Vision & History
Business Foundations is a not-for-profit provider of enterprise development services to the community of Western Australia. It has been a remarkable journey from small beginnings, and today we help more than 2000 business people each year.
Clients come from all walks of life, and range from people wanting to start a small business, existing small to medium sized businesses, manufacturers and small business tenants. Our services include business incubation, one to one advisory sessions (virtual incubation) and group training and mentoring.
To improve the lives of Western Australians by assisting the community to become more enterprising, increase economic activity and ultimately assist in creating employment.
To be known in the community as the primary point of reference in providing information and assistance to new and growing small business.
The work of Business Foundations really started when a group of sandal makers at Fremantle Markets were provided assistance by a Murdoch University PhD student, Ernesto Sirolli, back in the late 1980s. Ernesto was interested in enterprise creation as a means of creating regional economic development and by helping the sandal makers get in touch with expert mentors in the form of an Italian bootmaker – and by providing them specific business advice, he was able to help them improve their products, and income.
The sandal makers were so impressed by the level of help, they approached local authorities and business groups, arguing for a business facilitator to be employed in Fremantle full time. Run out of the Fremantle Migrant Resource Centre, the new service would offer advice to anyone starting a business or business people looking to improve their operations.
By 1993, the State Government took a similar approach, funding a statewide network of agencies that could address enterprise development in a bid to combat high unemployment of about 10 per cent. The Fremantle operation, which was already successfully providing these services, was funded as part of this network. Around the same time, the closure of the Old Fremantle Prison as a working jail meant that the remarkable heritage building became available for alternative uses. It was decided that a former cell block would be ideal as a business incubator, a way of assisting new businesses to take office space in a supportive environment until they were ready to graduate into commercial premises.
The incubator opened in 1997, at which point the organisation adopted the name Coastal Business Centre and expanded the range of services it was able to offer small businesses. We reached out to home-based businesses and began to build our reputation with already established firms. The new incubator meant businesses were able to have high-security offices as well as expert business advice on-site, and the success rate of these firms improved markedly. New contracts were attracted, from local and Federal governments in addition to the State BEC contract, and services were offered broadly in surrounding areas.