Seminar to turn ideas to into great businesses

By John Maslin

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How to turn a great business idea into reality is the theme of a special day-long seminar being promoted by Whanganui and Partners.

The seminars will be held in the War Memorial Centre's concert chamber next Friday morning and afternoon.

Adrian Dixon, manager of Whanganui and Partners, the district council's economic unit, said the sessions would be headed by Adam Hunt, a director of Auckland-based company Liftoff, which specialises in raising equity capital through what's called crowdfunding.

Whanganui and Partners formed a partnership with Liftoff last year.

Crowdfunding is a relatively new activity in New Zealand but it lets companies raise funds by offering shares to the public via a website.

Mr Dixon said the board approached a number of operators in the crowdfunding area and from a handful of responses only Liftoff offered a genuine partnership.

He said crowdfunding would be the focus of the first workshop but others covering different topics would follow.

"We're trying to encourage UCOL students and secondary school students, indeed anyone around the city with a bit of an idea. This is the chance to kick those ideas around and see what could be done in capital raising that will see those ideas come to fruition," he said.

The workshops represented the first step in developing what was being called "the innovation quarter" for Whanganui, he said.

"In its simplest terms, it's about creating an innovation area within the city where innovative ideas happened," Mr Dixon said.

Some community workshops around this concept had been held and information gathered, and in the last few months Mr Dixon and a former colleague had been pulling together a model that they believed could work in a community of Whanganui's size.

Mr Dixon said that when he was working for Trade NZ, he spent time helping central government look at business incubators. They looked at international models and what was required "to help business startups take off".

"The two common factors were a population of about 100,000 and a research-based tertiary institution.

"We've got neither of those in our city so we've been working hard on a different model that might work."

He said one of the keys from the regional growth strategy the Government was pushing was getting access to capital, and the partnership with Liftoff provided that avenue.

"We're really excited there was someone in the marketplace willing to do a partnership with us," he said.

Mr Hunt told the Chronicle last year that crowdfunding put a business idea in front of 100,000 people or more.

"You could get 50 people liking it and you can get your money without going anywhere near a bank. There's always the flipside that no one puts up money but that's what can happen. The success is not whether you get crowdfunding or not. It's whether the business is still operating in a couple of years."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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