DYNAMIC Gold Coast businesswoman Paula Brand is emerging as one of the glitter strip’s most passionate and outspoken champions of the city’s booming homebased, micro and mobile small business sector.
The corporate executive-turned-small business operator has the ear of Federal Minister for Small Business, Michael McKormack and is responsible for turning the Gold Coast’s surging population of small businesses into a connected, engaged and represented community through events, lunches and expos.
Aside from her central focus of fostering small business collaboration and networking, Paula champions the issues that are affecting this rapidly-expanding sector, currently numbering more than 50,000 on the Gold Coast, with 30 per cent home-based or mobile operations.
These issues include managing the positive and negative impacts of the 2018 Commonwealth Games; safeguarding the mental health of home-based business operators; the need for new housing to cater for the rise of home-based work; and superannuation entitlements.
Paula organised her first networking lunch three years ago when she noticed that small business people and professionals working from home on the northern Gold Coast had ‘no business forum’ to meet and connect with others.
“Working from home or on your own is absorbing and very rewarding but it can also be quite isolating and I saw a need for easily accessible networking and support for this groundswell of business people,” she says.
“I didn’t want a membership-based model because most of us are entrepreneurs who are anti-establishment and find organisations and rules too limiting.
“I don’t believe people need to fill in a membership form to come together and connect for the benefit of us all.”
Paula’s North GC Business Networking lunch kicked off with 45 people attending, and three years later the ‘hub’ has thousands of followers and has expanded to the Southern Gold Coast and Logan.
Her grassroots movement has also sprouted a series of small business expos across the Coast and in Logan.
These annual events offer the chance for small, home-based and mobile businesses to have a shopfront in a marketplace-style setting that Paula describes as a “pop-up Westfield shopping centre”.
She is about to clock up her fifth event – The 2017 South Gold Coast Small Business Expo – bringing together around 700 operators to share experiences, deepen their knowledge and ultimately grow their businesses.
Offering more than 110 trade displays and non-stop workshops in a festive atmosphere complete with food trucks and live music, the July 7 event will also be attended by Queensland Minister for Small Business Leeanne Enoch, Commonwealth Games representatives and motivational speakers including Olympic medallist Duncan Armstrong.
Paula says the growing recognition and following of her non-profit expos and events reflected the sector’s rapid expansion and its rising importance to the region’s – and nation’s – economy.
“Scott Morrison’s office phoned me recently to catch up for a chat, so it’s empowering to know that you are having input and being noticed at the very highest levels of the economy,” she says.
And when she’s not galvanising the region’s small business sector, Paula runs her own mobile business, Living with I.T Computer Repairs, and is the mother of a young daughter.
She has more than 25 years of experience in industry development and is the founder of North GC Business Events, South GC Business Events and Spirited Women Business Events and the organiser of the 2017 North GC Business Expo, 2017 South GC Business Expo, 2017 Logan Business Expo.
Paula won the Empowered Biz Mums Leadership Award in 2016.