Simon Joslin and Matt Clark, co-founders of the Voxel Agents

If you own or run a business, you know that it can be challenging, particularly if you’re starting from scratch. 

What you might not know is that many successful businesses in Australia were started by people who were previously unemployed or receiving income support payments, and just needed an opportunity to make a start. 

For more than 30 years, the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS) has provided individualised help to more than 150,000 eligible job seekers to set up and run their own small business. NEIS provides eligible job seekers with accredited small business training, income support, business mentoring and support from a NEIS provider during the first year of the new business. 

The number of successful businesses that have started out of the NEIS programme shows that you can find great potential in places or people that you didn’t expect. 

The following five inspiring businesses started from humble beginnings and are now achieving incredible things.  

1. The Voxel Agents

In early 2009, Simon Joslin and Matt Clark co-founded The Voxel Agents. a mobile games developing business. In 2007 and 2008, during their studies at the Queensland University of Technology, the duo won the ‘48 Hour Game Making Challenge’ which prompted them to see how far they could take their game developing talents and ideas.

Although their first game was not successful, they persevered and continued to search and prototype a variety of games before beginning development on the final game, Train Conductor.  

Train Conductor was an instant hit with gamers and now has more than seven million players worldwide. The game continues to evolve with the introduction of Train Conductor 2: USA, and Train Conductor 3 (coming soon). 

In 2013 The Voxel Agents released their third game, Puzzle Retreat, which immediately gained more than 1.2 million downloads in the first month. 

Although the first year was challenging for Simon and Matt, the NEIS programme provided them with the support and guidance they needed to focus on building a successful business. 

The Voxel Agents have won several awards since 2010 such as Best Mobile Game at the Independent Games Festival in China, and Startup / Rookie of the Year at the MoMoMelbourne business awards night. 

2. Trailers 2000

Unemployed and with a family of six to support, Stuart and Jenny Daniels were determined to change their employment situation, and decided to have a go at starting their own business. 

They had a big idea—to manufacture box trailers that could handle the Australian climate and conditions, with a specific focus on superior quality, consistency of product, great service, and competitive pricing.

Stuart and Jenny knew that in order to compete with imported competitor products and ultimately be successful, they would need to have an innovative product that used new technology. 

To ensure their vision was executed effectively, Stuart signed up to the NEIS programme to further expand and develop his business skills. In 1993, their idea became a reality when Trailers 2000opened for business.

Trailers 2000 has an Australia-wide retailing distribution network through hardware retailers such as Bunnings Warehouse and CRT Ruralco, and is considered Australia’s number one trailer manufacturer. 

Today, the business employs more than 40 people. 

The team from Trailers 2000

The team from Trailers 2000

3. Marciano’s Cakes

After migrating to Australia from Chile in 1992 with limited spoken English, Marciano and Rosa Alvarez found it difficult to find employment. Although being a qualified pastry cook in Chile, Marciano’s qualifications were not recognised in Australia. 

After Marciano and Rosa successfully obtained a Level 4 in English, Marciano enrolled in a pastry course so he could gain an Australian pastry qualification and open his own cake shop. 

Armed with his new pastry qualification and business idea, Marciano was accepted into the NEIS programme where he was able to develop a business plan and receive business mentoring. 

In 1996 Marciano and Rosa opened Marciano’s Cakes in Clayton, Victoria. Over the next few years their business continued to grow and they were able to expand their shop front into a neighbouring vacant shop. In 2007 Marciano and Rose opened another shop in Maidstone, West Melbourne. 

Marciano’s Cakes currently employs 30 people between the two stores, and Marciano’s children, also pastry chefs, are now working in the family business.  

With the assistance of NEIS, Marciano and Rose have been able to start and grow their own business as well as provide employment for their children. 

4. Aplus Care4All

Raeshel Phelps was a recipient of a disability pension and caring for her four children, two of whom also have disabilities, when she had a business idea that would not only help to support her own family, but other families in her community. 

With the help of her NEIS provider, Hunter Region Business Enterprise Centre at Kurri, Raeshel began to build her business, Aplus Care4all

Aplus Care4all provides support services in the home and the community to families with members with physical and/or intellectual disabilities. With the aim of empowering her clients and assisting in their own personal growth, Aplus Care4all advises families and helps them to explore choices and alternatives available to them. 

Since late 2014, Raeshel has completed a Certificate IV in Small Business Management and has begun tertiary study to strengthen her qualifications in the disability field. 

Raeshel now employs more than 20 people, and the number of employees continues to grow. One of her employees is also an ex-NEIS participant who was in the same training course as Raeshel and now provides contract bookkeeping and financial services for the business.  

Raeshel continues to her expand her business, and has recently purchased a large house that will enable her to provide respite care to her clients.  

5. Business Maps Australia

After being retrenched at only 60 years of age, Steven Randall had an interest in starting his own business but soon realised that he lacked training and knowledge in the financial and structural aspects of running a small business. 

After completing a Certificate IV in Small Business Management, Steven gained enough confidence to start his own small business—Business Maps Australia

Business Maps Australia creates specialised or non-standard maps for a wide range of private clients and government agencies. 

The business is currently involved in a long-term commission with a Perth-based Australian publisher to produce a significant map for the resources sector that will have major relevance to the Asia West Pacific region for the next two to three years. 

Steven’s business continues to grow and develop new mapping services, such as a Bulk Map service for those companies that want to promote their services via maps. 

Think outside the box

When you’re looking to hire someone for your own business, you may find that the best candidate is someone you didn’t expect. The good news is that a local jobactive provider can take care of the process for you, and find the right fit for your business at no cost to you. Get in touch with your local jobactive provider today. 

You may also know someone with business potential who could benefit from the NEIS programme. For more information visit the Department of Employment’s website, or read more about some of the inspiring businesses that have started through NEIS.