Welcome Sarah. Tell us how you came to call the Coffs Coast home.
I grew up in the Riverina region of south west NSW and upon finishing high school, I moved to the beautiful Mid North Coast for a sea change and to start university. Seven years later and I’m still here, with no plans to leave anytime soon. A number of my siblings have since relocated to Coffs and I met my husband here and have since bought our first home this year, which really cements the Coffs Coast as home.
Your current side hustle is the development of your app, Thrive. Can you tell us a little bit about this idea and how it came to fruition?
Thrive is something I have been working on for just over twelve months now. The idea came about through my experience with volunteer programs and regional organisations and charities who are extremely under-resourced. Thrive provides a solution by offering a frictionless experience for both volunteers and organisations, whilst capturing data and ensuring compliance. The aim of Thrive is to completely revolutionise the way Australians connect with volunteering opportunities, making it easy, interactive and rewarding.
Being a new tech start up, what has the journey been like so far?
I was fortunate enough to win Coffs Harbour City Council’s Startup Coffs Coast pitch competition in June, which has afforded me seed funding to commence developing my minimum viable product. I am still in the early stages of the startup journey, working on my business model canvas and ensuring I have the correct problem/solution fit and the right team to move forward. I have also recently completed Startup Onramp, which is a 12-week training and mentoring program for first-time startup founders, located right here in Coffs Harbour. The program really does provide perspective on just how much is involved in the entrepreneurial journey and most importantly, what not to do. I have met some really great people through Startup Onramp and there are some seriously great businesses emerging locally… watch this space!
You recently returned from Silicon Valley in the USA on a Digital Study Tour; can you share your experience with us?
Certainly; it was such an incredible experience being a digital native and working in the digital marketing space. The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is not as far away as you might think. We are now living in what is being dubbed the fourth industrial revolution, that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological domains. Whilst this is an extremely exciting time to be working in tech, the ethics of future technology is something to watch … at what point does convenience become creepy? Apart from the mind-blowing technology we got to witness, one of the key take homes was the need for businesses to be agile, always being ready to pivot, evolve and embrace new ideas and concepts.
Creating a new business is a big process in itself. What resources have you found useful to assist in your startup so far?
I have only recently returned from StartCon, Australia’s largest startup and growth conference. The knowledge and network that I gained from the event is proving invaluable – from intellectual property through to funding opportunities. I am a self-confessed nerd, in that I love teaching myself new things, reading and researching, which has proved extremely helpful in the journey so far. I think the hardest thing for any startup is the countless hours, energy and money put in to validate an idea, before the development and growth can even occur. The most important tips I have learnt so far: is to seek genuine feedback; be an enabler by helping others connect; and the most valuable thing, if you’re a startup on the Coffs Coast, is to go and chat to Six Degrees Coworking.
How does your current role as Community Engagement Manager at C.ex Group support your new startup?
I am very fortunate to have an extremely supportive workplace who not only want to see me succeed, but for the entire Coffs Coast community to develop. There is certainly harmony between the community ethos of clubs and what Thrive is aspiring to achieve. The culture of innovation that C.ex Group ensures and how, as an industry, clubs are really starting to embrace technology lends itself to a future partnership and certainly support of startups at an industry level.
Fast forward five years; what are you hoping to achieve?
I’m hoping that Thrive will be active across multiple industries and that the footprint of Australian charities and volunteers is better understood and managed. Dependent on the success of Thrive, I’d really like to remain in the startup scene and particularly the local startup community. I hope to have finally given up the text books by then, being content with no more tertiary studies on the horizon. I also hope to complete a full marathon, but let’s not get too carried away and print that! … whoops, we just did!
You’re also the Vice President of the Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce; what do you hope to achieve in that role?
I have been on the Chamber Board for just under three years now and as much as it has broadened my network, the real goal is the prosperity and development of the Coffs Coast business sector. The Chamber represents all businesses from micro to large and constantly lobbies local, state and federal governments on what is best for our city’s future. Being part of the Chamber allows me to do my part to ensure we can all continue to work, live and play on the Coffs Coast.
What motivates you each day to get out of bed?
Coffee! And the fact that I am extremely achievement-orientated, meaning I always have a very long to do list. I like to challenge myself in all aspects of my life and I’m always chasing the next goal, so that’s what keeps me motivated … although I must admit, I am definitely a night owl and not a morning person.
Finally, being on the beautiful Coffs Coast, what are the top three things you love about living here?
Taking my dogs to the beach, indulging in gozleme at the food markets and most importantly, the people.