Wendy Bithell undertook Sourdough’s Pre-Accelerator program with her second business idea. “I’ve run Vision Walks Eco-Tours for 13 years,” she says. “On applying for ecotourism certification, I was asked what my carbon footprint was and I had to admit I had no idea.”
Unknown to her in that moment, this realisation was the prompt for her second business idea: Local Carbon Collective.
With degrees in both environmental and computer science, Wendy is no stranger to mixing technology and real life. No guidance or tools were offered to help her answer the question about her carbon footprint, so she got to work on a spreadsheet. “I’m a bit of a nerd,” she says proudly.
After concluding that Vision Walks was carbon-neutral (and, now she is planting more koala trees, carbon-negative), she realised the spreadsheet she’d created could be of use to others.
“Not everyone is a nerd like me,” she says. “I realised I could help other businesses do what I’ve done.”
Wendy put her own seed money into developing a prototype app. Then COVID hit and everything ground to a halt. Enrolling in the Pre-Accelerator program encouraged Wendy to continue to progress her idea.
“Because I was so busy running tours, it was good to have the space for getting my head into this startup,” she says. “Having three hours a week dedicated in the classroom, plus homework, forced my mindset to focus. Otherwise it would have kept slipping down my list of things to do.”
Wendy came into the program with a ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (MVP) – her prototype app, for which she’d already applied for a patent. “My actual idea didn’t overly change,” she says. “But others really u-turned their ideas based on mentoring and feedback.”
The biggest learning Wendy took away from the program was about the structure of her business.
“I’ve been operating as a sole trader but am now changing the structure to a company and setting up a not-for-profit arm,” she says. “I wouldn’t have done this without the program.”
One of the major benefits of this change is that a company structure allows venture capitalist funding, something that looks set to become a reality after Local Carbon Collective won the program’s Pitching Showcase.
“The whole program gave me confidence that my idea is a good one,” she says. “Then, winning gave me confidence that it is possible to make it happen.”
If venture capitalist interest culminates in investment, this will allow Wendy to not only produce the next, white-label, version of her app, it will allow her to hire someone to look after sales, an area which is not her strength.
Wendy cannot speak highly enough of the mentors on the Pre-Accelerator program. “Ash is such an asset,” she says of Ashleigh Camm, Sourdough’s Expert in Residence.
To anyone considering bringing their business idea to Sourdough’s Pre-Accelerator program, she says simply: “Do it! Jump in, take the leap. You can sit on a fence and ‘um and ah’ for ages. This program allows you to get off the fence and hit the ground to see if it’s a workable idea or change it to make it a workable idea. Get it out of your head and into the real world, or you’ll be 106 and still wondering.”