Bright* - Providing Practical Business Support for the Darling Square Community

As of May 2019, bright* was officially launched in Darling Square. I was lucky enough to get a little bit of a sneak peek into the bright* process a month or so before it was revealed to the public. Here’s a little bit on what I experienced. 


I went into my first bright* resource team session totally blind. I knew that bright* was a program designed to help local businesses and startups meet like-minded people, but I didn’t really know how or why. The program is open to anyone who works or lives in the Ultimo, Haymarket, or Darling Square area, and they are more than welcome to become a client. I arrived at the Chinese Garden of Friendship and was greeted by Cara Wood, the bright* program manager and a member of their advisory group. 

There were already a few people there, all ranging in different ages and occupations, but very soon the room was packed! People were chatting and exchanging business cards. But then the evening's proceedings needed to begin. We sat in a large circle, all feeling very casual, with some late comers standing around the sides and back wall. We had a full house! It was hard to believe everyone in the room were there to volunteer their time, skills and networks even though they didn’t know who it was they were supporting. Apparently, this is a key part of the program. You feel good to help others, even though you may never meet them.

The Enterprise Facilitator team, gave the group a few projects they were helping to facilitate. This wasn’t a networking event strictly speaking, or at least not in the usual sense. Martin, one of the Enterprise Facilitators, essentially explained to the group what the needs of his clients were (bright* refers to the entrepreneurs that seek out their assistance as their clients), and was asking the group if anyone could help them. Once Resource Team volunteers have put their hand up to help, the client chooses the best partner to work with and leaves them to it. In this sense, it’s a sort of targeted networking. 

The bright* philosophy is as follows;

From community for community. Following The Sirolli Institute methodology, we provide practical business support, on a strictly confidential basis. We help connect local entrepreneurs in and around the Darling Square community. 

But what exactly is the “Sirolli Institute methodology?” The program uses the Sirolli Enterprise Facilitation methodology as their foundation. The goal of this social economic framework is to help the community of Darling Square thrive! Simply put, it places the entrepreneur and their passion first and foremost, using this to find and harness self-motivation and passion. Through the time and care of the voluntary resource team to business leaders, and everyone in between, there’s a real emphasis on community with the entrepreneurs and other small businesses all supporting each other. The methodology focuses on three main facets, applicable to any business: the product or the service being offered, the marketing of said product/service, and the financial management of the business. 

For example, the Enterprise Facilitator may present a client who has a solid product that they truly believe in. His client may also already have someone who is excellent at marketing and already has a fair few years of experience behind them, but they’re in need of someone to take care of the finances. Neither the Enterprise Facilitator’s client, nor their business partner can take care of the finances. So at the meeting, the Enterprise Facilitator will outline the needs of their client (confidentially of course), to see if anyone in the room can help them, or can pass on a contact that perhaps could. It’s called the trinity of management, and each partner in the business must love what they do.

So as you can see, this is purely facilitation, guidance, and harnessing of skilled volunteering. The bright* team are there to offer support when needed, but they rely on the entrepreneur they’re guiding to reach out and make contact with them. The resource team is a diverse group of people from all across Sydney, each bringing not only their own knowledge and years of experience, but their extended network of contacts. More than that, they bring with them unconditional positive regard for that entrepreneur’s idea.

To paraphrase Lendlease, they know that it’s not the laying of the last brick which signals the end and success of a project. It's the upkeep and continuing support that keeps a community thriving. People and their ideas are always welcome in Darling Square, and the bright* program is part of this to ensure that business in Darling Square will remain thriving for years to come.

I spoke with two of the bright* Enterprise Facilitators, Martin O’Sullivan and Belinda W Lai, about the program and the benefits for the community of Darling Square. Read their responses below and make sure you head to their next resource meeting on September 18th. For those within the catchment area who are curious and want to hear more, please reach out to the Bright Program Manager Cara Wood.

The bright* Team in Darling Square. Image Credit: bright*

The bright* Team in Darling Square. Image Credit: bright*


Who would you say is a prime candidate for bright*?

Passionate individuals in our local community with great idea for a business or existing business that need support on their entrepreneurial journey.

What does it mean to you, to be an entrepreneur in Sydney?

It’s a tough journey being an entrepreneur in Sydney or anywhere really, but it can be hugely rewarding when you are doing something you love.  The challenges you face when starting out and even when you are growing a business can be very isolating if done alone. With the help of our programs, Bright seeks to bring a level of support that can ultimately drive success for these individuals and businesses.  No one can do it alone.

Why would you recommend someone attend a bright* session?

To connect in with the wealth of opportunity that exists in your immediate local community. It is a great way to connect with what’s happening in the field of innovation and new business as well as a chance to bring your own valuable experience and network to drive growth and opportunity.

What does "practical business support" mean in the bright* sense?

When we say practical business support, it means that we create meaningful connections between our community network of expert resources. Our expert resources have the knowledge and experience to provide valuable insights that might otherwise take years to learn.

Why do you think it's important for local businesses to support each other?

It’s important for not just local businesses but the local community to support each other.  Loneliness is at its highest levels in urban settings despite such high concentrations of people living and working in such close proximity.  Taking the time to support each other creates a resilient community.

What advice would you give to a start-up or someone just getting into entrepreneurship?

Find your ‘tribe’ of like-minded individuals and surround yourself with people with skills that complement yours.  Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and more importantly to learn from them. Seek out mentors and spaces where you can be supported and be open to sharing your journey.  You’re not the only one on a very similar path.

Can you share a success story with us? 

We have been supporting a fast-growing education company called Harness Projects.  They are a project based learning offering that helps people learn future of work skills collaborating on real work company challenges.  Since we began collaborating, Bright have been able to Connect them with some amazing resources in finance and marketing from CBA and One2Ten.  The feedback we have received from them is that these introductions have led to further opportunities than what was originally intended which speaks to the value of networking.

Anything else you'd like to share?

Through Bright we are futureproofing Darling Square by nurturing environments where great ideas are welcome and can thrive through an open and connected community. Next resource team is August 7th. Come and see the program in action for yourself.

Samuel McEwenComment