The energetic fifty-something-year-old Greg McKenzie and Carol Vale have always been passionate about food, with Carol’s Aboriginal heritage inspiring their love of game meat and bush tucker. For many years the couple felt there was a business opportunity involving Australian native meat and plant flavours worth pursuing. However, they lacked the confidence to successfully expand their initial concept into a high functioning business.
Thanks to TAFE Queensland’s Creating Tracks 2.0 training program, Game Enough? has tendered for its biggest contract yet, as a preferred supplier for the GC2018.
The Creating Tracks program, brought about by TAFE Queensland’s Partnership Agreement with GC2018, aims to build the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses, preparing them for procurement opportunities and ultimately helping them build sustainable and profitable business for the future. The results speak for themselves.
Greg and Carol said their business is unique in that it contributes to a greater appreciation for game meats and native plant foods of Australia, modifying recognisable foods and giving them a twist.
“It is a bit of a stretch to refer to our products as 'bush tucker'! We prefer to see them as ‘modern expressions of an ancient past’,” said Greg.
“More often than not, Australian bush foods and meats are restricted to high-end restaurants where they attract premium prices. We wanted to make these foods accessible to a larger segment of the community, therefore we have created a food offering that more closely resembles 'street foods',” he said.
Greg said the couple’s vision for the business stemmed from their mutual passion for strengthening a wider appreciation for Indigenous culture by the Australian community.
“Carol is a Dhungutti/Gymbangirr/Anawin woman and loves seeing Indigenous people integrate elements of culture into business ventures as a means of strengthening Aboriginal culture throughout the wider community,” said Greg.
“Through our business, we believe we can provide an opportunity for Indigenous people to engage in the traditional agricultural and trading practices of Aboriginal people at the time of colonisation, including growing, harvesting and trading of traditional foods.
“We understand that sometimes these foods can be a little strange to our modern taste buds. However, when selected and prepared appropriately there is no reason why these foods cannot be a part of our mainstream diets,” he said.
Prior to Creating Tracks, Carol and Greg had never participated in any type of business support program, and without the industry connections and practical skills they gained through the program, wouldn’t have tendered for an event as big as the GC2018.
“Providing our unique game meat and native plant flavoured foods at the Commonwealth Games would solidify our brand offering and catapult us to the next stage of our business,” said Greg.
“The experience we have gained from refining and presenting our business pitch and working with a mentor will definitely assist us in promoting our offering to other large events in the future,” he said.
Greg said the knowledge and hands-on skills he and Carol have gained from the Creating Tracks program has undoubtedly set their business up for success, describing their experience as one that will ultimately enable them to better develop and grow for years to come.
“The social media element of Creating Tracks has been particularly helpful. We have been a bit hesitant using these platforms in the past, however the program has equipped us with the skills to use these with greater confidence moving forward and we are already seeing increased success,” said Greg.
“We’ve also been fortunate enough to forge industry connections through the program with people who can help answer really specific food manufacturing questions, and offer other practical resources and advice. Having these connections is an invaluable asset to us,” he said.
The mentoring aspect of the Creating Tracks program has also proven to be highly valuable. Greg and Carol were teamed up with a successful Indigenous business person with relevant industry experience to provide an insight into dealing with the complexities of the corporate world, and assure the couple that their business is heading in the right direction.
Reflecting on how far they have come in such a short time Greg said what they have achieved since they were creating recipes at home to be critiqued by family members, is almost unfathomable.
“After two years of trial and error we have recently commenced trading from our food trailer, which is making the whole process easier and more enjoyable. It also looks more professional, providing customers with a greater sense of safety to try something different, which is fantastic!” said Greg.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing how we continue to grow and improve from here, particularly with a variety of new skills, knowledge, experience, and industry connections we have secured from the Creating Tracks program.
“We certainly still have a lot to learn, but it’s only up from here I am sure!” he said.
Moving forward, Greg said the couple have had initial meetings with external manufacturers to assist with the production of new products on a much larger scale, which will be ideal for large buyers and contracts, like the Commonwealth Games.
Game Enough? is also working towards obtaining their industry food safety certification (HACCP) which will allow them to pursue a broader range of opportunities.
TAFE Queensland General Manager, Karen Dickinson, said TAFE Queensland is committed to assisting with closing the gap in economic outcomes for Indigenous people and businesses and is thrilled to help enable these opportunities.
“The Creating Tracks program demonstrates TAFE Queensland’s capacity to deliver bespoke training on a larger scale and we really believe in its capabilities,” said Karen.
“We are very proud to be recognised as the training provider for the major legacy program in the world first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) for a major event, which also aligns with TAFE Queensland’s own Reconciliation Action Plan.
“It’s also fantastic to see our facilitators be recognised in the Indigenous community as leaders in training Indigenous small business,” she said.
By the program’s completion in July 2020, a total of 280 people will have participated in workshops, and 50 businesses will have received individual mentoring throughout Queensland.
The initiative’s group training opportunities address key topics required to run a successful small business including small business basics, accounting, legal issues, marketing, social media and managing clients.
TAFE Queensland has a long and proud history of providing practical learning experiences and partnering with the GC2018 is another way in which TAFE Queensland continues to Make Great Happen for Queenslanders; enabling them to do extraordinary things in front of a global audience.