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Yohann puts MBA to work for Indigenous Australians

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Bond University MBA graduate Yohann Azlee.

A chance meeting in class 12 months ago was the catalyst for a major career move for Yohann Azlee.

Mr Azlee is co-founder of Indigenous Innovation Ventures and a board member of the First Nations Frontier Foundation.

He says meeting business partner Ryan James while they were undertaking their MBAs at Bond University was a serendipitous moment.

The pair are now making a positive impact on the economic and educational futures of Indigenous business owners, students and communities.

What started as an MBA Capstone project, addressing the lack of business support available to First Nations business owners, has turned into a fully-fledged commercial enterprise helping to unlock the potential of Indigenous entrepreneurs.

Their shared mission was to create a space where First Nations business owners and entrepreneurs could bring their visions to life in a guided environment, forge networks across communities, government and industries and develop partnerships to help them succeed.

“Our vision is to help build great First Nations business leaders who will inspire and empower the next generation of entrepreneurs and uplift the social and economic future of their own communities,” Mr Azlee said.

In addition to assisting Indigenous entrepreneurs, Mr James and Mr Azlee found there was a lack of literature on Indigenous businesses.

With this in mind, the pair has signed a deal with Ivey Publishing which will lead to much-needed research in this area. 

“We would not have come this far without the support and guidance of Provost Keitha Dunstan, the Bond Business School, Transformer and the Nyombil Centre,” Mr Azlee said. 

Among their clients and partners are the Brisbane Broncos, Lloyds Auctioneers, Blockstars Technology, Mastery Schools Australia, MSS Security and Indigenous companies such as Waddi Springs, Project Net Zero, and the popular Sobah Brewery in Burleigh Heads, to name a few.

“Our aim has always been about creating real, tangible positive outcomes and we do this by striking a balance between individual and collective agency, business excellence and social responsibility,” he said.

Mr Azlee hails from Malaysia, with ancestral roots from the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra, and brings years of practical experience from having worked in the insolvency and corporate turnaround industry.

He is also a former executive leader at Gold Coast companies Hemp Pet, Amazonia and BPS Technology, and is a board member for not-for-profit organisations.

“We’re not just building a business; we’re crafting a legacy – a living legacy,” Mr Azlee said.

“Lots of people leave a legacy after they pass, but we want our work to be a living legacy for the next generation.”

Indigenous businesses generate $16 billion a year in Australia and employ more than 116,000 people.

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