Months after struggling to find a job in construction having been forced to return to Australia because of the pandemic, Casey Sayers was hoisting the Indigenous flag outside a Defence Department building.
It was heartening for Ms Sayers to get her first contract having spent months handing out resumes everywhere and anywhere and not getting any bites, despite her 10 years of experience.
But it was also a fitting symbol for the new start-up – NU Projects, after working with Yerra which runs the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business support program.
“I felt like I didn’t have a choice and I always wanted to start my own business so I thought, why not now?” she said.
Not many people would be game enough to start a business during a pandemic and in a time of uncertainty about restrictions.
But she was never one to play it completely safe.
“It could have gone south but I have got a few jobs now,” she said. It was risky but hopefully it will pay off.”
While Casey was building her company from the ground up, Leon Choike was trying to figure out how he would make up for a 70 per cent business shortfall with his security company primarily handling cash.
Mr Choike runs 5 Star Security and is also a part of the Yerra program and attended the recent yarning circle which encouraged local Indigenous businesses to support each other and build industry contacts.
“I was not going to pitch my business but the way that everything is going because of COVID, I thought I better,” he said.
Networking opportunities like the yarning circle that was last week hosted by 2018 ACT Australian of the Year and Yerra’s managing director Dion Devow, are now more important than ever for small businesses after the JobKeeper wage subsidy ended.
Mr Devow said Indigenous businesses and business people need to be able to help each other and share their experiences to make it easier for other members of the community to succeed.
Yerra provides a place for Indigenous business owners and entrepreneurs to come together and discuss what training, grants, workshops, programs and support are available.
“Our program is all about asking for support and sharing experiences. We want more Indigenous businesses to reach out so we can work out what they need to succeed,” Mr Devow said.
“We can help access programs and resources, but we can also offer office space, a conference room and a bit of peer support.
“Business is so hard, so [we] have to support each other. I want to see our people do amazing things.”
For more information on Yerra and how they are helping Indigenous businesses in the region, visit yerra.com.au