Cairns-based workplace trainer and business coach Carol Hautot has spent the last three months progressing her startup as part of ilab’s Germinate accelerator program, and for her it’s been a much-needed shot in the arm.
Dynamic Conversations is a platform that facilitates online leadership coaching with a focus on fun. The idea came from Hautot’s extensive background in coaching and training, as well as her own personal experience of the damage that chronic stress can do when left unchecked.
“Recently I have become aware of how stressed the average business owner is,” Hautot said. “It’s a sense of total doom and failure and it affects their personal relationships as well. On a national level stress is costing Australia billions of dollars in lost productivity every year.
“After having my own brush with adrenal fatigue (burnout) and depression I had a better understanding of what stress can do,” she said. “On that level, the problem I am solving is to reduce stress in the workplace.
“I also love learning/teaching and love theatre and the performing arts, so I’m reducing stress in the best way I know how: through arts and business education.”
Hautot set about producing a suite of online educational resources for business owners designed to “educate, entertain and inspire”. Her signature product is a set of videos designed to be fun and engaging, unlike more typical training videos.
According to Hautot, this leads to a higher level of emotional engagement and puts viewers in a peak learning state. They are then more easily able to relate to the content, and more likely to understand and adopt the tools provided to fix the specific workplace dysfunction.
In other words, Dynamic Conversations is using fun to boost the attractiveness and efficacy of training.
Prior to Germinate, Hautot had been working on the project on and off for two years, and had developed a few prototype videos demonstrating her service. But health challenges – ironically the same ones that in part inspired the project – had kept her from getting serious until this year.
Being accepted into the Germinate program not only provided valuable resources and experiences, but also some very welcome encouragement.
“Coming out of a period of being sick with no energy meant that I’d lost a lot of confidence”, Hautot said. “The ilab Germinate program was a massive boost of confidence as someone else thought my idea would work and was worth pursuing.”
“Getting out of Cairns and being introduced to a lot of exceptional business people who have given up their time as mentors [was valuable],” she said. “The fact that people believe in what I’m doing.”
As well as travelling to Brisbane for the accelerator program, Hautot used some of the grant money to explore the startup scene in larger cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.
“I needed to get out of Cairns to take myself and my business seriously,” she said. “Visiting Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney in the last three months has really increased my expectations of what is possible.”
The grant has also meant that Hautot has been able to make more products, which she believes will increase her chances of getting traction.
Dynamic Conversations now has a WordPress site with two online packages, each with their own feature video. Hautot hopes that in early 2016 there will be some JCU interns available to build a purpose-built platform, but first she plans to work more on developing an audience for her product.
Although she certainly made progress during Germinate, Hautot admits she is still struggling with making sales online, and needs to get better at using online marketing tools to get her product out there.
Her challenge, now that she’s completed the program, is to take what she’s learned and keep moving forward even though she’s no longer in that environment.
And as far as the startup ecosystem and support network at home in Cairns goes, Carol is optimistic but believes there needs to be more access to seed funding.
“I think what Troy and Damian at theSPACE are doing is wonderful – regular pitch nights, mentor blaze, entrepreneur bootcamps,” she said. “The network and connections are hugely valuable, but money talks, and small grants for people to test and validate their ideas is really needed.”
To that end, theSPACE Cairns, in conjunction with ilab, is currently in the midst of the second round of its preaccelerator Startup Basecamp. Dubbed ‘Startup Basecamp Lollipop’ (because ‘Startup Basecamp 2’ was just too boring!), the program takes aspiring startup founders through market validation and other lean startup techniques, with the aim of getting more successful applicants from Cairns into the upcoming Germinate intake.
A final thought from Hautot on her southern adventures?
“I am happy to call Cairns home for the rest of my life, but I think we need to be willing to get out of our comfort zone.”