The City Leaders Forum is a joint initiative between Griffith University and YP Gold Coast showcasing the people in our city, who are driving innovation and change within the business community.
The Griffith Business School, as a strong supporter of Young Professionals Gold Coast, is well aware of the talents of the new generation of highly motivated and capable individuals moving through the ranks.
Impressed by the achievements of young professionals who have established thriving businesses and reached the upper ranks of enterprises and major organisations vital to the future of the Coast, the university has undertaken to boost the profiles of just some high achievers through this series of articles.
It has been my privilege to prepare these articles and while I anticipated the discovery of some inspirational stories I was more than impressed by not just the business achievements of this new generation of leaders, but also by the ethics and community spirit of all that are featured.
All love the Gold Coast and are determined to not only build on their successes, but to ensure that the city’s enviable lifestyle is sustained - and they also want to help others, less fortunate.
I have no doubts that these qualities prevail throughout the Young Professionals Gold Coast ranks.
Many have graduated from the city’s burgeoning tertiary education sector, others have learned from experience, all I dealt with are well travelled, all are strategic thinkers, all are hard workers and the products of the post global financial crisis, from which they learned valuable lessons.
My work on this project followed my production of a Gold Coast business history, working in collaboration with Professor Alan Blackman.
This presentation is prominently featured in the new Griffith Business School
and includes dozens of images and content on significant happenings in the past driven by forward-thinking individuals.
The Young Professionals Gold Coast project has enabled me to tell the stories of the leaders of today – to capture their vision and enthusiasm from a perspective gained having previously documented what shaped the Gold Coast since the 1850s.
I have looked back, looked at today and looked forward through the eyes
of those who are taking big stakes in the Gold Coast’s future.
It is my belief that the city has never been in more capable hands.
Written by Rod Spence, a former news media executive and public relations consultant who has worked on the Gold Coast since 1978.
KM Sales & Marketing is a specialist residential property sales and marketing group providing tailored project marketing solutions for property developers, financiers and government bodies throughout Australia and overseas.
“KMSM” has achieved particular success with the Chinese real estate buying phenomenon that is a major driver of growth in the Gold Coast economy.
The business draws on the collective experience and skills within its national team of qualified real estate specialists. It produces and executes sales and marketing strategies for residential and mixed-use development projects.
KMSM has offices across the Asia Pacific, including Australia, Singapore and China.
Jayde, 37, has been involved within the real estate industry for more than15 years and is a leader in his field.
He has a proven capability in positioning developments to maximise their potential and has a wealth of experience in the creation of integrated sales, marketing and place management strategies for property assets.
Jayde is a strong supporter of YPGC.
“YPGC provides not only a voice for younger members of the Gold Coast business community, but a forum for them to be exposed to the highest levels of business leadership in the city, “ said Jayde.
“Being part of YPGC is extremely empowering for young people and it most certainly expedites professional growth.”
What sparked your interest in the property industry?
“I grew up in Byron Bay, the son of a third generation builder who focused on architecturally designed residential dwellings in beachside enclaves and throughout the surrounding hinterland.
“While property was in my blood it wasn’t until after I spent time working in the surfing industry and before travelling throughout Europe that I became seriously interested in a career in property.
“After moving to the Gold Coast at age 21, I was perplexed by the staggering number of high-rise buildings that seemed to be coming to market at an alarming rate.
“I often wondered where the masses of people came from to purchase these apartments and how developers marketed these developments across the globe.
“But I was fortunate enough to be able lean on my father’s contacts in the real estate industry – I bounced questions off them and soon learned about the cyclical nature of Gold Coast property and how these cycles directly affected the broader Gold Coast community, not just property and construction.
“My first job in the real estate industry was with a small agency in Broadbeach and within ten months I was given an opportunity to work with Niecon Developments, which is renowned for building some of the most spectacular towers on the Gold Coast.
“I quickly established, that property and in particular project marketing, was definitely my calling - it has enabled me to focus on not just sales, but also the creative collateral and methodology behind transactions.
How important have intentional markets, including China in particular, been to your business?
“During the past four years, our business has been focused on real data and digging deep into sales origins and the cultural nuances behind sales from international markets.
“Asia was obviously of great interest due to growing demand from real estate agencies in that region to sell stock within projects we were marketing.
“We are a small team and rather than spreading ourselves too thinly we chose to focus on Hong Kong and China, with Shanghai as our base and also opened a small office in the Jing’an district.
“It was imperative to have a presence on the ground rather than trying to execute transactions flying in and out for weekend sales seminars and expos.
“We have had great guidance from Juan Zhou, a Chinese national from Nanjing, who has worked with us for the past six years after finishing her MBA at Bond University and is now an Associate Director in the business.
“Although the Asian market is a substantial part of our business, the impact that Asia and specifically China has made on the Australian property market is staggering.
“Not only has it greatly assisted in escalating property prices post GFC, but it has kept our property industry afloat on the Gold Coast with flow on effects to the tourism industry, construction industry and other sectors.”
Is enough being done from a cultural perspective to cater for Chinese people on the Gold Coast?
“The Gold Coast City Council has been proactive in promoting the Chinatown precinct in Southport and executing several trade missions to China, which is extremely encouraging to see.
“I meet with many Chinese developers, students and prospective property owners who have had to travel to Sunnybank Hills and Brisbane to get their dose of Chinese culture, which essentially takes their money out of the Gold Coast economy.
“A key driver for Chinese purchasing Australian property is wealth preservation and a succession plan for future generations.
“The younger generation of Chinese nationals are well educated and often well versed in western culture which enables them to fit into the Gold Coast way of life and enjoying the many Chinese restaurants that are popping up in Surfers Paradise, Southport and Broadbeach.
“However, their parents are not so well informed and the Gold Coast needs to be conscious of catering for this generation as they are the ones with the final say when it comes to investing their own capital.
“Hopefully, Chinatown will bridge this gap and provide a cultural precinct that provides the same sense of homeliness that is offered in other cities across the country.
What is your opinion about current City of Gold Coast planning and development application policies and procedures?
“Many land acquisitions over the past few years have been purely opportunistic plays with developers amalgamating sites and seeking DA approval just to on-sell with the value uplift.
“The Gold Coast City Council is very conscious of this and would rather see more development activity, which in turn drives the local economy and provides greater stability for the city.
“I believe that the council is providing a solid platform that affords more scope for developers.
“In the high rise sector, building design plays a huge part in improving the city’s spectacular skyline and this is something that deserves more consideration within council.”
Is there evidence of new, small, local development companies coming out of the woodwork in the post GFC environment on the Gold Coast?
“Yes there is and it’s very encouraging to see a new wave of young developers moving into the space and making their presence felt in the Gold Coast market.
“Its great to see young guys you have known and worked alongside for years doing extremely well and creating developments that are offering a lot to the Gold Coast.”
How important is online/social media to reaching the Chinese market?
“It is extremely important.
“Property websites like Juwai and MyFun provide opportunities for Chinese nationals to easily access information on properties available in the Australian market.
“In addition WeChat is the preferred communication method for much of Asia and it’s also an extremely powerful form of marketing property.
“We have been avid users of WeChat for many years and it has proven to be not only a powerful and highly effective marketing platform but also a great way of communicating with our offshore developers and sales channels.”
What do Chinese buyers think about the Gold Coast and are they confident in buying off the plan, or do they want to see the final product first?
“Chinese buyers have proven to be fond of the Gold Coast, however we see end users often having several homes across the world and only spending time in their Gold Coast residence for a portion of the year.
“The Gold Coast has clean air, provides a lifestyle that is unobtainable in China and for people that are looking for a place to reside in Australia, it is a compelling offering.
“Buying off the plan is commonplace in China and property is in such great demand that it’s often very difficult to secure a property in certain cities in China.
“In my experience Chinese nationals, have had no objection to buying off the plan and as they are required to buy new product, purchasing free hold off the plan provides certainty to securing a property in a highly publicised and stable Australian property market.”
What do you say to those who feel negative about the increased Chinese presence on the Coast and the extent of property being sold to them?
“First and foremost I don’t know where we would be as a country if we hadn’t had the injection of capital from the Chinese market.
“Sure property prices are hyper inflated in some cities, but here on the Gold Coast the escalation of prices has been sustainable and the rise in prices is largely due to the investment appetite of both Chinese property developers and purchasers.
“I think any negativity around the influx of Chinese people living in Australia will be short lived as long as there is a level of mutual respect amongst both cultures.”
YOUNG Professionals Gold Coast recently brought together some of the city’s top business leaders to debate some of the biggest issues facing the city.
In partnership with Griffith University, The City Leaders Forum shone a light on key challenges and opportunities that are impacting the city including the development of The Spit, the diversification of the economy and the need for the unity of Gold Coasters.
YP Gold Coast would like to thank each and every person who attended the special event, both panellists and attendees - with the support of the community, YP Gold Coast is confident it can achieve its vision of transforming the city into a leading business hub.
In a Q&A style format, hosted by ABC’s Bern Young, the panelists debated a range of issues, including:
Speakers included Mayor Tom Tate, Ray White Surfers Paradise founder Greg Bell, Gold Coast Bulletin Editor Cath Webber, YP Gold Coast President Sean Braybrook, Griffith University Vice Chancellor Ian O'Connor, Chairman of the Committee for Southport John Howe, Hickey Lawyers Managing Partner Tony Hickey and Frizelle's Automotive Group Operations Manager Rebecca Frizelle.
While there was robust debate, there was agreement on some key issues including the need to lure and nurture development and investment in our city.
This particularly related to the development of The Spit, which is gearing up for massive transformation with high-profile companies including Sunland, Aquis and ASF laying down roots.
The panel also agreed that Gold Coasters need to start recognising its strengths, and start being ‘loud and proud’ about the city.
In addition to lively discussion, the event raised more than $3000 for Oz Harvest - a perishable food rescue organisation collecting quality excess food from commercial outlets and delivering it to charities providing assistance to vulnerable men, women and children across Australia.
The City Leaders Forum is an ongoing initiative of Griffith University and YP Gold Coast that aims to foster discussion around the opportunities and challenges facing the city, particularly in the lead-up and following the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
This event is a starting point for a number of initiatives and events planned by YP Gold Coast for 2016 as it seeks to support and drive positive change for the Gold Coast across the corporate and community sectors.
YP Gold Coast would also like to thank its sponsors – without their support, the event would not have been possible: City of Gold Coast, Griffith University, Cronin Litigation Lawyers, Stead Lane, PKF Gold Coast, BBC Digital, Ivan Poole Lawyers and event partners the Gold Coast Bulletin and Arts Centre Gold Coast.
The stories of two young restaurateurs, their outstanding successes, goals and frank views on what needs to be done on the Gold Coast to enable their expansion, boost their industry and the image of the city as a dining and entertainment destination.
Simon and Adam, both in their thirties, are at the leading edge of the restaurant business on the Gold Coast and while their operations are vastly different, they have much in common.
They have achieved lofty, enviable positions and reputations for excellence in very few years.
They are good mates with establishments just a short walk apart in bustling Burleigh Heads, where they have broken new ground with their focus on high standards and “doing things differently”.
Both have also achieved success, at different times, at Nobby Beach, another of the Coast’s newer frontiers of food.
Both have Greek origins - love for their trade comes from the heart and from tradition.
Both are extensively travelled and have successfully used knowledge and skills gained abroad in their Gold Coast operations.
They have learned the hard way, paid their own way.
Both are now being frustrated by out-of-date regulations that are standing as obstacles on their pathways to future success.
These rapidly rising captains of cuisine love their work and their city and the lifestyle it provides.
To them, the Gold Coast is a new canvas offering enormous opportunity to develop a food culture that will, in time, compare favourably with the
offerings of Sydney and Melbourne.
And while they applaud significant new cultural initiatives in the city, they
say more progressive policies are needed regarding restaurants and entertainment venues, if full potential is to be achieved.
Simon and Adam are now committed to doing all they can to bring the Gold Coast more into line with Australian and international cities where progressive policies have created business environments that allow dining and entertainment enterprises to flourish.
They want to work cooperatively with the Gold Coast City Council on what have been thorny issues, especially those relating to parking and the licensing and location of night entertainment venues.
The son of a Greek father and Polish mother, Simon, is proud of his heritage – it has helped in no small way to influence his enterprises.
He was born in Melbourne where his godfather has, for decades, run
And Simon, 35, is just as proud of the Gold Coast, where he has lived since the age of 14.
It is where his dreams become reality.
“I’ve always been keen on business and making my own way,” said Simon.
“As a kid I gathered lost balls from around local golf courses and sold them.
“I had a lawn mowing business but the dust made me sick – I also had food stalls at markets in Brisbane, selling things like chicken rolls, corn on the cob, hot chips and pink lemonade.
“Then I set up a small second hand furniture store in Miami and went broke in six months.
“Sitting by myself in a room full of old furniture, waiting for a customer to come in was soul destroying but it taught me a lot.
“But I was very young and my dreams were still intact.”
Simon’s interest then moved to real estate. He studied for an agents’ licence, but found he was continually distracted by cookbooks and knew that a life involving food, not property, was for him.
Successful small ventures then followed with the “The Three Beans” coffee shop in Broadbeach, the “Little Beans” at Nobby Beach and Piccolo at Miami.
But Simon’s inner hunger was not satisfied by the coffee shop phenomenon that has swept the Coast in recent years.
“My dream was to establish an authentic Greek restaurant - my godfather in Melbourne had a famous Greek restaurant in the old days and still has one he has been running for more than 40 years.
“I remember going to his restaurant for dinner as a kid and while the rest of the family was at the table, I would be watching what was happening in the kitchen – back then I didn’t realise this was having an impact, but obviously it did.
“I grew up eating Greek food but much of it was ‘Australianised’ – but I didn’t want to offer this when I opened my own restaurant - if it wasn’t genuinely
Greek it would not be on my menu – this was important to me.”
Simon’s commitment to authenticity drove him to travel to Greece, where he lived for six months, researching recipes and cooking methods, spending time in the northern realms of the country, his father’s homeland, as well as in the islands.
“When I returned from Greece I found a site in Nobby Beach for my first restaurant, Hellenika, and by this time the whole process had taken 10 years out of my life, but I had found what I was meant to do.
“The concept of offering traditional Greek food, and also promoting the Greek practice of sharing food on the Gold Coast was daunting.
“We had many customers coming in who were totally unfamiliar with the concept of sharing.
“I remember, in the early days, customers asked for butter for their bread and tomato sauce but I said no from day one.
“This was dangerous, but I am glad now, because what we offered caught on with Gold Coast people, who started to swarm to it.
“My dream was to make Hellenika an establishment-style restaurant and now, six years later, this goal has, essentially, been achieved.”
Simon’s success with Hellenika, encouraged him to seek new opportunities and in 2010 he found a site at Burleigh Heads,where he established The Fishhouse.
He is humble about the many rave reviews in national and leading food media that the restaurant has received– more publicity than most restaurants receive over decades and with a VIP patronage that reflects a hard-earned reputation.
“The Fishhouse is a little more upmarket,” said Simon.
“These days people do their homework before they come out; they can see our menu and prices online and accept that they reflect the very high quality of the seafood and produce we buy.
“We fly in fish every day and the prices reflect this – the customers are a little more affluent, and there’s also a lot of people who come to The Fishhouse for special occasions.
“We also get a lot of international guests and VIPs referred to us from organsations like the Council, Gold Coast Tourism and Queensland tourism.
“People involved with major business activities on the Coast come here – Audi launched a car at The Fishhouse – we’ve also had some movie stars
and a lot of top sportspeople.
“If you are eating fish here – you know that there will be no fresher product anywhere else in Australia at that time.
“The food is very simple, but it is the best of the best at the time of serving.”
Adam, 33,was born and bred on with Gold Coast – his father was Greek and he was brought up around good food and Greek culture.
When Adam was 15, his father, a school principal and mother, a school teacher, took him and his sister out of school and the family travelled throughout Europe for three months in a motorhome.
“I remember my teachers were worried at the time and I was told my OP would be affected,” said Adam.
“But dad and mum said travel was the best education I would ever get – that I would catch up with my grades, but I would never have an experience like it again – and they were right.
“It gave me an amazing taste for Europe and I when came back my perspective on life had really changed.
“I travelled for another six years – did all of Europe, most of Asia and returned to the Gold Coast when I was 24.
“During this time I worked in hospitality and saved some money, about $50,000, but was confronted with reality -what was I going to do with my life?
“But I knew in my heart I wanted to work for myself.
“My first hospitality venture, in 2007, was a small bohemian-style cafe a called The Cavern at Nobby Beach and it became really well known for live music and the arts culture.
“I love that kind of cultural experience.
“I had lived with musicians overseas and I thought a venture like The Cavern would work- and there was nothing like it in Nobby’s or on the Gold Coast.
“On Monday nights, with the live music, we would be packed; we also held trivia nights and live art nights were people would do either do portrait drawing or they would put on an art display; we did Sunday morning open-mic and jam sessions – it was just awesome.
“I ran it for three years and learned a lot about what I would and would not do again in business.
“I sold The Cavern in 2010, took a year off and then I saw a gap in the market, at Burleigh Heads and started Justin Lane in 2011.
“The Coast was suffering from the impact of the global financial crisis and there I was, breaking new ground again – this time in Burleigh.
“I remember being told that everyone was struggling and my parents were being conservative, advising me to get a job and buy a unit – I pondered this for a while but I had saved more money and was determined to have a crack.
“I opened Justin Lane with a friend, Rob Moorwood, a chef I had worked with for three years at The Cavern.
“He came in as partner and head chef (at Justin Lane) with a 25 per cent stake in the business and about a year ago I acquired 100 per cent.
“It has been going gangbusters, accommodating 220 patrons in one sitting.”
Adam subsequently established the Cavalier restaurant next door and expanded Justin Lane with upstairs premises to cater for an additional 100 people for private functions or large group bookings.
The “100% sourdough & artisan style” pizzas offered by Justin Lane have developed a huge following, consistent with Adam’s approach to “do things simply but exceptionally well.”
Always looking for new opportunities, Adam recently launched a quality food delivery service for his Justin Lane offerings.
The demand has been so strong that he has been pitching in to help with deliveries.
Adam has always been the master of his own destiny.
“It was a natural progression to reach where I am today,” he said.
“I understood that people need to enjoy good food and a drink, regardless of the economy - if you can give them a really well – priced package where they get a good meal, have a drink and experience an amazing atmosphere, your business will always be resilient during tough times.
“We were the first pizzeria on the Gold Coast that did something different providing “artisan” style, sour dough pizzas and now delivering them.
The opening of Cavalier, seating 60 next door, was Adam’s next successful step.
It is an intimate Italian restaurant with a boutique bar and complements Justin Lane by being completely different, offering pasta made on the premises and a comprehensive range of Italian dishes.
(Simon and Adam have had a number of former staff open their own restaurants - an outcome they regard with pride).
Simon Gloftis and Adam Haralampou are smart operators full of drive and doing very well in the Gold Coast’s highly competitive restaurant and entertainment environments.
They are absolutely committed to the Coast and applaud efforts to create major new cultural assets, supporting Mayor Tom Tate as an “ideas man.”
Highly optimistic and hard working, both see big future opportunities on the Coast, and they are prepared to invest significantly in expansion - but both are frustrated.
They have seen how restaurants and nightspots operate in some of Australia’s and the world’s biggest cities that have nurtured industries based on providing good food and entertainment to huge domestic and visitor markets.
They have examined the reasons why Sydney and Melbourne are highly regarded internationally as food destinations.
For a start, growth of these sectors, is encouraged by positive policies - they do not have strangling regulations that either stall or stop expansion.
“I love to see the good news coming out about major new projects on the Coast and the Commonwealth Games but there are a couple of outdated local authority regulations still in place that do not belong in a progressive city,” said Simon.
“The council at the time these regulations were drafted, was probably trying to do the right thing by being protective but more reasonable policies, consistent with a modern city are now vital.”
Of particular concern to Simon are parking provisions.
“For me to open a restaurant now, I must have a specified number of
parking spaces and if these spaces aren’t there, I can’t open, or I have to pay the council a levy of $50,000 per park – that’s one space per 15 square metres of floor area,” said Simon.
“We are not BHP, we are restaurant operators and we can’t open more venues because of this provision.
“This regulation needs to be relaxed – I remember a (council) officer commenting to me that the Coast has parking problems and I said, so does Hong Kong, so does New York, so do Sydney and Melbourne– does the Gold Coast need to stop because of this issue?
“There must be other ways to address this – we have best practice in public transport, we have taxis, Uber, buses, the light rail – the Gold Coast will absolutely flourish if this outdated parking regulation is revoked.
“I am looking at six new sites right now, but none of them are viable with the
current parking policy in place.
“I even had an upstairs extension of Hellenika refused by the council because I could not provide enough parking out front, which was impossible.
“I know that the Mayor would love to change it, but I think it will continue to be a slow process through town planning, but in the meantime the growth of my business and my industry is being stifled.
“Hopefully some clever minds in the council will come up with a solution soon, for the sake of the city and I certainly stand ready to help if they want advice from the industry.”
Adam share’s Simon’s concerns about over-regulation and has also volunteered to work with the council to find solutions.
“I understand there must be a certain amount of red tape associated with dealing with any form of government but if the Gold Coast wants to move forward and to be more like Sydney and Melbourne in terms of restaurants and entertainment, it must loosen its grip on our industry,” said Adam.
“We want to do more but can’t.
“Why aren’t there more small, cool bars on the Coast?
“When boutique bar licences were introduced in Sydney and Melbourne, the resulting businesses went gangbusters.
“Small bars with capacity for 50 to 60 and without a requirement to sell food opened up left, right and centre.
“They are just bars and as far as I am concerned this is great.
“Brisbane is now also following suit in this regard, but it seems to be too difficult on the Gold Coast.”
Adam said there had been some ‘talk’ in council about allowing premises with maximum gross floor areas of 90 square metres, and with a closing time of 10 pm.
“We all know that people don’t come out to such licensed premises until 8.00 and that a gross floor area of 90 square metres is unreasonable - these requirements would make any new venue unviable.”
Parking provisions are also a substantial issue for Adam.
“I have amalgamated, in an arcade, eight shops and turned them into my two venues and I don’t even get a car park.
“When I went to increase an area they worked out that I would be up for around $200,000 in fees.
“That’s ridiculous, no operator like me can afford this and also they don’t create the parking spaces, so where does the money go?
“If, on the other hand, the council made available some spaces out front of premises, this may make a new venue viable.
“I have a food licence – I predominantly provide food and if people want to drink afterwards that is fine; but you can’t set up under a general hotel licence; you can’t set up under a cabaret (nightclub) licence, and you can’t have a straight bar licence.
“The reason for this is based on the mentality that all the problems related to licensed venues including nightclubs should be kept in Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach.
“In my view the problems exist in Surfers and Broadbeach because the Council is putting all of these mega venues in one area and patrons are then released onto the streets at the same time, which inevitably leads to problems.
“When you go to Melbourne and Sydney you see all of these small licensed venues with 50 people, 70 there, 20 somewhere else and they all trickle out at different times and nothing happens like at Surfers.
“In Cavalier I have a 1 a.m. licence and let’s say you have 50 people at the end of the night drinking; with four staff – that’s one staff member per 12 people - then you’ve got nightclubs with say six security guards but around 500 people or more for them to deal with.
“With a small venue you can keep an eye on what is happening, and it is a lot safer for all concerned.
“The council is concerned about setting precedents but, l see a good case for a lot more small venues to be established – I think this would be a great outcome for the operators and the city.”
Newly appointed Young Professionals Gold Coast co-vice president Flynn McFarlane has been in business since his teens, is a director of a flourishing digital services enterprise and sees enormous future opportunities for his firm and the Gold Coast.
Along his pathway to success Flynn, aged 28, has gained two degrees at Griffith University while, at the same time, operating a profitable DJ-events business, then a part-time online marketing consultancy, before, in 2013, co-founding Stead Lane, a rapidly expanding full-digital services provider.
Flynn is a fast traveller in digital space and a passionate promoter of the Gold Coast.
It is a space Flynn sees as a universe of opportunity, not just for him and his business associates and others like him, but also for the city he embraces.
He sees the Gold Coast as a fledgling city with the potential to “own” the digital services space in Australia and he is a strong advocate of local professional service providers.
“The Gold Coast is the perfect place for the digital industry with relatively low establishment, running and labour expenses, compared to the capital city costs,” said Flynn.
“There are no disadvantages associated with being on the Gold Coast and the capital cities are very focused on old ways of doing business, especially in terms of professional services.
“We have the opportunity to invent ourselves and we can be leaders in the digital space.
“The Gold Coast, is not “old school”, it is still a new frontier as far as I am concerned.
“We should be promoting the digital sector a lot more.
“We hear a lot of comment on unemployment and the lack of opportunities, but the sector for innovative professional services is absolutely exploding - it is an exciting space and I really believe the Gold Coast can own it,” he said.
Flynn’s modest business endeavours as a teenager, student and young graduate have funded his expanding enterprises – he has paid his own way, done his own thing and he encourages other young people to follow his example.
Now, along with Stead Lane co-director Adam Stead, he is taking his business to new levels, with a strategy to double the size of the groundbreaking enterprise within the next two years, capitalising on a market that is rapidly consuming the company’s comprehensive menu of online goodies.
Stead Lane has a full-time staff of seven servicing an array of clients in sectors including, eCommerce, tourism, education, all levels of government and the professions.
HITCHING A RIDE ON THE INTERNET ROCKET WITH NEW, INNOVATIVE STRATEGIES
Flynn witnessed the impacts of the global financial crisis on the Gold Coast while studying and recognised the need to establish a new kind of business not reliant on the Gold Coast’s mainstay tourism and property sectors.
The opportunities were clearly aligned with the rocketing Internet phenomenon and he timed his venture into digital business realms on the Coast to perfection.
While studying from 2007 to 2010, Facebook and social media’s general use in marketing were emerging and, in their infancy, considered with skepticism by many in business – the blind who could not see the ultimate potential of the internet, or lacked the knowledge of how to use it effectively to produce significant growth and to reach new customers.
Flynn was not among the doubters.
As part of his Griffith BA, Flynn majored in digital writing, a little known field at that time.
However he was convinced it would become a valuable asset to a digital professional services business.
While the Gold Coast market had become stacked with producers of basic websites, there was a lack of more sophisticated operators in the digital space providing specialist, innovative services that were results accountable.
Flynn capitalised on a global business climate driven by writing more than at any other time in history - with millions embracing Facebook, Twitter, using blogs, email and a host of other online avenues to communicate with the written word.
This presented a significant opportunity for Flynn to use his specialist skills, supported by the administrative and business governance knowledge gained from his business studies.
Effective creative writing digitally mixed with images and graphic design, applied to commerce with strategic planning nous has proven to be an effective formula for success for the Stead Lane team.
CITY OF GOLD COAST CAN LEAD THE NATION WITH DIGITAL SERVICES
Flynn is convinced huge opportunities are open to the Gold Coast in the digital space and that the City can lead the nation in this field.
“Part of my role at YPGC is to link professionals from a range of industries as we aim to help grow the city’s business culture".
“The purpose of this is to build connections that will in turn foster an environment that supports the city’s innovation centres such as the Health and Knowledge precinct and Southport CBD".
“If the Gold Coast is serious about becoming a centre for innovation we need business and government to work together on a long-term, cohesive strategy that supports innovation and fosters a start-up culture".
“YP Gold Coast aims to help the city to develop targeted programs to support innovation and business that are outcomes focused and achievable”.
SHOUT OUT THAT YOU ARE PROUD OF BEING ON THE GOLD COAST
Flynn says the local business community needs to be more positive about being “Gold Coast”.
“A lot of professionals still think it is more reputable to be based in Brisbane, which is counter productive when we are trying to deliver the message that Gold Coast businesses can cut it with the best”.
“We can use digital to step out from where we are to take advantage of the opportunities”.
“We should not try to be like the capital cities – we are the Gold Coast’ and should shout out that we are proud of it; we are not all property developers and we are not just a ‘tourism town’ - we are an extremely innovative city with much to offer entrepreneurs and anyone prepared to work hard and to have a go”.
DELIVERING A FULL PACKAGE OF PROFESSSIONAL DIGITAL SERVICES
Stead Lane has a full-time staff of seven, and services a wide range of clients from as far afield as Sydney, including listed companies.
Clients include Navitas (ASX:NVT), RDA Gold Coast, McGrath, City of Gold Coast, and the Federal Government.
“We help clients by assessing their current strategy and needs, then identifying the best possible way for them to increase leads, sales and efficiency in their business through the use of digital assets,” said Flynn.
“We build long lasting relationships with our clients, provide ongoing strategic advice and strategies as they grow by leveraging digital marketing and technology.”
“When we started with some clients, their online revenue represented five per cent of their business and now it produces 25 to 30 per cent; we are helping clients to change their business models, which is very exciting.”
In most cases Stead Lane clients utilise more than one of its services, which embrace digital strategies, websites, ecommerce, digital advertising, web applications, CRM integration, email marketing, branding and social media.
While Stead Lane services interstate clients effectively its plans for expansion are based on development of its South East Queensland market.
Shannon Willoughby, 32, is the immediate past, long-term president of Young Professionals Gold Coast, chief executive of Study Gold Coast and a former senior journalist at the Gold Coast Bulletin.
She is infinitely passionate about the Gold Coast and has been a leader in drawing attention to the city’s issues and potential.
As a columnist and chief reporter at the Bulletin, Shannon was never backward in coming forward with opinion, often controversial, but always directed at constructive outcomes.
Also during her time at the Bulletin, she worked as a business writer throughout the global financial crisis.
She reported on a flood of corporate events, many tragic, covering the collapse of dozens of Gold Coast enterprises – most operating in the construction and property industries.
These times and events drove home to Shannon the need to create and promote a more diverse Gold Coast, not reliant so much on the cyclical property and tourism sectors.
While recognising the ongoing and vital importance of these sectors she has been prepared to do all she can to fulfill her vision of a city full of new opportunities and vitality driven by smart young thinkers.
She is a champion of the city’s generation Y go-getters who want change for the betterment of the Gold Coast and themselves – now!
As the chief executive of Study Gold Coast, the first joint promotional effort of the city’s major tertiary industry stakeholders and the Gold Coast City Council
Shannon is now playing a key role in making national and international markets aware of the City’s education and training assets.
Like other YPGC movers and shakers she wants the Coast to be known for its diverse, innovative industries, for its outstanding education and health sectors, and for new cultural assets and creativity, to name just some platforms for progress.
She wants to see new, more universal strategies to promote the Gold Coast’s diversity - they want to see a complete picture of the Gold Coast’s assets effectively projected to the world at the 2018 Commonwealth Games - the best opportunity the City has had to tell its full story to vast international audiences.
Here Shannon comments on whole of city issues, the roles of YPGC and highlights the importance of the Coast’s burgeoning education sector.
What has been the key focus of YPGC under your presidency?
One of the key ongoing roles of YPGC is to dismantle the negative perceptions of the Gold Coast and we have been focused on this since foundation and throughout the global financial crisis to today. We have been able to connect a lot of people who are all sick of the Gold Coast’s image being trashed. The reality is that there is and always has been a big, vibrant and very active and positive corporate culture on the Gold Coast.
Many members, while young, saw the impacts of the GFC on businesses and families – we learned a lot from the experience. A lot of young professionals are very wise for their age. The city was not well equipped to handle a GFC and I don’t think it is in a much better position now to handle another downturn because it is still too reliant on the tourism and property industries.
What have been the main achievements of YPGC to date?
Over the years we have built the YPGC brand to the stage where we now have a membership database of 1500 people – young, fresh, energised 20 to 40-year-olds who are passionate about the City and want to see positive change. We have attracted prominent speakers to YPGC events over the years including Jeff Kennett, Harry Triguboff, David Kosh, Bernard Salt, Soheil Abebian, Travis Auld and Lucy Turnball.
We provide a new audience for these speakers and everyone feels energised as a result - we’ve done pretty well for ourselves in terms of brand building and the organisation is well received. When we get together we create opportunities – it’s a network, an opportunity to talk with peers and to meet with people from other organisations - communication that can produce jobs and career changing opportunities. Our members will be the next city and state leaders.
Its up to people like us to bring about positive change - as like-minded individuals we are determined to push out some different messages.
How big is the education-training sector on the Gold Coast and what is its potential?
The importance of the education sector on the Gold Coast is huge. The economic contribution of foreign students on the Gold Coast is already one fourth of the contribution of tourism; 17,000 students (from overseas) commenced studies on the Coast last year; we have 47,000 students, post year 12, studying here (domestic and international) and then you have 80,000 students at school from prep to year 12. Onefifth of the Gold Coast’s population is students.
We have three universities and in the past five years these universities and TAFE have spent $500 million on tangible infrastructure and that does not include what has been done at all the schools and various private colleges.
The Gold Coast is a vibrant location for students and the Federal Government wants to double the number of them in Australia. The Gold Coast is an excellent position to capitalise on this situation.
What is Study Gold Coast and what are your goals as chief executive?
Study Gold Coast (SGC) is the peak body representing education and training on the Coast. Local government provides half of the funding with the balance from “the big four” - Griffith University, Bond University, South Cross University and TAFE. It is the first time these institutions have worked collaboratively in this way. Senior representatives from all of them and the Gold Coast City Council sit on the SGC board, chaired by former Queensland Premier, Rob Borbidge.
Our role is marketing and advocacy – we market the Gold Coast as an education and training destination. Our work includes collection of data on what the city’s education sector is worth; we engage with students and organise events and market to national and international audiences. Students are our biggest advocates - they deliver messages to families and friends about studying here - they love it and this messaging also feeds tourism. Statistics show that parents of Gold Coast students from abroad will visit their child twice during a three - year study term. They stay for three weeks and 20 per cent will do so in an international hotel.
Education is a huge contributor to the tourism sector and ultimately the property industry as well. Our strategic offshore marketing is focused on China, Japan, the Middle East and South America. Very specific marketing initiatives will be undertaken in these countries during the next couple of years. For example, tourism has done an amazing job in China but no one there knows the Gold Coast as an education destination – we are competing with the likes of Melbourne and Sydney.
What needs to be done to create more jobs on the Coast?
For kids growing up through high school there is the perception that the Coast doesn’t offer a lot in terms of careers – that there is “nothing to do”.
Job creation is a huge challenge for the city - there is a lot of part time work available in hospitality and retail, but where are our smart jobs? Where can smart graduates career climb and end up earning $250K a year? These opportunities are very, very limited, and this turns a lot of young people away.
This is why education and training are so important - we need to promote the City as an education destination - the bigger the pool of talent we have on the Coast, the more opportunity there will be attract industry, to create jobs and careers. We have a bucket load of intelligent, highly qualified talent here. Where do the bright young people go - where will our kids go? We are limited by the options.
I’m not interested in hearing about more jobs, I’m interested in hearing about more careers, about new industries being established on the Coast.
In this regard I think the cultural community is also very important because it will attract a new generation of creative people with the capability of making change.
So where is the greatest potential for the Gold Coast?
The greatest potential lies with the education, cultural and health sectors and the challenge is how we push these industries, while at the same time continuing to promote to the tourism and property markets - the importance of these core industries remains but its like putting all your eggs in one basket. For example tourism and education work closely together - it’s about spreading more love – we need to think about what we want the city to look like, defining and promoting it with new strategies.
For example, are we “a sustainable tourism city with great cultural elements, and an outstanding education sector”?
In very simplistic terms, how do we map out what the City really is and what it will be in the future?
A lot of work is being done on this with the input of demographer Bernard Salt taking in culture, health care and education/training.
These three industries need support and need to out into the foreground. When we look at how we sell our universities we have the highly progressive Griffith beside the $1.7 billion University Hospital – the biggest in the southern hemisphere; Bond as Australia’s only private university with its beautiful sandstone architecture and Soheil Abedian Architecture building; then down south we have a campus on the beach with Southern Cross and one of the most modern TAFE centres in Australia.
What is being done to push these sectors now?
It is happening – it is about educating everyone about the need to support these industries because there will be wide reaching long term benefits. Study Gold Coast is pushing the education sector - our mantra is “Australia’s favourite classroom”. We also have the Gold Coast’s Cultural Committee. The Mayor is keen to substantially enhance the city’s cultural presence with the new (proposed) arts centre and another example is the Council investment in the Bleach Festival. In my mind health, education, and culture (along with innovation) can be used to build a new platform at grass roots and city presence levels and clearly there are some outstanding assets for us to promote.
What are some key ongoing city issues?
Infrastructure and public transport remain as key issues, especially in regard to the extension of the light rail; but communication of the complete picture of the Gold Coast really is to its various key markets in Australia and abroad is vital – we must tell the real story. And there needs to be more engagement with the younger generation, regarding the city of the future - now is the time for fresh blood.
They can contribute much to future planning beyond the terms of current governments. There is a really big opportunity with the Commonwealth Games to provide some meaningful legacy for the city; not just a new stadium here and a new basketball court there. It is the new industries we want. There is no more important time than between now and the Commonwealth Games for the City to get its act together in relation to the messages it needs to deliver to the world at this time.