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Applications Closing for South Waikato Business Programmes

Applications closing for free South Waikato Business programmes

SWIFT have contracted Firestation, a central North Island business growth centre, to deliver their Incubate and Activate programmes to help launch and grow businesses in the region.

Tokoroa local Sarah Seerden graduated from the third Incubate cohort in Rotorua late 2014 as she was finishing her fashion design course. It was her tutors at Waiariki Institute of Technology that suggested she apply for Incubate.

Seerden was keen to participate as she believed it would help get her business label SarSee off the ground selling dresses via the internet with ambitions to open a shop at some stage.

“Incubate appealed to me as a fantastic way to create contacts and discuss business strategies to help my own business grow and be profitable. Taking the first step is always big and Incubate helped me to do this with support.”

Following the course Seerden achieved all her goals with launching SarSee’s online store in 2015. A year later she took the plunge and moved the business out of her mother’s garage and opened a retail store in Tokoroa in July 2016.

She puts her success down to a lot of work, determination as well as what she learnt through the business programme.

“Incubate was so helpful to me and really helped develop my fashion design label and business.”

The material provided was invaluable, but Seerden stressed the importance of support networks and being around other people in business.

“Having support from the other business owners when I needed it and meeting new people who are running their own business was really beneficial.”

“It’s a great programme and I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to start or grow their own business.”

South Waikato residents and business owners have the choice of two programmes depending on the stage of their enterprise.

Activate is a six-week course and is for people who have an idea for a new business, product or service but are not sure how to get it off the ground. The programme focuses on idea development and the steps required for launch. At the end of the programme participants are required to present a launch plan for their enterprise.

Incubate is for smaller, newer businesses and focusses on the foundation of setting up a sustainable and successful business. Participants present a business plan at the end of the 12-week course.

Both programmes have a mix of group training and one-on-one business coaching and require a commitment of two to three hours per week.

South Waikato District Council Mayor Jenny Shattock said supporting this initiative dovetailed perfectly with Council's commitment to economic growth and development.

"Growing existing businesses and fostering new businesses is key to continued economic growth and prosperity for the South Waikato. Our opportunities are many and there are some great ideas that can take advantage of our central position, strong road and rail links, available work force and appropriately zoned industrial and business land," she said.

"These courses are a tremendous stepping stone. We are very proud of local fashion designer Sarah Seerden for developing her very successful business in Tokoroa. Sarah clearly got huge value out of the course, indeed just look at what she has built and the fantastic support she gets from locals, visitors and her wider clients."

Applications close 5 October. The programmes run on Tuesdays in Tokoroa starting mid-October. For more information or to apply go to

More information:


• Owned and operated by Darren and Rachael McGarvie drawing on their combined forty plus years of corporate experience, diverse business ownership and governance expertise.

• Firestation is the only Business Growth Centre in the central North Island with programmes and services covering leadership, sales, brand, governance, marketing and business coaching.

• Co-working space in Rotorua with clients and programmes across the central North Island including Tauranga, Rotorua, Kawerau, Taupo and now South Waikato.

• Since 2014, customer growth has been exceptional. More than 300 business owners and leaders engaged with FIRESTATION.


• New programme to help progress business idea to launch

• Cohorts starting in October 2017 in South Waikato and Rotorua

• 6-week programme requiring a commitment of 2-3 hours per week.

• Group sessions covering idea development, lean business canvas, market validation, business planning and growth mindset.

• Two one-on-one business coaching sessions.

• Final session all participants must present a launch plan


• 70 organisations across 9 cohorts graduated since 2014

• Cohort 10 to commence October 2017 in Rotorua

• Cohort 11 to commence October 2017 in South Waikato

• Eight group sessions covering topics such as Growth Mindset, Marketing Essentials, Sales Strategies, Employment Law, Online Marketing, Business Essentials, Finance Essentials and Pricing.

• Two one-on-one coaching sessions.

• Final session all participants must present a business plan.

Origins of South Waikato Investment Fund

• Investment fund set-up in the 1990s using the proceeds of the sale of power company shares.

• Since 1998, the Council managed the fund in-house. It has mainly used income from the fund to subsidise rates. In 2006, the Council resolved to make a portion of the fund available for activities focused on economic development, including to build facilities and amenities, enhance local employment opportunities, and attract people to move to, and stay in, the district.

• In September 2013, the Council consulted the community on an amendment to the 2012-22 long-term plan that would help to transfer the investment fund out of the Council's control. The aim was to protect the fund should an amalgamation take place, ensure that the fund was safeguarded for the South Waikato District community, and ensure that people with the right networks, experience, and skills in driving economic development manage the fund.

• The investment fund was transferred into two trusts outside the Council's control. The trusts were established with a clear objective to maintain the goals of the investment fund that the Council had previously set. The two trusts were combined into one and now known simply as the SWIFT Trust. The Trust is pursuing a wide range of projects all with one simple aim - to generate more jobs and sustainable economic growth for the South Waikato


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