5 startups explain how being away from the big smoke of Sydney and Melbourne helped their success

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Sydney and Melbourne might be the traditional hotspots for business, but many startups are discovering the wisdom of escaping the big smoke for somewhere with the same amenities, but a lot more support from the locals. Not to mention an all-round better lifestyle.

According to environmental psychologists at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, living by water is associated with a wide range of positive benefits to your physical and mental health. Not least of these being an increased level of vitamin D and better social networks.

A study on happiness in natural environments conducted in 2013 found a distinct increase in reported happiness around marine and coastal areas.

We spoke to the founders of three startups who set themselves up on the Gold Coast, and they told us why they wouldn’t have it any other way.

1. Michelle Gilmour, Head of Marketing & Communications at Gilmour Space

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You’d be forgiven for being surprised to learn that there’s a rocket company in Queensland, however Gilmour Space has been in operation for a while now – their first hybrid rocket launching back in 2016.

“Space was not an area of focus in Australia when we started,” Michelle Gilmore states. “There was no funding or other support available and we didn’t qualify for many of the startup, technology or innovation programs.

“Thankfully, we managed to find good people and develop new tech to solve a problem that we saw emerging in the global space industry.”

Flashforward to 2020 and Gilmour Space has received a $3 million grant from the Australian Government, and is expecting to launch the next generation of small satellites into Low Earth Orbits by 2022.

While South Australia “might’ve been easier” to launch their startup, Gilmour believes Queensland’s interest in developing the space industry gives it a significant advantage over other Australian locations.

“In our analysis, Queensland could provide some excellent locations for launch, and that is hard to beat.”

2. Sam Webb, co-founder of Livin

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Not-for-profit organisation Livin is focused on breaking the stigma of mental health. Founder Sam Webb was motivated to start the organisation after the death of a close friend who was suffering from a mental illness in silence. For Webb, it was his local Gold Coast community that really got the idea off the ground.

“[My friend’s death] rallied the community and we did our best to make a difference,” Webb explained in an interview with Pedestrian.TV. “We started Livin in my kitchen in 2013 and we started selling t-shirts as a way to raise awareness and break the stigma around mental health.”

“One thing led to the next and we set up the organisation as a fully registered non-profit by the year following.”

Having a close tie to your local community as a business can be mutually beneficial. Not only does it increase your own visibility to potential customers, but your business can also pump resources back into the community.

3. Eden Shirley, founder and CEO of AutoGuru

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The idea for AutoGuru came after founder and CEO, Eden Shirley, had a “bad experience” finding a local mechanic after his move to the Gold Coast.

The service, which connects Australians to the best-rated mechanics in their area, was designed to provide a “better, more convenient and transparent way of searching, comparing and booking auto service providers”, Shirley explains.

After striking a partnership deal with Uber back in 2017, AutoGuru has continued to tighten its stranglehold on the auto mechanic marketplace, and Shirley credits at least some of that success to being based on the Gold Coast.

“One of the beauties of being a digital business is that we can operate from anywhere, but there are definitely some unique benefits of starting on the Gold Coast.

“There is a lot of good talent here and lots of smart people wanting to move away from the big city and take up a sea change.”

4. Nik Mirkovic and Alex Tomic, founders of HiSmile

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If you haven’t heard of HiSmile then you’re obviously the rare beast who refuses to participate in social media. This Gold Coast startup employed smart marketing strategies to get their product and brand name out there.

A celebrity endorsement by Kylie Jenner was particularly fruitful. Her post about HiSmile went out to her 76 million followers and attracted 1.6 million likes and more than a quarter of a million comments.

“We’re both Gold Coast born and raised,” says Mirkovic and Tomic. “The lifestyle and environment suit us and our team, as well as the company culture we’re looking to create.”

A good company culture has been shown to create a more productive, and far less stressful workplace, so why not help it along with the right environment?

5. Samantha Davies, founder of  Unforgettable Proposals

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Apparently a simple ‘will you marry me’ is so out of vogue these days, but dramatic proposals take a lot of planning. Samantha Davies saw this gap in the market and set up her Gold Coast-based business, Unforgettable Proposals, to help couples knock their over-the-top proposals out of the park.

“Unforgettable Proposals is an events business, and as a result, we require several event props and warehouse facilities” Davies explains. “Therefore when comparing those costs to cities like Sydney or Melbourne, the Gold Coast was a much more viable option due to the affordable costs.

“It’s also a beautiful destination which is very popular for our clients. We service many inbound clients looking to come to the Gold Coast for a premium romantic experience.”

Considering the difference between cost of living in Sydney and on The Gold Coast, this isn’t surprising. According to the cost of living website, Numbeo, the Gold Coast clearly wins value for money. Rental prices alone are 32% lower than in Sydney.