Business Foundations is Australia's largest not-for-profit specialist business advisory and training organisation with a unique focus: we help owners of businesses start, improve and grow their enterprise.
Business Foundations is a business support organisation based in Fremantle WA and has spent more than 25 years providing enterprise development services across its region, state — and now, across Australia.
It has been a remarkable journey from small beginnings, and today we help more than 4,000 business people a year.
The work of Business Foundations began when a group of sandal makers at Fremantle Markets were given assistance by Murdoch University PhD student Ernesto Sirolli back in the late 1980s.
Ernesto was interested in enterprise facilitation as a means of creating regional economic development. By helping the sandal makers get in touch with expert mentors in the form of an Italian boot maker, he helped them improve their products and income.
The sandal makers were so impressed they approached local authorities and business groups, arguing for a business facilitator to be employed in Fremantle full-time.
In 1997, we opened our first business incubator in the Fremantle Prison, where businesses were able to have high-security offices in former jail cells — always a point of conversation.
At the time, the Western Australian economy was struggling so we began a concerted effort of extending our services and over the next few years, built up a number of Federal and State government contracts. We used our enterprise development service to build our relationship with clients and to increase our knowledge of the types of issues they face.
We know our core clientele live in one of the most expensive states in the country, where the economy goes through extreme peaks and troughs. There is a frontier mentality for many entrepreneurs, who need to back themselves, work long hours, be self-sufficient and take risks to succeed. For those who do though, and who can commercialise their innovations or take ideas to market, the rewards can be considerable.
We believe our economy benefits when businesses are encouraged, fostered and enabled to find their own niche and develop their enterprise — and that our economy suffers when entrepreneurs are shut out of opportunity, restricted from funding choices, given poor management support or left with little choice but to leave and grow elsewhere.
In the past few years, we have taken these lessons and developed niche services for business that directly address what owners need to know to succeed — from our delivery of the self employment New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS) that helps the unemployed break the welfare cycle through business creation, to supply chain training for businesses servicing the mining industry, to matching researchers to growth businesses for mutual benefit.
We are now an organisation of 30 people, with offices in five states. Our people are specialists with expertise who can:
- support technology start-ups and innovative businesses,
- provide expert advice to the manufacturing, agriculture and METS (Mining Equipment, Technology and Services) sectors,
- assist businesses connect with the research sector, and
- work with business owners who want growth and have the capacity to scale their operations.
At our heart, though, we remain true to the philosophy of a business support organisation, helping thousands of ordinary Western Australian business owners get the advice they need, through face-to-face support, group training, advisory services, incubation, mentoring and networking.
Our board comprises community members, industry experts and professional people who share a commitment to improving the circumstances for small business.
What We've Achieved
- More than 4000 businesses helped each year.
- Services provided in five states
- Business training and mentoring to 1200 new business starts through the self-employment NEIS program
- 3000 services delivered to existing businesses through the Australian Small Business Advisory Service program
- Connected 170 businesses to researchers through the Entrepreneurs' Programme
- Facilitated over $11 million of business-led research with universities to develop new products, processes and services
- Supported businesses through the provision of incubator and co-working space.