Business Masterclass with Anna Rooke - video transcript

The following is a transcript of the video of Anna Rooke, CEO, QUT Creative Enterprise Australia speaks at the Brisbane Lord Mayor's Business Forum on 4 November 2015 at Chermside. 

It's really great to be here this evening to chat to you a little bit about the importance of the creative industries and for me personally I've been very privileged to call Brisbane home for nearly nine years. I would just say that the lifestyle here has been fantastic. The weather is certainly a huge improvement from the UK.

I grew up in a very working class northern town, I don't know if any of you have seen the Billy Elliot movie? A few nods in the audience, well that's pretty close to where I grew up. For me one of the things that I was always passionate was working in the creative industries. I really wanted to be a fashion designer and I had one of those conversations at school with a career's counsellor which took me in a very different direction where I ended up studying Business and Economics.

I have spent the last 20 years working in commercialisation, in biotech, in IT and in creative industries.

I feel that I've sort of come full circle because I now run a fashion accelerator at QUT and I'm also involved in helping a number of capital raising ventures for some fashion businesses.

So for me having also run my own company in the UK in medical devices I really want to help entrepreneurs understand what it takes to build a company, what are some of the learnings that you need to undertake and some of the challenges along the way.

Probably the biggest thing that I would like you all to get out of my short presentation - because I know it's a late night for everyone - is that you're not alone. There is a huge amount of support out there. Obviously we have all the fantastic resources from Brisbane City Council here but there is a number of mentoring groups and associations that can really help you.

I'm more than happy to chat more about that through the course of the presentation.

So I just want to talk a little bit about creative industries and why I think it's so important to Brisbane's future. We have heard from the Lord Mayor earlier about the importance of the new economic development plan.

But for me one of the important parts of that is that when you look at the kind of national scene for creative industries it's now actually representing 123,000 businesses in our economy. That number is growing.

Australia was actually named the top country for global creative talent this year by one of the leading kind of - I guess research experts in this field. A guy called Richard Florida who has ranked Australia number one in this field.

Kind of more locally at home the Brisbane 2020 Economic Development Plan, and I was lucky to be one of those thousand people consulted, and I think that the direction of this plan is absolutely on the money to take the city forward. Particularly around looking at the importance of these new growth sectors.

What I wanted to highlight is that the creative and digital industry sector, whilst it's part of the overall picture of the city, it is really fast growing, it is really taking hold in terms of contributing more numbers to the number of people employed in the industry and also the number of businesses that are starting out.

Particularly when you look at where Brisbane is actually performing, our creative industry sector is actually hot on the heels in terms of its growth relative to Sydney. That's a really important metric.

One of the questions form the audience earlier is about what makes Brisbane unique and different? I personally think that the creative industries and the digital industries is what sets this city apart. Because we have an enormous talent based here and the lifestyle and all of the liveability factors makes this a really attractive destination for people, not just to start up their own business but also to relocate here.

So this is my office, I'm very fortunate to work at QUT's award winning Creative Industries Precinct. QUT had the foresight, a decade ago, to set up a commercial arm that was looking at how it could help entrepreneurs of the future set up their own business.

We work with people who have graduated and we also work with people who just need our help and perhaps like the idea of collocating with other innovative businesses, also who are perhaps interested in connecting with QUT through internships.

[Llew] talked about some of the advantages for doing that. So our building is just across the parade ground, we're located in the same building as La Boite roundhouse theatre.

We have about 70 companies located on site and really we're very focused on trying to help businesses start, grow and scale in the creative industries. We're the only company of our kind in the whole of Australia that is focused on this sector. Which, compared to the UK, there was probably about 60 organisations that had the same mandate when I was based there.

So we're very lucky in Brisbane to actually have a real focus on this sector and we've worked with probably close to 300 companies now. The number I really want you to remember is how many start-ups are growing because that number is actually going to increase rapidly, because there have been some fantastic changes at a federal level, but also at a state and local level to really try to create the right environment to help people set up their own business.

There's some fantastic programs. The Lord Mayor has his Budding Entrepreneurship Program, the Advance Queensland Initiative has a number of new start-up programs rolling out.

Probably maybe about five or six years ago if you had a start-up idea it was a bit tricky for you to perhaps access early stage capital. That landscape has changed dramatically in the last five years. There's a lot more support available for companies.

The sectors that we focus in on cut across all the creative industries. We work predominately in the screen based industries, in fashion and design and entertainment. We also work at an intersection of all of those segments as well.

I think that some of the issues that we've encountered along the way that some creative companies have found quite tricky and challenging, just in terms of growing from a single founder actually into a very successful business has been around the competition landscape.

It can be so challenging when you're in business to work out what your unique value proposition actually is, but that's your secret sauce. That's what defines who you are. I think as Llew was saying earlier, the number one thing is about being authentic.

So making sure that whatever you think your competitive edge is, really own that space and really be authentic around what that is and we try to help start-up companies or entrepreneurs who think that they've got a great idea. We do a few Google searches and find out that there are a couple of people doing very similar things, so make sure if you have a new business idea that you do that homework first.

There's some really resources out there to help you understand that competitive landscape and what you can do differently. You can compete on a number of different things, it's not always about price. As is often the case it's about customer service or just having a more engaged presence.

Certainly understanding your competition landscape is crucial. A lot of the companies we work with, perhaps it's their first business. Some of the challenges of actually setting up your first business can be a little bit daunting.

That's why it's really important to get the help that you need from the very early stages, juts in terms of asking for advice on how to set up bank accounts, should you set up a proprietary limited company structure. Should you set up a partnership? Should you run it through a trust? All of those sorts of issues, there's a lot of help and support you can get along the way.

Some of the companies that we work with actually need financial help to grow their idea. Some people that we work with are very lucky, that they've had other jobs or that they're going to work part-time before they transition into their business. Some have taken a bank loan, some have borrowed money from family and friends. Other times people actually need to raise investment from venture capitalists or business angels.

So if you fall into that category that's - a lot of the work that we do is helping start-ups understand what investors are looking for and helping them go through that process of preparing to raise investment, how you present, how you pitch for it and what investors are actually looking for.

Certainly if you are interested there's a lot of support in Brisbane to help you with that.

Then we heard a lot about it from Llew, I won't go into detail, but managing creative talent is really important and we see all too often, people not putting the time and energy into getting that right and hiring too quickly or not having the correct employment contracts in place or not understanding their responsibilities if they're employing people as a contractor versus an employee. How to kind of define intellectual property. All sorts of different challenges.

Certainly these are the key areas that you need to watch out for.

The support that we give is really structured around all of those phases. So from somebody having a brilliant idea to actually wanting to grow as a company. I think what's exciting about the creative industries is that there are so many different business models and there's no one size fits all. So what works for you may be entirely different as to what works with your peers or your competitors. I think it's really important that you explore all of those options.

The support that we offer is I guess really in a couple of main areas. One is that we will sit down and give people business advice. The second thing is that we provide co-working space. So if you want to just come and work from our building for a day a week or one day every six months, you've got the flexibility of meeting likeminded individuals, people are in the same position as you, maybe working in different industry sectors.

So there are a number of co-working spaces across Brisbane. That's a really great way of connecting with likeminded businesses and entrepreneurs.

We have our space, our River City Labs in the Valley, Little Tokyo too. [Unclear out at Long Pocket] so there's a lot of great networks and support to kind of help you through that process if you need access to space as well as access to networks and support.

One of the tools that we use quite a lot and I don't know if any of you guys have come across it - has anyone come across The Business Model Canvas? That's good, there's a few hands up in the room.

If you haven't come across this before it's a really great tool no matter what stage of business you're at. If you're in the early stages or if you're an advanced business. It's a free online tool and it's kind of called The Business Model Canvas, and you can't really read it terribly well in this light tonight, but it's all about how you build your value proposition.

How do you actually build great customer relationships? How do you actually kind of manage your costs and what sort of income can you expect to generate from a particular new idea or a new business venture. So certainly there are a number of really great tools out there to help you plan, and we use this one quite a lot with our companies because it's a very simple, one page plan that gets all of your ideas out. It's a very visual tool and it actually steps you through the questions that you need to ask internally.

Certainly I think that that would be a really great opportunity for you to look at.

Finally what I would say is if you are thinking of looking to raise funding we have an investment fund that invests exclusively in creative businesses. We invest up to $150,000 in return for equity

Some of the things that we're looking for, and this is true of any investor, is around the people who are running the company, about the market opportunity, around the kind of potential for the company to grow and kind of where we see that unique value proposition.

Often you'll see in a lot of online reading, and I'm a huge fan of [Medium] I don't know that's probably something else that Kat also uses. It's a great platform to kind of put in all the key areas that you're interested in. a lot of people in the venture capital scene are always looking for this sweet spot. Which is where your product is different to other segments, where customers are really looking for a new demand.

Certainly that's kind of the Holy Grail of business, trying to define that new sweet spot. Which is what Uber and what Airbnb have managed to achieve.

So certainly if you are thinking about raising investment have a chat to me, there' s a lot of people in Brisbane who can help you, even if you're not in the creative industries I know lots of people that can help you if you're in other industry verticals.

So that's probably it from me. All I would say in summary is that I think Brisbane creative industries talent is super exciting. We have amazing businesses like Reload Media, Halfbrick Studios, the creators of Fruit Ninja, Hoodlum, we have companies that work with Disney and Sesame Street, we have a really vibrant ecosystem and I think that for you guys in the room tonight, if you are passionate about really driving your business forward make sure that you get the right support to help you on that journey. 

Go back to the Innovation and new ideas Masterclass videos page.

15 February 2016