Entrepreneurs, inventors and business start-ups in the Raglan area can get valuable free advice and mentoring support thanks to a team of visiting business experts.

On the second Thursday of each month business growth advisor Novell Gopal visits Raglan to meet with local people who have a great business idea, product or service and want advice on how to get it to market. Raglan is a new area of service for Gopal, who is one of the Business Growth Services team based at Waikato Innovation Park in Hamilton

“I am excited to come to Raglan and meet with people and talk about their business ideas,” said Gopal.  

The Business Growth Services team is funded by the Regional Business Partner Network (RBPN) which is supported by New Zealand Trade & Enterprise (NZTE) and Callaghan Innovation. The services are free to all greater Waikato businesses, not just those based at Waikato Innovation Park.

Their aim is to support businesses who have high-growth aspirations, are export focused, technology-driven or have innovative products or services with real commercial merit.

At least one-third of clients are outside of Hamilton, and team members travel at least once a month to Raglan, Thames, Tokoroa, Paeroa and Tuakau to meet with people and talk to them about their businesses. On average they meet with around 400 businesses every year.

“I love my job,” said Gopal. “It’s a privilege meeting people who have ideas with real business potential. The hard part is taking those inventions and good ideas through to the launch stage and, hopefully, commercial success.”

To date the team has engaged with more than 1000 businesses and have helped contribute more than $1.3 million to the regional economy through their support of new businesses and products.

Led by business growth manager Craig Purcell, the team of six includes experienced business growth advisors Novell Gopal, Peter Davey, Vicki Fabling and Vanessa Clark, communications and administration assistant Sneha Tiwary and Waikato mentor manager Tony Kane.

Their clients include both established businesses and start-ups. Some are people with good ideas but in need of guidance or research and development co-funding, while others may be small-to-medium businesses with high-growth aspirations or with innovative new products or services they want to commercialise or export.

Not every business idea is a good one. “A key part of what we do is assessing whether or not there is a market for the business or product,” said Gopal. “Essentially you have to ask yourself, does someone want to spend their money on this?”

It is important for those with innovative business ideas or products to get advice early on, so they can access co-funding or a Getting Started grant.

Gopal said that an initial ‘discovery’ meeting was typically followed by an action plan that detailed opportunities as well as barriers to growth.

Depending on the stage of the business or product, he could put people in touch with a business mentor or connect them with resources or experts to expand their business.

“Our team has good networks and contacts, and a wealth of experience,” said Gopal. “Between us, there are few questions we cannot answer.”

One valuable resource is Waikato mentor manager Tony Kane, who can connect start-ups with compatible mentors. “A business mentor can be invaluable for new businesses. They have been there before and can offer real-world advice on how to get through the highs and lows,” said Gopal.

Eligible businesses may qualify for Regional Business Partner co-funding through the NZTE Capability Development Voucher Scheme, which can be used to subsidise training and capability development. The vouchers enable key staff in eligible businesses to upskill in key areas, including strategic planning, marketing, capital raising, business systems, finance, sustainability, managing resources, governance and exporting – allowing access to around 800 high-level service providers.

Gopal said he was looking forward to visiting Raglan – a township with an international reputation for creativity and innovative thinking.  


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