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Growing the Region’s Indigenous Business Sector

For Natasha Parsgaard, running her own catering business has been a lifelong dream since she was a four year old following her mother around the kitchen. Thanks to her recent participation in the Townsville One Business Program, Natasha has turned this dream into a reality, and is now the owner and operator of NQ Soul Foods, a local catering business that serves cuisine inspired by Natasha’s rich and diverse Indigenous and Scandinavian heritage. 

“NQ Soul Foods is a small business in our local Townsville and Burdekin communities who caters for various events and festivals, and provides a friendly, welcoming, healthy, and safe food and beverage service,” explains Natasha. 

“My mother was a proud Indigenous woman and my father was Danish, so the cuisine pays homage to my ancestral background through incorporating rich and delicious flavouring that stems from my Scandinavian heritage.”

In collaboration with TAFE Queensland and We Are One Business, the One Business Program is a three month-mentoring initiative designed to create more pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander innovators, entrepreneurs and business leaders.

One Business Project Manager and Senior Trainer, Leesa Watego, says the program, which piloted in Townsville at the start of 2021, holds critical importance in building, connecting and delivering grass-roots knowledge for Indigenous business owners across the region. 

“One Business Townsville supported many new and emerging Indigenous businesses as well as some existing ones to secure opportunities and incubate ideas into fully fledged businesses,” says Leesa. 

“Building a sustainable business requires many things, including a great idea, access to capital and markets, however you also need someone you can get advice and guidance from, and a place to build your skills as a business owner. 

“Therefore One Business was designed by us to build that capacity in regional Queensland through recruiting Indigenous business trainers to be those guides.” 

The program will be delivered in at least five other regions across Queensland and will continue to provide the opportunity for Indigenous business owners to work with experienced Indigenous trainers and other organisations to consolidate their skills, network and explore new opportunities for innovation and change. 

“Participants receive education and mentoring on skills such as strategy, marketing, finance, legal and social media, that are all crucial aspects to building a successful business,” continues Leesa. 

“Each program delivery also includes a Small Business Expo at the end of the three month period which enables them to test out their skills, showcase their offerings and pitch to a local business audience.”

The Townsville One Business Expo, which took place in April 2021, not only marked the launch of NQ Soul Foods, but provided Natasha with the opportunity to cater for the event and add more clients to her expanding customer base. 

“The Expo provided a great opportunity to share my startup story and showcase everything about my business, from the inspiration behind it, to my logo, business cards, and of course, my food,” says Natasha. 

“It is thanks to the One Business Program, that I’ve had the opportunity to receive training, support and encouragement from such brilliant minds which has helped to make this a reality.” 

With signs of other sectors adopting Indigenous procurement policies, Leesa says programs like One Business are crucial in driving economic development and providing employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians at a local level. 

“Having these types of programs readily available in regional areas is vital to activating and building Indigenous business communities and developing strong and sustainable economies that can empower locals and create employment opportunities,” continues Leesa. 

“One Business Townsville has already helped to put Indigenous business on the radar of a number of non-Indigenous companies, which is essential because we need organisations to actively seek out and support Indigenous business where possible.” 

As for Natasha, the future of NQ Soul Foods is looking remarkably bright. Since graduating from the program, she has already catered for various events such as the Burdekin Festival and the Townsville Rodeo. She says the support has been overwhelming and as part of her give-back to the community, Natasha hopes to utilise NQ Soul Foods as a pathway for other young people seeking training and employment. 

“I am extremely passionate about providing support for our younger generation, particularly those looking to develop and grow in the hospitality and tourism industry,” she explains. 

“Being able to provide opportunities for young people seeking training and employment was always one of my key motives when starting NQ Soul Foods.” 

“There are exciting times ahead that will keep NQ Soul Foods remarkably busy and I couldn’t be more well, excited!”

By Georgie Desailly.

Image Credit: Michelle Littlejohn – On the Ball Photography

Georgie Desailly

Georgie Desailly

Georgie is BDmag’s resident writer who is passionate about entrepreneurship, sustainability and regional affairs. She is preparing to study with The School of The New York Times later this year before commencing her journalism qualifications.