.
Lifestylepreneurs aren’t aiming for Fortune 500 listings; they seek work-life balance.
They wish to live outside of major hubs and want to be able to run their business from somewhere close to home.
For Victorians, Bendigo is an ideal location to set up shop as a lifestylepreneur. According to Bernard Salt, “Population growth in Bendigo is set to surge over the next decade from a metropolitan overspill effect as well as Australians looking for a lifestyle shift.”
“Our research shows there is an entrepreneurial resilience and business agility in the Bendigo region,” he adds, stating that Bendigo has “close proximity to Melbourne, lower operating costs and connectivity via the nbn™ broadband access network”.
These factors combine to make the city a popular destination for the lifestylepreneur / e-change movement.
Increased connectivity means small and medium businesses in regional Australia can now access similar internet speeds to their big city counterparts.* This means job growth, innovation and opportunity.
As the rollout of the nbn™ broadband access network ramps up in Bendigo, local businesses are maximising their productivity and improving their work-life balance by embracing new technology.
An example of this is Make it APPen, a locally based app development company run by ‘lifestylepreneur’ Julie Mission.
“I’ve been a nurse for over 20 years, but decided to combine this passion with my love of technology and start my own healthcare app development business right here in Bendigo,” says Julie.
“The nbn™ access network is essential to my business, as I use high bandwidth applications and programs to design the software and rely on video conferencing tools to communicate with clients across the country.”
According to Bernard Salt, as the Bendigo region continues to restructure after the downturn of the manufacturing industry, it may well be small businesses like Julie’s that drive the recovery.
“Agile, flexible and entrepreneurial locals, together with newly arrived lifestylepreneurs will establish micro and small businesses in all sorts of niches,” says Mr Salt. “These new businesses will be a vital part of the future economy of the Bendigo region.”
According to Mr Salt, crucial to the success of these new businesses is that they work under the best conditions possible. This ranges from the provision of local start-up incubators to the delivery of digital infrastructure in the form of technology such as the nbn™ access network.