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Queensland’s entrepreneurial ecosystem ready for resilience mission

Global Adventurer and Best Job in the World winner Ben Southall is kitting out the kayaks and packing the camping gear as he prepares to take 19 entrepreneurs – including Bond’s Baden U’Ren - on a seven-day, four-island resilience mission around the Whitsundays.

Gold Coast entrepreneurs are well represented in the group, with local Surfers Paradise software entrepreneur Sharon Hunneybell, Broadbeach-based innovator, Rachel Treasure and Baden U’Ren selected to be part of the mission.

The Venturer Program was designed by Mr Southall for the Office of the Queensland Chief Entrepreneur. The Program has attracted participants from locations and age groups around Queensland and involves activities and challenges to build the mental and physical stamina that is a hallmark of the most successful entrepreneurs.

Queensland Chief Entrepreneur Mark Sowerby said the mission is all about getting budding entrepreneurs out of their comfort zone to help build resilience and develop their perseverance and determination.

“To become a successful entrepreneur, you’re looking at a 10-year journey. The Venturer Program is about building that physical and mental resilience for the long haul,” Mr Sowerby said.

This first Venturer mission also aims to strengthen the connections between the Queensland startup ecosystem, with participants including co-working space community managers, university leaders and startup founders. 

One of the 19 participants on the Venturer Program mission is Bond University’s Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship, Baden U’Ren. Baden is also the Director of the Bond Business Commercialisation Centre and sees resilience as a key ingredient in preparing talented, ambitious students for the reality of the tough knocks that entrepreneurs encounter:

“I’m keen to extend my understanding and experience of resilience so as educators, we can design relevant experiential entrepreneurship education and embed it in our national curriculum. Sharing this experience with amazing Queenslanders also helps build our community.”

Sharon Hunneybell, General Manager of Surfers Paradise-based software company, Opmantek and co-founder of Startup Apprentice, is also a participant in the Venturer Program. Sharon has recently been working with the local Gold Coast startup and tech community to establish the Gold Coast Innovation Hub.

“I am so excited to be part of the Venturer Program. These types of shared experiences are life changing and create lasting bonds between participants, which helps unite and strengthen the Queensland innovation ecosystem. I’m also looking forward to the physical aspect of participating, it’s a great opportunity to reconnect with my love of outdoor activities and push my physical limits - I love a good challenge,” Ms Hunneybell said.

Law and IT student Rachel Treasure is another Gold Coaster who successfully applied to be part of the mission. Rachel started her entrepreneurial journey as a founder of two startups, Clothesline App and Top & Tail Designs. Rachel now runs QUT Starters and is a board member of The Legal Forecast, both groups focused on how tech innovation can be applied to the legal profession.

“I’m looking forward to testing just how resilient I really am,” said Rachel.

“I think I’ll learn a lot from tackling the challenges alongside fellow entrepreneurs,” she said.

Over the course of the expedition, Venturer Program participants will kayak over 50km, camp on Whitsunday and Hook islands without power or running water and take part in teambuilding activities and reef conservation work.

As a lifetime ‘Custodian of the Great Barrier Reef’ Ben Southall is keen to show that despite the devastation of Cyclone Debbie, the Whitsunday region is open for business, saying:

“The Whitsundays is the perfect location for the first Venturer mission not just because of its natural beauty but because following Cyclone Debbie, this region is showing the rest of the world what it takes to be a resilient community.”

A number of local businesses and not-for-profit groups will directly benefit from the Venturer Program, including Hamilton Island, Hamilton Island Air, Salty Dog Kayaking, Explore Whitsundays, Cruise Whitsundays, Eco-Barge and Reef Check.

Other partners in the Venturer Program are Queensland National Parks & Wildlife Service, Brisbane-based Mountain Designs and Gadens law firm.

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