ACT News


Canberrans mean business

ONE WOMAN brings fondue to your house, another imports Argentinian shoes and a third teaches expats how to get the best out of Canberra.

This is a small part of the entrepreneurial force staring down the ACT's high failure rate for businesses.

The chances of each of these enterprises succeeding in Canberra is slightly worse than 50-50. Only in the Northern Territory would they find worse odds in this country.

Just 48 per cent of the 3945 ACT enterprises launched in 2007-08 survived the three years to 2011, Australian Bureau of Statistics research shows.

While there is no official data on why this happens, some think many territory entrepreneurs are former public servants accustomed to regular pay packets and often challenged by the uncertainties of launching an enterprise, according to Canberra Business Council chief executive Chris Faulks.

''The reality is it takes your business a couple of years to get to a point where it makes money,'' she said.


''Some [entrepreneurs] have done an enormous amount of research and work [before they launch]. A scary number come without a business plan or marketing strategy.''

Still, she said, an increasing number of Canberrans were venturing into business. ABS figures show the number of new entries into the market has surpassed 4000 in recent years.

Territory chef Elise-Maree Holford started her own fondue enterprise in February, her third business in 10 years but the one she is most passionate about.

Ms Holford's fondest memory of growing up was of her parents' fondue nights in the 1970s.

Her father would unhinge two bedroom doors and lay them down on bricks while her parents' friends would arrive with pillows to sit on.

Now the 47-year-old Ms Holford travels to people's homes with cheese, meat and oil and chocolate fondue courses.

''It's hard to get your foot in the door but I think many people give up too soon,'' she said.

Argentinian-born Australian Alex DeNicola gave up her IT job to launch her business Shoes to Tango a year ago, selling high quality leather footwear from South America via her website.

''Demand has gone crazy,'' the mother-of-one said.

''The power of word of mouth in Canberra is gold. If this business was in Sydney or Melbourne it wouldn't have been as successful in this space of time.''

The 39-year-old must now find retailers in larger capital cities, such as Brisbane, because she has been overwhelmed for orders she needs to send out personally.

German arrival Henrike Schreer is still experimenting with her business which works with newcomers to Canberra.

Her enterprise, Phoenix Evolutioneering, sees her become part mentor, coaching new arrivals to embrace the aspects of moving to a new place. She is also part guide, introducing the same people to opportunities within the territory.

''I'm convinced the concept is something that is needed,'' she said.

''I keep hearing from newcomers that Canberra is a closed society but once you know where to meet people it's not like that at all.'' Her opinion is that Canberra's large transient population is made up of many partners who arrive here without jobs and struggle to find a purpose of their own.

Since establishing the enterprise a year ago, she has broadened her market to all new arrivals, not just expats.

Mrs Schreer said her own arrival in the ACT was followed by months of feeling useless.

Two years ago she came to Australia with her husband, now a researcher at Australian National University, and school-aged son and found she had lost her purpose.

''I was at home going nuts,'' she said.