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Image credit: Amex Australia, Artwork by Kristie Peters

New Growth Program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses

American Express, in partnership with Rare Birds, a profit-for-purpose organisation that offers expert mentoring to businesses, announced the launch of the First Nations Business Growth Program which will assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business leaders. 

The program began in response to many First Nations organisations businesses which saw a significant drop in revenue when COVID-19 started.

During the 12-month pilot program, 20 Supply Nation Certified businesses will receive mentorship, masterclasses, and virtual networking events from American Express and Rare Birds.

Stephen Pendergast, Vice President, SME Global Commercial Services and Reconciliation Action Plan Executive Sponsor, American Express said: 

“The First Nations Business Growth Program is about supporting financial resilience within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business community and celebrating their contribution to our diverse neighborhoods.” 

According to Rare Birds, 87 per cent of mentees surveyed felt more confident about their business capability after participating in a mentoring program, and 91 per cent believe their business will grow in the next year. 

Mentoring promotes real-time development, with 81 per cent of businesses reporting growth and 43 per cent of operators employing people during the program, as per Rare Birds research.

Jo Burston, Founder, and Chief Executive Officer, Rare Birds said, “I like to call high-impact mentoring the ‘MBA of Life Skills’. It isn’t theory; it’s a hard-learned experience that’s passed on through one-to-one open and trusting dialogue.” 

Former Rare Birds mentee Leah Cameron, Principal Solicitor Marrawah Law, is the Nation’s Business Growth Program Ambassador. She emphasised the value of mentorship: “I am delighted to be the Program’s ambassador.”

“I found my mentoring program incredibly beneficial for both my personal growth and for my business development. Not only did I learn invaluable skills, but I also gained a lot of confidence,” Ms Cameron said.

“After 12-months, the rewards were clear. The experience was not only beneficial for my personal and business development, but also for my confidence. As a result, my public profile grew significantly, and my business revenue has since doubled in size,” she said in a Linkedin post.

Supply Nation is the keeper of Australia’s most extensive database of verified Indigenous businesses. Supply Nation has been working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses, as well as government and corporate procurement teams, to help shape the evolving Indigenous business sector since 2009. 

According to Supply Nation’s State of Indigenous Business research report, which examined the impact of COVID-19 on the Indigenous business sector in 2020, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business owners face additional barriers to inclusion.

The report also states that the pandemic’s rapid digitization of the marketplace has increased the divide, but it also gives an opportunity to provide First Nations businesses with the crucial knowledge and resources they require to grow. 

In addition, Indigenous businesses are seeking more support and connections to the industry through initiatives such as mentoring programmes.

“We certainly welcome American Express’ mentoring initiative and we support opportunities that allow our Certified businesses to leverage expertise across diverse industries,” said Supply Nation’s Chief Executive Officer Laura Berry.   

Stephen Pendergast, American Express added, “The First Nations Business Growth Program is part of American Express’ ongoing commitment to closing the inequality gap and to driving inclusive initiatives as we continue our Reconciliation Action Plan journey.”  

Applications are open from August 31 2021 till September 24 2021. The selected 20 Supply Nation Certified First Nations businesses will begin their mentee journey in November 2021. 

The First Nations Business Growth program will run between November 2021 and November 2022.

Entry requirements

The program is open to all First Nations business owners in Australia who are:

  • A shareholder and/ or owner of a Supply Nation Certified business
  • An established business with a minimum of 2 years in operation
  • An Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • Over 18 years of age

For more details visit: americanexpress.com.au/firstnationsbusinessgrowth.  

To apply: https://business-cards.americanexpress.com/fn-growth-program-2021

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