Emerging Entrepreneurs & Regional Brain Drain

Whilst all regions are different, is it fair to say that there are some inherit challenges that are similar across regional areas in Australia and around the world: declines in traditional industries, a boom-and-bust economic cycle, and a scarcity of “good jobs”. With young talent facing a choice between moving to the big cities or staying behind but remaining unemployed, it is no wonder that an air of pessimism can set in.

What if something else was possible?  In this blog I wanted to share 2 case studies that have emerged as part of Innovation Ecosystems and highlight a few points for discussion.

Case study 1 – Flint Tolley – Backyard BlastersBackyard Blasters

Flint Tolley lives on the Atherton Tablelands he’s 18 (finished grade 12 last year). Flint is part of the Startup & Innovation Tablelands champion team (one of 10 others) being trained to build out the ecosystem on the Tablelands, whilst also being supported to develop their own startup or consultancy. We asked Flint what he wanted support in developing as part of the program. As it turns out Flint already has an established business (where he reviews and sell’s Nerf guns (toy guns)), which he’s been operating from his parents garage, since he was at school.

“Ok. so here’s my business in a nutshell!

I run the online business Backyard Blasters, which I started during High school operating out of my parents garage.

Since then I have grown a supportive fan base networking through YouTube (9,600 subbies (Flint’s word – short for subscribers), video’s with 1.7 million views), Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snap chat. I sell through eBay, my own website, and also earn an income through YouTube. Shipping over 75 parcels a week, I keep the post office busy, and my business has now expanded into the global market, shipping internationally.

My goal is to earn enough income to afford moving down south, where I can then operate my business more efficiently with faster shipping time to customers and access to greater services.

So what do I sell? Well here is a link to my website: https://www.backyardblasters.com/

From there, it’ll take you to my YouTube, eBay, Instagram etc. and back again!”

I’ll come back to this in a moment. The second case study is as follows…


Case study 2 – Reuben Nutt and James Milaras – Joker and the Thief Joker & the Thief

Similarly in Cairns we met with two other inspiring grade 12 students – Reuben Nutt and James Milaras. These two students call themselves “Cardist’s” (Cardistry is essentially shuffling cards in acrobatic ways). The guys admitted that not many people in the local community understood what they did and that they’re likely to be two of the only cardist’s in Cairns. However they were so well respected in the online Cardistry community that they were able to raise almost $23,000 as part of a Kickstarter campaign which enabled them to create their very own custom designed playing cards, which they now sell around the world. Off the back of connecting with the guys, the ABC did a story on Joker & the Thief – check it out here >>>

That’s pretty cool right?!


So my discussion points:

  1. The internet in particular is enabling entrepreneurs (young entrepreneurs too) to compete in the global marketplace, despite the size and remoteness of their home cities or towns and despite the nature of their business idea. Flint retails “Nerf guns” (toy guns),  Reuben & James sell playing cards. How do we inspire more students to follow their passions, irrespective of their immediate peer groups, broader community or strengths of their local community?
  2. Our youth are now empowered to follow their hearts more than ever. This enables our children to become authorities in an area that they love. My assumption is that when someone is passionate about “something”, empowered to follow that passion, plus endowed with key tools and role models in entrepreneurship, they are more likely to become an entrepreneur as they will be a leader in the field of their passion. Thoughts?
  3. My assumption is that this is grass roots diversity, as these are early stage businesses, which can become companies. Thoughts?
  4. Flint suggested he’s keen to move to a big city. My assumption is that youth are likely to move away and experience the world. That seems normal, however as a community we want to ensure that we are creating adequate infrastructure to inspire them to come home when they are ready to settle down. Thoughts?
  5. My assumption is that a key part of our role in regional development and (ecosystem development) is to ensure that all youth are:
    a) aware that this is possible,
    b) are empowered to follow their passion,
    c) taught how to do it and
    d) have a supportive ecosystem to help them to grow their companies now and when they return. Thoughts?

Appreciate your comments, questions, thoughts and insights

Troy Haines
Innovation Ecosystems

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