Start it Up! launches online programme for aspiring business owners through ministry contract – Whanganui Chronicle

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Jeff King of MyMahi, Niki Vernon of Money Poppins and Sally Ross of WDETT have come together to create Start it Up! Photo / Bevan Conley
A trio based in The Backhouse Whanganui has launched a new online course for aspiring business owners.
At the beginning of 2022, the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) sent out a proposal looking for three
Start it Up! won one of the contracts, which provides online training and funding to help turn business ideas into viable businesses, co-founder Niki Vernon said.
Similar to MSD’s Be Your Own Boss initiative, Vernon said successful applicants to Start it Up! would receive $10,000 in start-up funding and 28 weeks of $600 a week with a three-month revision.
She said the difference was the course was fully online.
“Building a business requires a lot of research and when you’re doing one-on-one mentoring it’s very easy to get sidetracked and leave important gaps,” Vernon said.
“But when it’s online you can be sure there are no learning gaps and it’s more consistent because everyone does the same training.
“It’s really important people understand everything from terminologies to taxes.”
Start it Up! is comprised of Sally Ross from Whanganui District Employment and Training Trust (WDETT), Jeff King, founder of online learning platform MyMahi, and Money Poppins founder Vernon.
“We’ve all got completely different backgrounds, which is why it works,” Vernon said.
Through Money Poppins, Vernon provides business advice and coaching. She recently moved into The Backhouse in Drews Ave, sparking the collaboration with King and Ross.
“The whole idea of The Backhouse was for people to work more collaboratively, and now we are.”
The contract for Start it Up! began in July and applicants started their business plans last Thursday.
When applicants’ business plans were completed, usually taking around four weeks, they would be reviewed and, if accepted, receive funding, Vernon said.
She, King and Ross were also available for online and face-to-face support for the applicants.
She said a problem for people without business experience who wanted to be sole traders was feeling alone if they hit a wall.
“In Whanganui people are very good at helping each other, so we want to extend that to other regions.”
She said there were some applicants from Wellington and Palmerston North.
The first business ideas included a bookshop in Marton, an in-home support service connecting people with health limitations to support workers, a tattoo studio in Whanganui, an online clinical breathing retraining programme, an online and in-person record store, and a ceramic and art studio.
Vernon said the course was also available for free for anyone wanting to do their own business plan, regardless of whether they were trying to get funding.
King said the new programmes helped take the workload off MSD.
“It also means people can have a much more flexible learning environment.
“Geographically it doesn’t matter where they are, which is what we ultimately want. “
MSD industry partnerships director Amanda Nicolle said successful applicants would have access to an online mentor through Zoom, via desktop or mobile phone, providing a home solution for clients with child/carer responsibilities.
“They can also immediately start the programme and work at their own pace.”
Nicolle said the other two successful bidders were Ochre Business Solutions in Auckland and Rebel Business School Aotearoa in Wellington.
She said the programme’s structure made Start it Up! the key contact point for the client, which avoided the need for the applicants to engage with multiple MSD stakeholders.
Whanganui & Partners business growth adviser Simon Putan said the number of businesses in Whanganui was growing more than the national business unit growth.
“There were 4341 businesses in Whanganui in 2021, reflecting regional growth of 2 per cent, which compares favourably to national business unit growth of 0.5 per cent,” Putan said.
“These businesses employed 20,973 workers in 2021, compared to 20,670 in 2020.”
He said there was also slight growth in self-employment in 2021.
“Whanganui’s self-employment rate was 14.4 per cent, compared to 14.2 per cent in 2020 and 14 per cent in 2019.”
Putan said anyone could start selling widgets or provide a service as a sole trader.
“The challenging part is running a successful business. It takes determination, skill and a bit of luck to be successful.”
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Over 60 vehicles took part in Whanganui Heritage Month's first vehicle parade on Saturday.


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