2020 Annual Review - The Secrets of a High-Impact Community Venture Lab

During a year of significant adversity I'm delighted to report that SEVENmile Venture Lab has made an even greater impact than in 2019. This despite having held only 2 meetups; one in February and one in late November (our 2nd birthday celebration).

Throughout 2020 we continued to receive wonderful support and direct help from many people in our community.

We acknowledge the following people who have been instrumental in helping our mission to empower our community, by providing emotional support that builds resilience, creating opportunities for entrepreneurs to succeed and to strengthen the local economy.

With many thanks to our Directors; Julija McDowell, Cameron Shaw, Mitchell Filby, and Greg Twemlow.

Big Thanks to our Sponsors and Supporters

Our supporters in Northern Beaches Council; Ray Brownlee, Felicity Shonk, Deb Kempe, Nikki Griffith, Sue Heins, Mayor Michael Regan.

NSW MP for Manly James Griffin.

Thanks to Courtney Brown CEO of The Millennial Group who sponsored the launch event for NB Angels.

Our pro-bono sponsors; Jaromir Turanec and Matt McGoldrick from Kickstart Advisory, Michael Zhu from Blueprint Accounting, and Catalin Anastase from Lunar Media TV.

We are very grateful for the funding support by Matt Ward from Forward-IP, who sponsored a desk in the co-work space in 2019, and Matt has extended his sponsorship to 2020.

How We Started in 2020

We kicked-off 2020 with a meetup on January 22, designed to get the community easing back into the swing of BAU, and we had two excellent speakers. Jana Sofia, a career and business coach, spoke about "7 keys to mindful entrepreneurship", and Nick Miller, an expert in B2C marketing using Facebook and Google Adwords.

By February, there was already noise about a new Coronavirus that had emerged in China. People in our community were at the early stage of feeling a little nervous, and we decided to hold off on hosting a sizeable monthly meetup in March.

In late February, we were contacted by NSW Education, enquiring about a meeting to discuss an idea they had for an initiative to teach year 9 and 10 high school students about entrepreneurship. This project would eventually be implemented at St Paul's Catholic College in Manly from September 14 to November 18, becoming one of the highlights of 2020. Click here to read the project report.

Helping Local Women's Groups

During the latter part of February, two local women's networking groups held meetups in our Seaforth Village co-work space. Kate Sellick, Band of Sisters, and Anne McKeown, 2mPower, used our co-work space on February 6 and February 25. We are always happy to support our community.

We did feel confident to host small gatherings, and on March 9, we hosted an International Women's Day 2020 Morning Tea with proceeds going to the Northern Beaches Women's Shelter.

Everything Changed in March

As we entered March, everything changed, and we all commenced a period of great uncertainty. Our monthly meetups were cancelled until further notice and the co-work space had just two people, who sat about five meters apart.

Valuable Press Coverage

Even in this generally unsettling, early phase of the pandemic, there was good news for SEVENmile Venture Lab. Some great press coverage in the Daily Telegraph and Manly Daily helped lift our profile across Sydney and in our northern beaches region.

The 12 tech start-ups transforming the northern beaches into the next Silicon Valley by SEVENmile Venture Lab

Awarded a Grant from Veterans Affairs

In March we also received a letter from the Federal Minister of Veterans Affairs to advise that we had been awarded a Grant to capture northern beaches veterans' life stories.

letter from Hon Darren Chester Minister for Veterans Affairs awarding a Grant to SEVENmile Ltd

Little did I know that the project would evolve into a full-scale documentary that would receive a comprehensive endorsement as a ground-breaking format for sharing Veterans' stories of their service to Australia.

Our Community Restaurants Under Threat

It was right about this time in late March that SEVENmile began to apply our talents to how best to help our struggling restaurants. The pandemic had caused the closure of restaurants for diners but they could service take-away customers.

What was very clear was that all restaurants had to switch to pickup and delivery orders. Ordering for pickup was much preferred because it meant they could avoid the crippling fees of delivery companies like Deliveroo, Menulog and Uber Eats.

The solution was for SEVENmile to provide local restaurants with a commission-free means of taking online orders with credit card payment; FeedMee was born.

FeedMee is an initiative of SEVENmile Venture Lab

Our FeedMee poster-boy restaurant was Belgrave Cartel that took $15,000 of orders and paid zero commission - that's a great example of a successful intervention.

As we entered April, the COVID19 news was all depressing, but we were still far from understanding just how badly COVID would impact our lives.

During April, we set up two more Manly restaurants to use FeedMee and enjoy zero commission orders. We welcomed, PureWholefoods and European Bakehouse.

Promoting Our Entrepreneurs

While working on FeedMee and commencing plans for the Veterans documentary, we continued to work with entrepreneurs, nearly always via one-on-one meetings at our Seaforth Village campus. As you might expect, we made increasing use of video tools like Zoom, 'Teams, and Google Meet.

Around this time, we created a Startup Showcase on the SEVENmile website and invited the founders to record a 2-minute studio video pitch like this one by Adam Fazzani, founder of GoTradie.

The Mid-Year Slow-Down

As we rolled into June, there seemed reason to feel optimistic that the worst of the COVID19 restrictions might be able to begin to be lifted. On the back of that optimism, we scheduled a launch event for Northern Beaches Angels. Sadly, almost as soon as we set a late June date for the event, the NSW Government announced they were reinstating all restrictions to combat a resurgence of COVID19 cases.

The restrictions put the handbrake on offering more founders a place in our Seaforth Village co-work space. We realized that we could host no more than six people to maintain social distancing per the NSW Government regulations.

As we concluded the financial year, there was reason to feel positive about our achievements in the first 6-months of 2020. Even though the future was far from clear, our Directors were pleased that our work continued to positively impact the community.

Launch of the Entrepreneurs Transform Podcast

In early July, SEVENmile CEO Greg Twemlow launched his new Podcast, Entrepreneurs Transform, to enable founders to share the story of their entrepreneurial journey. The Podcast has highlighted the challenges of entrepreneurship and how founders deal with their startup journey's highs-and-lows.

logo of the Entrepreneurs Transform Podcast - www.entrepreneurstransform.com

The Veterans Documentary Project

There was now a focus on our veterans documentary project. We needed to find ten veterans and ten high school students to conduct the interviews. I naively thought that task wouldn't be difficult. Turns out that Veterans are generally not interested to share the story of their service to Australia.

Thankfully with help from Rob Forsyth we started to make progress. Rob introduced Greg Twemlow to Harbord Diggers RSL sub-Branch President, Sean Rout. Soon after Sean and Greg had met, we got confirmation that ten Veterans were prepared to be filmed.

As we began August, it seemed like a pent-up demand from the months of lockdown had been released, and there were concurrent streams of work starting.

The Veterans documentary project now had confirmed filming days, including a special session just for Wal Edwards, OAM, who would soon celebrate his 104th birthday. We took the portable studio to Wal's home in Manly on August 14 and filmed Wal being interviewed by our State MP for Manly, James Griffin. Watch the video below.

Village Voice Media Focuses on Young Writers

In August, our SEVENmile CEO, Greg Twemlow, launched his concept to foster interest in writing by young people. VillageVoice Media will be the vehicle to encourage and support young writers.

Community journalism as a vehicle for young writers is a serious effort to return to the reputation journalism once had, and to restore the role of publishing to its original purpose—that is, to serve as a crucible for ideas and opinions.

Village Voice Media was born during the COVID pandemic in 2020. It was a time of great change and uncertainty. It was a time when our sense of community truly made a difference. As a voice for our community, we embrace our civic role by enabling young writers to reach an audience. Just like the finest community newspapers, Village Voice Media recognizes and accepts this covenant: that we are a key stakeholder in the forces that help build and celebrate our community.

Like the best local newspapers, Village Voice Media affirms the role of citizens through our aspiring young writers and our readers.

Village Voice Media by SEVENmile Venture Lab and Greg Twemlow

Enterprise in the Community Program Launch

Planning for the Enterprise in the Community program at St Paul's College was now well advanced, including identifying the four local businesses that would participate. We greatly appreciate the support of TinkerTank, GoTradie, iMeasureU and EDGE Environment and their respective CEOs, Julija McDowell, Adam Fazzani, Matt Clarke and Jonas Bengtsson. Pictured below from left to right: Enterprise in the Community launch day with Adam Fazzani, Jonas Bengtsson, Tim Watson, Mitchell Filby, Julija McDowell, Greg Twemlow, Dragan McDowell, Matt Clarke

Enterprise in the Community launch day with Adam Fazzani, Jonas Bengtsson, Tim Watson, Mitchell Filby, Julija McDowell, Greg Twemlow, Dragan McDowell, Matt Clarke

We rolled into September and there was loads of good things happening. September14th was the St Pauls College kick-off day. Great excitement to be with the senior staff and students to launch the program. Catalin Anastase from Lunar Media TV was there to make a wonderful video record of the day.

Launch of SEVENmile Beaches B2B

SEVENmile Venture Lab Beaches B2B logo for business collaboration

Veterans Filming Day September 30

September 30th was veterans filming day at Harbord Diggers RSL Club. Our video production partner, Lunar Media TV, setup a green-screen studio in the RSL committee rooms at the club and we spent the entire day filming interviews with the Veterans. We had a wonderful group of local high school students acting as interviewers of the Veterans. The final product was a very moving tribute to our Veterans. We thank everyone involved in this production and in particular we thank Catalin Anastase for his wonderful video and editing talents:

  • Wing Commander Mike Allport MBE – Royal Air Force - interviewed by Hartnell Dean, Year 11 Stella Maris College Manly
  • Barry Spencer OAM RAN - interviewed by Thea Anastase, Mosman High
  • LCDR Tamara Sloper-Harding, RAN - Nat Jander, Freswhater SLSC
  • Sean Rout (Vietnam Vet – 3RAR) - interviewed by Ben Blakeney, Freshwater SLSC
  • Ray Bennie, RAN 1974-1986 - interviewed by Harry Forsyth, year 11, St Pauls Manly  
  • Michael Noonan (Vietnam Vet - one of the first conscripts 5RAR) - interviewed by Harry Hadley, St Lukes
  • Robert Dodds – 15 year Army & Vietnam Veteran - interviewed by Kalahni Filby, St Pauls Manly
  • Barry Collins - Vietnam artillery veteran - interviewed by Luke McGuire, year 11 St Pauls Catholic College
  • Final words from Sean Rout and Wal Edwards, OAM

We also enjoyed seeing MP for Manly, James Griffin, who is Secretary for Veterans in the NSW Parliament. Pictured below, left to right: Kalahni Filby (standing), James Griffin, Wal Edwards OAM, Sean Rout, President Harbord Diggers RSL sub-Branch, Harry Forsyth (standing).

Memeber for Manly James Griffin with Wal Edwards OAM and Sean Rout Harbord RSL President

During October we continued our work with the St Paul's students who were focused on devising solutions to the business problems of the four CEOs.

SEVENmile Supports the NSW Spark Festival

On October 21st we were part of the NSW Spark Festival delivering a webinar titled, "How Entrepreneurs Can Ensure They're Setup for Success'. Our CEO, Greg Twemlow together with Anne McKeown, CEO of 2MPower and Therese Ravell, CEO of Impact HR. Watch the webinar below.

Launching Northern Beaches Angels

On October 29th we launched Northern Beaches Angels via a live webinar with a group of very special guests. The event was the basis to kickstart Angel-Investing on the northern beaches. Hear from experts on both sides of the table - investors and founders. 60 minutes of angel investment experts presenting followed by a Q&A.

NB Angels launch event speakers:

Courtney Brown - CEO Millenial Group and Sponsor of the event

Peter Plakidis - Director Andrelle Group

Nigel Abbott - Director Fundsition

Mark Forrest - Investor and Board Adviser

Phil Copeland - Co-founder and CEO of AVOKA acquired by Temenos in late 2019

Sarah Nolet - Co-founder at Tenacious Ventures

logo of Northern Beaches Angels an initiative of SEVENmile Venture Lab

Launch of Perennial Learner

Self-improvement, growth, and development should never stop. Regardless of your age, you need to find a way to keep learning, acquiring knowledge, and keeping up the pace with the world that’s changing around you.

Perennials, “comprise an inclusive, enduring mindset, not a divisive demographic.” They are naturally curious and innovative, often the first in their social circles to embrace new technology but seldom the ones to construct their lives around trends. And you won’t find a Perennial surrounded exclusively by people just like them — they enjoy friendships with people from all different walks of life.

The world is more connected than ever before. We have more resources at our fingertips than previously thought possible. And so Perennials ask: Why should we limit ourselves?

Separating the generations only results in unproductive tribalism. It assumes that people born before a certain point can’t make smart investments in the future. It assigns early expiration dates to many who are actually primed to hit their stride in so-called “mid-life.” By internalizing these labels, we do limit ourselves from our full potential.

Luckily, Perennials aren’t very interested in “acting their age.”

Perennials is a community of people who want to learn and discover and an initiative of SEVENmile Venture Lab

Veterans Documentary launched on Remembrance Day

November shaped up as an exciting month with the November 11, Remembrance Day launch of our Veterans documentary and the final student presentations for the St Pauls project on November 18.

Remembrance Day at Harbord Diggers was a very memorable occasion. We were so proud of the documentary co-produced by SEVENmile Venture Lab and Lunar Media TV. It has been accalimed as a wonderful record of the life stories of ten local veterans. Watch the documentary below.

pictured below are the documentary Co-Producers, Catalin Anastase, CEO of Lunar Media TV, and, Greg Twemlow, CEO of SEVENmile Venture Lab.

pictured left, Catalin Anastase, CEO of Lunar Media TV and, right, Greg Twemlow, CEO of SEVENmile Venture Lab

St Pauls Students meet MP for Manly James Griffin

In the week prior to presentation day, two of the St Paul's teams met Manly MP James Griffin and also visited their respective businesses, TinkerTank and EDGE Environment. Pictured below is team EDGE with Peter O'Doherty and Jonas Bengtsson (EDGE CEO) on the left and James Griffin, far right.

St Pauls team EDGE meeting Manly MP James Griffin

After the exciting launch of the veterans documentary, attention turned to the St Pauls College presentation day on November 18. SEVENmile Ltd Directors, Mitchell Filby and Greg Twemlow, worked with the St Paul's cohort of 21 students in four teams to craft and practice their presentations. Despite just having completed their exams and assessments, the students did a wonderful job and they can be very proud of their final presentations.

Greg Twemlow and Mitchell Filby were working with the St Pauls students to get them ready for the presentation day on November 18 in the school hall at St Pauls Catholic College. It's fair to say that the student teams still fully engaged, even though they were getting to the end of a very challenging year and were about to start their exams.

St Pauls Presentation Day - MP for Warringah, Zali Steggall OAM, our VIP Guest

The final presentations were filmed by Catalin Anastase from Lunar Media TV.

We were thrilled that Federal Member of Parliament for Warringah, Zali Steggall OAM attended the presentation event. Pictured below, from left to right: Adam Fazzani (GoTradie), Matt Clarke (iMeasureU), Greg Twemlow (SEVENmile Director), Mitchell Filby (SEVENmile Director), Chris Browne (Principal), Karen Shawcross (Assistant Principal), Zali Steggall OAM, Julija McDowell (TinkerTank), Tim Watson (EDGE Environment), Jonas Bengtsson (EDGE Environment).

St Pauls presentation day Nov 18 2020 with SEVENmile Venture Lab

The Pedagogy of our Program Design

The pedagogical thinking that underpins the design of the Enterprise in the Community is explained in this Blog Post.

The St Pauls program is based on the SEVENmile Life-Skills Schema. The Life-Skills Schema, (Copyright 2020. All Rights Reserved), is derived from SEVENmile's work with people of all ages. These essential Life-Skills can be taught on a mix-and-match basis, by row, column or an individual skill basis or as 3 distinct workshop programs. The three rows, Consciously Exploring, Realising Goals, and Influencing Effectively, equip people with the full range of skills needed for success in the 21st century. These Life-Skills are applicable at all stages and at all ages of life.

SEVENmile Venture Lab Life-Skills Schema Copyright 2020. All Rights Reserved

As we rolled out of November and into December there was much work to follow-up on the immensely positive reaction to the St Pauls project. All stakeholders in the program were thrilled with the outcomes. As word of the program was shared in the high school community we received enquiries every day from high school Principals eager to know how they could participate in the program in the 2021 school year.

Thank You to our Community

In concluding 2020 as we reflect on what has been achieved this year, it's very important to acknowledge the people who have contributed to ensure the impact we made has been wide, deep and measurable.

I'm continually delighted to see how our community supports each other. This was very clearly on show at our 2nd birthday event.

SEVENmile's 2nd Birthday Event

We held a wonderful celebration for our 2nd birthday on November 26th at the Seaforth Village campus in Christine Alcorn's Grassroots Canteen. The best way to get a good sense of what our community thinks about SEVENmile Venture Lab is to watch the video.

Just When We Were Feeling Normal Again - COVID Struck

At the time of writing this Post, the morning of December 18, 2020, we wake to discover the northern beaches region of Sydney has been ordered into lockdown courtesy of an international traveler who brought COVID into our region. 270,000 residents and thousands of businesses impacted. The order is to work from home. Our co-work space in Seaforth Village is closed.

CEOs Summary Report

If you have read or even scanned the report you'll appreciate that it has been a highly productive year which is particularly impressive given 2020 was the year that COVID stopped the world. Yes, we weren't impacted anything like the northern hemisphere, but COVID did upend our daily lives.

As we approached our 2nd Birthday event, I was feeling proud of what our SEVENmile community has achieved and particularly proud of the role SEVENmile Venture Lab has played.

This latest COVID spike is certainly a rather large bump-in-the-road. It will be controlled, even if it takes a total lockdown for a couple of months, while the vaccination is distributed.

I want to thank my co-Directors, Julija, Mitchell and Cameron, for their continued support and wisdom.

Earlier in this Blog Post our direct supporters and sponsors were listed and I restate how important their assistance has been since our incorporation on November 2018.

Right now I'm expecting that we'll be under tight restrictions at least throughout January, which thankfully, is the slowest business month of the year in Australia.

I do often reflect on the lead-up to starting SEVENmile Ltd and the LinkedIn Post that was the catalyst. That Post went up in Mid-2018.

SEVENmile Venture Lab exists to support, mentor and develop the entrepreneurs who bravely explore their full potential in life. We don't want you to reach a mature age and wonder whether you might have been capable of achieving more than you did.

Someone very famous once said, "Don't die wondering". Let's find out together just how amazing you really are.

My final comment is a HUGE thank you to Catalin Anastase, CEO of Lunar Media TV. Catalin has done so much work with SEVENmile this year and has created a wonderful video library that records much of the work we've done in 2020. And he's pictured below at the launch of our Veterans documentary on November 11 at Harbord Diggers RSL club.

My very best wishes to you and your family for a safe and happy holiday season and I look forward to seeing you in 2021. Kind Regards - Greg Twemlow, Founder/Director, SEVENmile Ltd

Catalin Anastase photo by Greg Twemlow at Nov 11 launch of Saluting Their Service