To be frank, when I started gemaker, I hoped that it might last three years before I had to give up playing start-up CEO in my garage and find a ‘real’ job. My wildest dream was to make a positive difference to Australian innovation and research commercialisation.

gemaker has succeeded far beyond my initial hope and even my wildest dream is coming true. In seven years, we have transformed from start-up to award-winning microbusiness – in 2017, we received a NSW Telstra Business Award after rigorous judging – and we are growing as an SME.

gemaker’s significant achievements this year include:

  • Rolling out industry engagement training and spearfishing events for early-to-mid-career researchers and PhD students, around Australia.
  • Launching the #AUSinnovates initiative to share Australian stories of successful research or technology commercialisation, to guide and inspire other innovators.
  • Launching a new website for Alkane Resources with 14.2% increase in website traffic
  • Managing all marketing communications for the US and UK launches of Stormseal.
  • Preparing IP Australia’s online training material on IP and commercialisation for university researchers and students, in consultation with KCA
  • Sponsoring the STEAM room at Lucas Heights Community School

The economic wellbeing of our nation depends on business successes like ours. But while it sounds straightforward and easy, I can let you in on a little secret: it wasn’t. My team and I have worked extremely hard to establish our ‘overnight’ seven-year success. That’s why we empathise so well with clients undertaking the same journey and we have some hard-earned wisdom to share…

7 foundations for a successful business:

  1. Have a strong strategic vision (purpose)
    gemaker accelerates the commercialisation of Australian innovations to grow new knowledge-based industries. We do this by inspiring the next generation of innovators, assisting researchers to engage with industry, empowering translators (tech transfer professionals) and helping innovative businesses to find their markets, fund their development and attract customers.
  2. Employ professional team members with aligned values
    Company culture is everything. We value flexibility, quality and impact. We choose professionals who are experts in their fields and uphold these values, and provide them with training and other development opportunities, as well as collegial support.
  3. Invest in a great back office team
    Our Operations team ensures that our systems run smoothly and looks after day-to-day functions of the business. Employing a PA (10 hours per week) is one of the smartest things I’ve done this year. She administers aspects of my life far better than I would, so I can spend my time on business development. Don’t think of it as a luxury, think of it as a smart investment.
  4. Build good relationships
    Relationships underpin everything we do. Building trust generates referrals from satisfied customers. Long-standing connections with high quality suppliers who share our values help us to meet our customers’ needs to the best of our ability.
  5. Market, market, market
    If you’ve seen us, heard of us or met us it’s because we know the value of marketing. It’s vital for every business and unfortunately undervalued by most. We strive to understand our customers’ needs and develop products and services that maximise the impact customers want at a price they can afford. We promote our products and services in places our customers visit, in the real-world and online.
  6. Learn from failures
    As a perfectionist it kills me to say it, but yes, darn it, we have failures. We’ve been unsuccessful in bidding for work, we’ve inadvertently screwed up customer relationships, and we’ve identified nightmare clients too late. Failures are good teachers. They’ve taught us to gain better understanding of customer expectations and their budgets upfront, think through actions more widely, and not accept work from potential customers exhibiting early warning signs. 
  7. Celebrate successes
    Winning the Telstra Business Award last year was a company highlight. We brought our team together with some of our customers and supporters to celebrate. We also celebrate completion of major projects and milestones for clients and ourselves. We thank our team with fruit baskets, movie tickets, massage vouchers, or dinners.

Two weeks ago I was deeply honoured to receive the University of Wollongong Alumni Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. And one of the best highlights of my year occurred just last week when, as a Chemistry alumnus, I was asked to speak at a UNSW event focussed on diversity. The Head of the School of Chemistry told me that he’d taken my advice at the External Advisory Committee meeting on offering flexible employment to attract more female staff, and it had been a resounding success.

I love that we can make a positive difference in the world.

About the Author

Natalie leads the gemaker team with over 17 years commercial experience developing new products and services for market across the education, financial, scientific and engineering consulting sectors. A commercialisation whiz and a talented manager, Natalie believes in building a deep understanding of customer needs to drive market success.