In a trial run for an upcoming TEDx talk, photographer and BEFA 2015 Asia Pacific Female Entrepreneur of The Year Alice Mabin recounted her entrepreneurial journey at the Toowoomba Startup Group last Wednesday.
The Roma-based Mabin has grown her own photography business and self-published three-time Australian bestseller The Drover, her exhaustive and personal recount of the largest Australian cattle-drive in one hundred years.
A photographer, writer, teacher, commercial drone pilot and former farmer, Mabin was able to draw from a wide range of experiences in her TSG presentation, where she emphasised the importance of differentiation and flexibility in growing regional startups.
“I was always going to start a photography business, but the specifics of what I’m doing are very different to what I started off doing,” Mabin said. “It’s important that people are aware that potentially things can happen that take you in slightly different direction, but that can be a good thing.”
A firm believer in “running your own race,” Mabin personally undertook and photographed a 2000km drive of 18000 cattle for The Drover in 2013. She found innovative solutions to the industrial and personal challenges the project presented, specifically when dealing with bookstores who were generally reluctant to stock self-published books.
Mabin instead turned to non-traditional retailers such as saddleries, country clothing shops, and newsagents, which she ultimately found more useful because of the lack of competition.
She is now working on her next project, Australia on the back of a truck, which was inspired by a motor accident in February.
On the value of meetups like TSG, Mabin said the groups were needed to inspire people and to surround entrepreneurs with like-minded individuals. She also believed that cultivating regional entrepreneurism required a focus on building relationships with pre-existing businesses and consumers.
“You see businesses shutting down left, right and centre these days because communities won’t support them,” Mabin said, before describing the importance of, “trying to hold community events to engage other businesses to be supportive of startups, but also to engage the people who serve and shop in those communities to be supportive of those businesses.”
TSG coordinator David Masefield said that Mabin’s presentation was well-received by the group, and that exploring a broad range of topics, such as photography entrepreneurism, are important to educating the growing community,
“Having diversity in your guest speakers helps attract different audiences, helps you discover people who maybe weren’t aware of your activities in the past and become active members of your community,” Masefield said. “The aspect of Mabin’s story behind that is being different and unique in what you’re doing, that you stand out from the noise and people will track you down because they want you, they don’t want photos they want you.”
“That comes out of the age-old story, when startups are acquired it’s often not just for the product, it’s for people.”
Image courtesy of Toowoomba Startup Group.