A new scheme aims to help Rotorua entrepreneurs turn business ideas into reality - with the support of local "angels".
Plenty of Innovation, run by Bay of Plenty investor group Enterprise Angels with the support of Grow Rotorua, launches next week with its pilot Rotorua Entrepreneur Bootcamp.
Grow Rotorua's Mark Smith said one of the organisation's tasks was to encourage and assist more start-up businesses, to help make Rotorua a more vibrant place.
Mr Smith said the bootcamps would enable those with a business idea to get "market validation" before sinking time and money into a product or service that may not be market ready.
They will consist of five fortnightly workshops to allow people to test their ideas and learn what was needed to turn them into a successful business. The pilot has been organised with Te Puni Kokiri and will involve seven local people with "inspiring" business ideas, according to Mr Smith.
Mr Smith said all bootcamp participants would be linked up with a mentor - an Enterprise Angels member.
"That doesn't mean they are [necessarily] going to invest but they are someone to bounce ideas off," Mr Smith said. "It's the strength of this programme."
A key goal of the bootcamps is to prepare entrepreneurs to pitch for investment, whether off their own back or through the Enterprise Angels scheme, he said.
The organisation is Tauranga-based (although it does have Rotorua members) but is now looking to establish chapters in Rotorua, Taupo and possibly Whakatane.
With about 100 investors looking for opportunities to invest in, it is the largest angel investor group in the country and to date members have invested more than $7 million.
Mr Smith said the hope was to find more Rotorua people to become angels, and/or act as mentors. "We want to get out there and say to people in Rotorua if you've got an idea don't be afraid you're not going to get funds, that's the least of your worries."
Te Puni Kokiri Te Arawa regional director Walter Tangohau said his organisation hoped the pilot would lead to a relationship with Enterprise Angels. "We are excited to be participating with Grow Rotorua and Enterprise Angels in bringing these opportunities to Rotorua and in particular the seven business we have put forward. It's about supporting Maori success in business."
He said those taking part in the pilot came from a range of sectors, including aquaculture, fashion, food retail and IT.
Mr Tangohau said he had met with Bill Murphy from Enterprise Angels and was impressed by what he heard. "We liked it because it's local. Their principles and philosophies about growth in the Bay of Plenty are right in our space."
He said the ideal outcome would be for all seven business to come out of the pilot "investment-ready" having learned along the way from mentors. "The knowledge and experience they [mentors] bring ... it's absolutely awesome."
Traditionally, Enterprise Angels provided an opportunity for entrepreneurs to pitch, Dragons' Den style, to members. Now more help has been added earlier in the process, including a pre-pitch showcase and the investment ready programme, which goes into more detail.
Mr Smith said the bootcamp would cost $1500, but was available half price through the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise voucher scheme.
The Plenty of Innovation programme will be launched at a Rotorua X event at Ambrosia on Wednesday night. From there plans will also be made for "Coffee Club" - an informal monthly meeting of Rotorua entrepreneurs.
For information see www.enterpriseangels.co.nz.