Head of Business Development, Tara O’Connell is helping to connect the dots of the “Aboriginal economy”
First Australians Capital supports an increasing pool of innovative entrepreneurs and business owners to enrich our communities by nurturing economic growth. First Australians Capital has just appointed Tara O’Connell as the new Head of Business Development – leading the team that works directly with Indigenous businesses.
Tara O’Connell joined First Australians Capital in August this year. Initially her role focused on working to provide tailored support to individual businesses.
An accomplished entrepreneur herself, Tara shares her story and insights into the “Aboriginal economy” and how it can benefit all Australians.
Tara’s own experience has a strong influence on her understanding of the pressures on business owners. After a decade building her own tech start-ups (she first created an app to track baby’s activities and key milestones, and then pivoted to launch a pet tracking app for fur-babies), she has both the strategic understanding and the skills to roll up her sleeves where needed.
Tara is honest about her own development as an entrepreneur: “I had tech skills that would fit on the outside of a corn kernel – which means those first few years were a steep learning curve!” she says. “Running a tech company was not something I’d ever imagined myself doing, but I really enjoyed it and I eventually white-labelled the app to a national pharmacy group, and then set about getting similar partnerships overseas”.
In addition to successfully launching and running her own business, Tara also spent many years as CEO of an NFP in the environment and tourism sector. Previously she spent time as an eco-tourism and business development consultant, and digital transformation specialist. Every part of her background aligns to the service she offers to businesses through First Australians Capital.
But it’s First Australians Capital’s mission that engages her most strongly.
“I have always been driven by the need to do ‘worthwhile’ work. My definition of success is that, at the end of my days, I’ll be able to reflect on my career knowing that I made a difference. For me, “worthwhile” means contributing to solutions in areas including community, environment, culture and small business development. First Australians Capital certainly ticks that box. I was also drawn to the workplace itself as there’s a real sense of transparency, respect, collaboration and teamwork”.
In her role, Tara works across the whole First Australians Capital ecosystem: from the internal team, to investors, supporting partners and Indigenous businesses, entrepreneurs and professionals. She is driven to leverage every opportunity available to help build a more sustainable future for all Australians.
“While COVID has sent a large percentage of businesses into a spin worldwide” says Tara, “I also believe there are some businesses that will start to see benefits, especially Indigenous businesses in the agri-tourism, cultural-tourism and eco-tourism space. These businesses can leverage campaigns that Tourism Australia and the state tourism offices are rolling out such as Tourism Australia’s #HolidayHereThisYear campaign and the campaign driving traffic to the “Welcome to Country” website where many of our indigenous experiences are showcased.”
Agribusiness is another sector with significant potential for growth, with demand for native foods currently far greater than supply. “At present only 2% of this industry is Indigenous and FAC is working to close that gap with some exciting partnerships and programs that we’ll be announcing soon” says Tara.
Underlining Tara’s approach is deep understanding of the daily pressing demand for entrepreneurs to think creatively as the world changes around them. She particularly enjoys the challenge of working closely to support this key task “…it’s very difficult to brainstorm with one brain, and many business owners are running solo in the early days and years” she says. “But even more than this, FAC is connecting the dots of the “Aboriginal economy”, helping to connect Indigenous businesses with each other so we can all grow together”.
As current times have certainly shown, we are stronger together. First Australians Capital is committed to building the capacity of First Australians to create and drive their own economic prosperity, and in turn, contribute to the nation’s economic growth.
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