20 January 2024

Candice and Anna deliver ACT Government's free business advice programs with lived experience

| Dione David
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Candice and Anna of Lighthouse Innovation

Candice and Anna of Lighthouse Innovation deliver the ACT Government-funded Canberra Business Advice and Support Service, bringing complementary expertise to the table. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

From the business veteran who’s ready to hang up their hat to a young mother with a new side hustle, there’s no telling who Candice Edye and Anna Pino might help on any given day.

The co-owners of Lighthouse Business Innovation Centre Limited (Lighthouse) have the privilege of delivering the Canberra Business Advice and Support Service (CBASS) to the spectrum of Canberra’s business community.

Funded by the ACT Government, the program entitles new and established businesses to up to four hours of free tailored general business advice on everything from business activities to finances, mental health and wellbeing and business growth, change and closure, as well as referrals for more specific services such as legal, accounting and marketing advice.

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Candice and Anna take meetings together whenever possible. While Candice specialises in marketing, communications and public relations, Anna’s expertise lies in compliance, legislative, financial, administrative and governance frameworks. But Anna says it’s their lived experience that most comes in handy.

“We’ve bought businesses, hired and fired staff, dealt with landlords on leasing issues, been successful in attracting investment funding … The other day we were taking meetings while the roof was leaking over our heads,” Anna says.

“My point is, we live and breathe this stuff every day. So, when we say we understand the realities of running a business, we mean we’ve seen and been a part of endless success stories, but we’ve also seen things come apart at the seams. We’ve seen the horrors and failures, and we’ve seen people pick up and keep going. That changes how you perceive what it means to be in business.

“Startups, established businesses, people looking to buy businesses, people looking to walk away from one, women, men, 20-somethings to retirees – all are welcome, all will find a sympathetic audience here.”

Claire Mcdonnell from Dirt Maidens coaches people on mountain biking

Claire received four hours of free tailored general business advice that she found invaluable for her business, Dirt Maidens. Photo: Alex Orme Photography.

It was certainly the case for Dirt Maidens founder Claire McDonnell. When the part-time nurse and mum of three recently rediscovered her love and aptitude for coaching women in mountain biking, she didn’t know if she had the right structure in place to manage the growth of her business.

“I’ve been in and out of this business for 10 years, but I moved, got busy, had children and it just sort of fell away,” she says.

“One day while I was on maternity leave I ran a clinic just as a one-off for a mate and her friends, and there was a moment when I thought to myself, ‘I forgot how much I love this’.

“When I relaunched [Dirt Maidens] last year I didn’t anticipate the uptake. Here in Canberra, mountain biking trails are popping up everywhere and so many women want to get more confident using them.”

Claire grew up riding the fire trails around her family’s farm and has a Cert IV in outdoor recreation. But as excited as she is to pursue this strength and passion professionally, timing and competing commitments are genuine considerations.

“I’m trying to be present with my kids, and I love my nursing gig … That’s why I am so very lucky to get advice from Candice and Anna. These two women have their own families and they get it,” she says.

“I know it shouldn’t matter, but it really does. I felt I got a different perspective from having female advisors who have been parents.

“They asked me questions to get an understanding about what I wanted to achieve. One big thing I took away from this is that I don’t necessarily need to scale up if I don’t want to right now. They got me to articulate why I was doing this, what I actually wanted to achieve and then take a step back and see the bigger picture.”

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Anna says often the meetings lead to a re-evaluation of a client’s perception about their business.

“In Canberra, we seem to think that successful businesses are high growth businesses when really, Australia isn’t built on that,” she says.

“In Canberra, the number of people with a side hustle is enormous,” Candice adds.

“Your small business doesn’t have to be a full-time job. We see so many public servants with passion projects they’re commercialising and that’s just as legitimate as someone who works on their business 40 hours a week. That’s how most businesses start.”

Candice says it’s not uncommon for clients to leave a CBASS meeting with a different business focus.

“It’s why we often try to meet with clients together, to have a more holistic view of the business,” she says.

“Some seek advice because they don’t know where to focus their efforts. Very often we’re just a sounding board to check they’ve ticked all the boxes, and complied with all the rules. Sometimes it’s about building their confidence, sometimes it’s helping them work out what they don’t know.

“No matter the nature of your business, it’s always good to get a reality check … Bring the kids, there’s a toy box here.”

For more information or to book a meeting with an advisor contact CBASS@lighthouseinnovation.com.au or (02) 6163 8301 or visit CBASS.


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