Meet the board: Jac Bowie from Soar Collective and Darling Don’t Panic

Meet the board: Jac Bowie from Soar Collective and Darling Don’t Panic

In order to better get-to-know our members, we thought it was best we shared who we are are and how we came to Entrepreneurs Geelong.

Find out a little bit more about one of our board members Jac Bowie below.

What was your first experience with Entrepreneurs Geelong?

I went along to the Bennet Merriman event and was impressed how polished the event was. Also loved the interview style – it’s nice to delve further into the nitty gritty of the speakers business experience, highs and lows.

And how did you hear about it?

My good friend Stephanie Beitzel from Technology Geelong.

What’s been your favourite memory of an EG event?

Just being welcomed and meeting so many new faces at my first event. It’s nice to know you can turn up by yourself and feel comfortable!

Why did you decide to join the board?

I could recognise the opportunity to add value, from a tech/marketing and membership view.

Tell us a little bit about your business.

I own two businesses, Soar Collective (regional women in business network) and Darling Don’t Panic, wedding styling & planning business. Before this I founded Business in Heels.

What’s your mantra as an entrepreneur?

You can have it all, but never at the same time.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for new entrepreneurs?

Try. It might work, it might not, but the experience and lesson is worth the risk.

When was the moment you felt most challenged as a small business and how did you overcome it?

Leaving the comfort of a full time wage in radio recently to return to working for myself has been rewarding, but scary, and we’ve had to sacrifice a lot to do it. It’s been a few months of building, building, building. The return can take a while, the key is to keep at it and stay focussed!

Who are three fellow Geelong small businesses you’d like to shout out?

Technology Geelong and Elf Squad, I’m really proud of what Stephanie is working on.
ArroHQ – meeting Lulu has been lovely, I’m looking forward to re-igniting Soar Collective there.

Find out more about Jac Bowie here, or find out about Darling Don’t Panic here and Soar Collective here.

Read about our other board members here.

Five tips to writing a great press release for your business

Five tips to writing a great press release for your business

Without a background in media and communications, tackling something like a press release can be one of the most challenging aspects of operating your small business.

The challenge is certainly worth overcoming, as a good press release can gain your business free publicity and take it to the next level in terms of exposure.

Thanks to one of our board members, Amanda Sherring of Fresh Take PR, she’s run down a few tips on what to do, and not do when writing a press release.

1.Keep it simple

One of the biggest mistakes in approaching the creation of a press release is overcomplicating what should be a simple process. As soon as a press release exceeds more than around one page (or 450 words) it can instantly lose its appeal to journalists and editors. These days they simply don’t have the time to read a “novel”. 

Instead, opt for a one-page press release, covering the need-to-know details of what you’re trying to promote. Think to yourself, have you answered the 5 Ws and H? Who, what, where, when, why and how? These elements are a journalists’ bread and butter for writing a well-formed article and all you really need to include in your press release.

Add in a great picture, a quote from someone noteworthy and contact information if the journalists should need any further details and you’re done.

2. Apply the seven newsworthy elements

One of the first things taught to journalists and that sticks with them for life, is the seven newsworthy elements of a story. Whether it’s a conscious thought process or not, any good journalist will be able to analyse a story pitch and either accept or deny it based on these seven principles.

Familiarise yourself with them as they will help you shape the content and angle of your press release. If you can incorporate multiple, even better!

Impact – People want to know whether this will affect them. Can it change the lives of Geelong locals?
Timeliness – It’s called news for a reason—because it’s new information.
Proximity – Is it happening in the town of the publication? Perhaps there’s someone involved in the project who came from where the magazine originates? Try to find a local link where possible to the publication.
Human Interest – Perhaps there’s a passionate or interesting story of how the business came to be. A complete career flip? Or maybe a sixth generation taking over the business?
Conflict – Hopefully this won’t apply to your business, but perhaps there has been conflict around its creation.
The Bizarre – Is your business a bit unusual, maybe you’re a luxury cat hotel or you make coffee mugs out of terracotta pots. Work to your strengths and know what will pique a journalists’ interest.
Celebrity – Do you have a celebrity edorsement? Or perhaps a business partner with a public profile?

3. Make it easy to action

With less and less journalists helping to shape newspapers and magazines than ever before, their time is precious. Occasionally, great stories are missed because publications don’t have the man-power or budget to chase up professional photography, an interview or finer details to a story.

Increasing your likelihood of getting picked up by journalist can be done by wrapping it all up into one neat little package. More often than not, the easiest way to do that is to set up a Dropbox folder with all the press assets a journalist may need to complete the story. Set up a document with a Q&A on someone relevant to the business, include any hi-res images, a logo and any other media content relevant to what you do. In the press release itself, include any links, dates and contacts that may be needed. A handy tip is not to include these as attachments, as some email accounts have thorough junk mail filters and emails with large attachments simply won’t make it through.

A little extra time on your end can make all the difference when it comes to success after sending out the release.

4. Google is your best friend

With the ease of everything online, if you get stuck at this point there’s easily room for help. A great piece of advice on actually writing the press release, is to approach it like writing a news story. Pick up your local paper and have a look at the structure of a general story, and try to replicate it with your press release.

Google can be of equal help simply by looking up press release examples – but be wary as there are good and bad examples out there.

A simple tip at the writing stage is try to keep paragraphs to no more than 30 words. Include a quote and generally the press release should be around 4-7 paragraphs long to fit nicely onto a page with an image.

5. Personalise it

While you can’t personalise a press release per say, it’s important to make sure the press release is written to suit the right publications. Does the language and content suit who you’re pitching it to? Make sure you’ve familiarised yourself with the publication before hitting send.

When you get to the final stage of hitting send, make sure you’ve included a lovely, polite email addressing the editor or journalist direct with a personal touch on what you’re hoping to get from sending them the press release. Where possible avoid ever sending to a generic email address, as more often than not it gets lots in the inbox and all your hard-work will only have ever been seen by you.

Stay tuned for more handy editorials on advice for small businesses.

Find out more about our board members here.

CEO of PETstock Shane Young joins us for breakfast this Friday

CEO of PETstock Shane Young joins us for breakfast this Friday

We’re so excited to have CEO and co-founder of PETstock, Shane Young, join us for our next In Conversation Breakfast instalment.

Over the year we’ve had Dr James Campbell from the biotechnology sector right through to businessman and past mayor Darryn Lyons, and with this event we’ll be adding the pet industry to the diverse topics we’ve covered.

Having founded the business in 2002 as PETstock, 11 years after the family purchased Ballarat Produce, the business now has more than 100 stores nationally and around a dozen locations in New Zealand. 

Working alongside co-founder and brother David Young, PETstock has won numerous awards, most recently at the 2017 Australian Retailer Awards for best retail store fit-out of the year and retail employer of the year. 

Find out all the challenges, rewards and concepts that came with creating one of Australia’s leaders in pet supplies and support at our event on Friday, December 1.

It all goes down 7.15am to 9.00am at the Australia Post Small Business Hive in Geelong.

Purchase tickets via the website here.

Find out more about PETstock here

See a few of the other speakers we’ve had here.

The need to stand out from the crowd

The need to stand out from the crowd

Some call it a unique selling proposition. For others, it’s a point of difference. But whatever the words, it’s the thing that makes a business – or an individual – stand out in comparison with the competition.

In Bennett Merriman’s case it became the catalyst for the formation of Event Workforce Group, the business he co-founded with his cousin Shannan Gove, which has recently embarked on its global expansion having signed a contract with the NFL Superbowl, one of the world’s premier sporting events.

Bennett graduated from Deakin University with a degree in commerce and sports management, the first such course in Australia. As part of his degree he undertook an internship with a company involved in online event management and participant registration, while harbouring the desire for a career as a player manager in the burgeoning sports industry in Australia.

Travelling the world after finishing his degree Bennett received a call to attend a job interview in San Diego. At that time he was in Columbia and after three urgent flights on ‘budget’ airlines, an interview in which there were questions he couldn’t answer and no offer of employment he took away one lesson: the need to stand out from a crowd in which a growing number of people all had the same qualifications.

Meanwhile back in Melbourne his cousin Shannan was working for the sports management group IMG and had been involved in the Melbourne Marathon. IMG asked Shannon and Bennett to find people to staff the event. Drawing on a network of fellow students they engaged 30 people and the event went very well.

From this success the cousins concluded there was the opportunity to create a business that would enable students and graduates to get the industry experience and ongoing work that might help set them on a career path.

So was formed Event Workforce Group which today offers the people, experience and technology to support the event management industry. The group provides workforce staff for all types of events, a digital management platform comprising a fully integrated rostering, training and accrediting solution and an academy aimed at giving people a solid foundation for a career in the events industry.

After the Melbourne Marathon, word of mouth resulted in EWG being engaged for musical festivals, The Australian Masters Golf and in 2012, the University Games which were held in Geelong.

Geelong was also the start point of the Group’s global expansion after a pitch two years ago with ICT Geelong (now Technology Geelong) and some assistance from Austrade which would see EWG participate in the San Francisco Landing Pad, a Federal Government initiative to provide a base for market ready start-ups to network with Silicon Valley investors.

With five US events under EWG’s belt but as yet no great brand awareness it may well be Bennett’s “in your face” approach to business relationships, which accelerates the Group’s growth in the huge US market.

Unlike many of the sports entrepreneurs he sees in the US, who rely on the use of social media to spread their messages, Bennett believes in the importance of face-to-face dialogue to build business relationships. Engagement with people at a personal level, in which their own interests and activities are discussed, is a major part of building such relationships.

“We will often talk with our clients and prospects about what they may be doing in their private time, such as their weekend sporting activities.” 

While Bennett says his personal approach helped secure the contract to staff the Tough Mudder event on Philip Island, it was also the catalyst for fast tracking the development of EWG’s software which was scaled up to meet the requirements of the challenging obstacle course event.

“Once we have said yes to something, our approach is to get in the deep end and find a way to make it happen. This has pushed us to keep growing,” Bennett says. “It’s not something you can read from a book,” he says, describing the EWG corporate mindset.

More than 100 graduates have now gained full time work in the sports industry thanks to the EWG pathway. This aligns well with the company’s focus to promote and support the achievements of others.



James Campbell would like to see a better nexus between business and science in Australia to help the country commercialise the research achievements of its small but innovative biotechnology sector.

He told the audience at Entrepreneurs Geelong’s most recent In Conversation breakfast “that in the US universities value scientists with real world experience.”

In Australia, Dr Campbell says while that real world may be seen as the place of ‘the devil’s money,’ the country is a leading research centre, despite being almost insignificant as a market.

“Our politicians might say otherwise, but we don’t  punch above our weight in commercialising our research, ” he said, drawing on more than 20 years’  experience in the creation and/or transformation  of several Australian and international biotechnology companies.

The result of this experience is Dr Campbell’s passion to determine if an idea can be commercialised, while addressing the major challenge of identifying and managing risk.

He defines entrepreneurship as a mindset of seeing opportunities and determining where you can go with them. In his case that opportunity pointed to the goal of improving people’s health.

With a smile he summarises his career as “doing what has interested him, not working with a—holes and doing something which changes the world.

“Quite simply I like helping to build things and sell them for a lot of money,” Dr Campbell said.

That aspiration has most recently seen him appointed CEO and managing director of the ASX listed company Patrys, which is focused on the development of antibody therapies for major market opportunities in the oncology area.  

Prior to that the Geelong-born scientist was CFO and COO of ChemGenex Pharmaceuticals Limited where, as a member of the executive team, he helped transform a research-based company with a market capitalisation of $10M to a company which was sold to Cephalon for $230M after completion of clinical trials and regulatory dossiers in the US and Europe.

James Campbell earned his Bachelor of Science from Melbourne University before gaining his PhD at Deakin University. He returned later to Melbourne University to secure an MBA to hone his management skills. He retains his connection with Deakin sitting on the board of its Centre for Innovation in Mental and Physical Health and Clinical Treatment (IMPACT) among many other appointments.

There are three intellectual components to the decision-making that underpins his role as a senior executive assessing opportunities in the biotechnology sector says Dr Campbell.

“First is it should be a good innovation with commercial potential, second the intellectual property (IP) should be safe and third there should be a good economic structure to underpin it,” he explains.

But a rider to this response is “the need to look for an honest and intelligent founder.”

Looked at from the other direction, his advice to aspiring entrepreneurs,  regardless of industry, is to “record what you have done and employ good management.”

While biotech companies are more likely to be headquartered in Boston or San Francisco and the much closer relationship between universities and business in the USA would make it easier to work there, Dr Campbell remains “passionately a Geelong person.”

Asked about the city’s potential for hi tech ventures, he says when it comes to managing such a business, hi tech is location-agnostic.

He acknowledges however an element of serendipity owing to the presence of some scientists in the area, which has seen San Diego grow into 3rd place for the headquarters of US biotech companies.

“Success breeds success. If people like Geelong it may well become a hi tech centre,” Dr Campbell surmises.