Grand Opening of The Innovation Factory

Last night was the official opening of The Innovation Factory with many friends, clients and supporters in the audience.  It was great that we were able to come together to celebrate a new vibrant community of established businesses, startups, investors, and professionals here in the city.

In the audience was the Deputy Lord Mayor for the City of Adelaide, Mary Couros; Flavia Tata Nardini, CEO and Co-founder at Fleet Space Technologies and Board member of the South Australian Entrepreneurship Advisory Board; The Hon Zoe Bettison MP, Shadow Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Member for Ramsay; Andrea Michaels MP, Member for Enfield; John Chapman, who is the Small Business Commissioner; and Judy Halliday, the Chief Operating Officer at Office of the South Australian Chief Entrepreneur.

Friends from Business SA, the City of Adelaide and a number of other councils, colleagues from the South Australian State Government, Startup Adelaide, Stone and Chalk, Switch Start Scale and Universities, plus the broader entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem were welcomed to the Grand Opening of The Innovation Factory.

It was a pleasure to MC the evening  and if we haven’t yet connected, I’m Wendy Perry, the Entrepreneurship Facilitator for Adelaide with Switch Start Scale, and Managing Director of Workforce BluePrint, which just turned 19 years old and works with 30 or so countries around the world.

Zac Bailey, the Chief Operating Officer from The Innovation Factory who is a familiar face to many of us, welcomed guests to the space.  A software engineer turned business owner turned entrepreneur, Zac has started three successful local organisations including a software firm currently employing more than 40 South Australians, a digital marketing agency delivering high-impact work at an effective cost, and a coworking space building a broad community focused on innovation combined with his trademark “getting it done”.

“The Innovation Factory is a place to develop your dreams.  Now the dreams you have today, might be very different to the dreams you had 5, 10 or even 15 years ago.  Your dreams, some of the things that are important to you, may have changed over the years.  And one of the things that is really great about places like The Innovation Factory is the way people get brought together, get to talk to each other, validate their ideas and make new connections.  And I’ve noticed that the founders here have a very personal connection to the space and the people in it”, Wendy outlined before sharing a personal story.

The story was about a time in your life when you’ve looked back and thought oooohhh, perhaps I could have behaved better – perhaps I wasn’t seen in my best light there.  There were a couple of takeaways that also relate to business.

“Firstly, validation is key.  You see, in my role as Entrepreneurship Facilitator, one of the things I hear a lot is, it is okay to fail, fail fast – when I’m coaching people 1 on 1, running events, workshops and webinars, and promoting entrepreneurship across the community, it is okay to fail, but failing can be horrible.  If you get the validation, you are far less likely to fail.  And places like this, like The Innovation Factory, allow startups to come in, without signing super long-term leases, or expensive shop fit outs, and get some really good validation, around what they are doing.

The other thing I’d like to reflect on in that story is, who I was taking advice from.  If I was to stick with the advice, that you don’t need something that big or chunky, I really would have missed out on having something that I’ve enjoyed for a long time.  I’d like you to think about this… if your validation is not coming from a valid source, then your validation is invalid.

One more takeaway, always be kind to people, the guy that organised that necklace, did my husband a good deal, had a big impact on our lives.  You will probably guess that there were plenty of other lessons within that story.  And he (Albert Bensimon) will probably never know he had a huge impact on us but he may know now.  And if you are exploring a business idea, starting or scaling up then you need lots of positive support around you”, Wendy explained.

The City of Adelaide has long been a supporter of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and new coworking spaces, so it was wonderful to hear from the Deputy Lord Mayor for the City of Adelaide Mary Couros.  Mary is a successful Real Estate agent with over 25 years of experience in the industry. A daughter of Greek migrants, born and raised in Adelaide, hard work and honesty instilled in her from an early age where she worked at the family’s Snack Bar in the city of Adelaide.  Mary was elected as a Councillor for the North Ward of the City of Adelaide in 2018 and will serve as Deputy Lord Mayor from December 2020.  This represents the first time women have held both leadership roles for the City of Adelaide since 1999.  Mary now owns and operates multiple businesses with her partner, including Ruby Red Flamingo, Tony Tomatoes, and L’italy, located in North Adelaide.

Mary highlighted that, “… we need to do things differently and be creative in our approach and the Innovation Factory is a perfect example of that.  And if you’re looking to start a new business, there is no better place than the City of Adelaide… just last week, Adelaide was recognised as the most liveable city in Australia and the third most liveable in the world by The Economist’s Global Liveability Index.”

It was important to recognise the ‘aunts and uncles’ of entrepreneurship in Adelaide who laid the foundations back in the 1980s and 90s for the ecosystem that we have today.  For example, Carol Haslam who ran the Enterprise Workshop which had such an important impact in creating businesses over its 33 year history, Nicholas Begakis who is the Chairman and Director of Bellis Fruit Bars amongst many other roles, Mick O’Neill who is the Principal of Innovation Economics with a background in state and local government, Paul Daly, Convenor of the Adelaide Entrepreneurship Forum and Principal at Babelshark Consulting, who developed the first map of Adelaide’s entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem.

Then we heard an incredible story from Michael Jones who was the founder and CEO of Regional Express Airlines or “REX ”, taking it from
inception through to IPO (ASX: in 2004).

Michael is currently the CEO of Adelaide based Aero Engine startup company Turbine Aeronautics.  Michael is a graduate of the Royal Military College and spent 14 Years as an Army Aviator.  An Experimental Test Pilot with over 35 years’ experience in aviation, corporate finance and general industrial management.  Michael has been a CEO on 8 occasions over the last 25 Years and is a serial start up/turnaround junkie and some would say expert.  A passion and high degree of exposure and success in the professional sport arenas, Michael has been involved in several Americas ’ Cups , as CEO of the World Sailing League based in Monaco, the Olympics as Director of Sailing for the Beijing and leading up to London and as CEO o f the ACT Brumbies Rugby Franchise.

The audience heard the amazing stories of Shiels and Graham Jewellers from the person who built the business, Albert Bensimon and he was joined by his son, Toby Bensimon who is the Managing Director of Shiels Jewellers, taking the position in 2013.  Shiels Jewellers one of the leading online jewellery retailers in Australia and operates a network of retail locations across SA, QLD, WA and NSW numbering over 46 stores.

Albert Bensimon was born in Cairo Egypt and is of French Jewish decent.  In 1969 Albert married and he and his wife Nyra took off on a working holiday to Europe,  They travelled on a motorbike for one year then decided to come home via Canada. The intended month in Canada ended up being 7 years and his first child Tanya was born there.  In 1977 after extensive work experience and marketing studies they decided to return home to Australia.  Albert decided that he would put his newly acquired marketing skills and his hobby i.e. making jewellery together and decided to open a jewellery store.  As luck would have it the recent widowed Mrs Shiels, of Shiels jewellers had decided to sell their store.  Albert bought it and employed her for several years.  The business has since grown into a national organisation and one of the largest Jewellery Chain operations in the nation.

Toby is the co-founder of Podpac, Australia’s largest manufacturer of coffee capsules who contract pack for many well-known brands as well as under licence for brands such as Bailey’s.  Their own brands Podista and their subscription business to consumer brand Urban Brew continue to lead the market in recyclable and compostable innovation in this space.  Toby is also the co-founder of The Innovation Factory, Bureau Booths, Roy Tiles, Brimful and soon to launch TaskPod businesses.

Questions for Albert and Toby included:

  1. How are you both connected to The Innovation Factory?
  2. You are father and son, how do you work together?  What roles do you play?
  3. Albert, you have run some very creative advertising, marketing and media campaigns over the years.  For example, Simply Irresistible – how did you come up with these ideas and execute them?
  4. What part does innovation play in your organisation?  Is jewellery retail a slow or fast paced industry?
  5. You have various interests outside of the core family business, how do you juggle your time between them all?

Plus a question from audience member, Michelle T Holland on how Toby, Albert and team, managed their people through the pandemic.

Thanks goes to Pete Barter for managing the sound, Zac, Tyson and Alfredo for arranging the event and set up, Paulo Falcade and Thirapat Ekbundit from BAM! Advertising, plus all the excellent volunteers for making this event fantastic as evidenced by positive comments and feedback.

“The Innovation Factory grand opening, part of Adelaide’s eco startup systems with an amazing Adelaide entrepreneurial line up.”

“Wireless Communications Managing Director Wayne Bonner and Chief Customer Officer Philip Catley 🎶 attended the opening of The Innovation Factory last night.  Pictured here with Small Business Commissioner John Chapman, Office of the Chief Entrepreneur Chief Operating Officer Judy Halliday, Entrepreneur Facilitator and MC Wendy Perry, Thug Life Brewer Scott Perry, and Allison Coles (who took the featured image) from Love it Local.  Great to hear from speakers Toby Bensimon Albert Bensimon, Mary Couros and Michael Jones from Turbine Aeronautics.”

“It was a startling event at The Innovation Factory, where I had the honour to meet some like-minded people and learn about some marvellous startups working across various horizons! ✨  Wendy Perry made this event joyful by hosting!!!👏  A special thanks to Michael Jones, for sharing his inspirational story with us 🤝  Some other inspirational souls that I came across this event were Pete Mithra, Allison Coles, Camilo Hernandez, Imran Arif, Matthew Coscia, Alfredo Cabada, Sanja Jovanovic, Mary-Anne Bennett.  TAV Systems and StartupIPTeam was honoured to be a part of this great opening event, we wish the Innovation factory good luck in their future endeavours.”

“Well done for your MC job last night – it was an excellent job, and I could see you had done some really important background research on the speakers!  There were so many interesting people at the launch, and for my part, it was great to catch up with the other ‘aunts and uncles’ of entrepreneurship in Adelaide.  I am sure you were instrumental in getting so many good people at the event 🙂  Enjoy your day today. Great job!”

The entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem has moved from being underground and is really getting noticed.  If you’d like to get involved then please check out these upcoming events:

22.6.21, 5.30 pm – 7.00 pm Network Like A Pro – Workshop + Practice at The Innovation Factory, tickets are $45.00

1.7.21, 6.00 pm – 8.00 pm Open Mic Pitch Night at The Innovation Factory, tickets are free

14.7.21, 6.00 pm – 10.00 pm Bastille Day French Travel Show at The Innovation Factory, tickets are $120.00

20.8.21, 12.00 pm – 2.00 pm Back of the Napkin Lunch – SALA Exhibition & Bringing Art to your Business at the Bridgewater Arts Centre, tickets are free (pay for your own lunch and drinks)

And make sure we are connected on LinkedIn 🙂

Scroll to Top