Today we are introducing you to Robert, a Many Rivers supported client who runs a welding small business and teaches workplace skills to Indigenous school children.
Robert is a qualified welder and he travels to schools to help students weld camping trailers. This gives him the chance to teach them workplace skills in a safe working environment. He aims to give them the skills necessary for the competitive job market they face when they finish school. He also takes it as an opportunity to help share his own experiences as an Indigenous man navigating a professional work environment.
“It’s just having Troy, an Indigenous business coach which is a big thing for me. He has given me the confidence that I can go further with my business. Most of what he does is listening and he only answers when I ask a question.”
Read more about Roberts small business and his welding business journey.
Meet Robert And His Welding Small Business
I have only just started, it’s been about two months. I am a contractor and I offer a program called Fusing Solid Futures through my small welding business RJGWeld.
If a school requires a trailer, I will go in and build a trailer with the Indigenous kids in the school. I teach them about a safe working environment while they are still in a comfortable environment that they know – their school. Often these kids find it hard to transport to places to get work experience so that is why I go to them. The school also gets to keep the product we make. It is an 8m by 5m trailer which they can take on camping trips. The school can cut costs on hiring one and it saves them money in the long run.
I injured myself in 2005 which has limited the amount of physical work that I can to. It made me really need to plan my job rather than working hard, physical work. But it was hard to find work in this situation. Over COVID-19 I sat down and thought of this business idea. I came up with this program idea while running my contractor business so that it gives me a different avenue of gaining contracts. This way, I am bringing diversity into the quote. I have always had the ambition to be a small business owner, but it is always the shame factor of failing that has stopped me. But with age and maturity, talking to people and seeing my brother succeed at his business has really encouraged me to take that step. I am a community man and I do community events regularly. Having my own business gives me more time and flexibility to focus on that too.
Aim of Fusing Solid Futures
My ultimate goal is to teach kids about work ethic in a culturally safe way. It is using our cultural values to build a strong foundation. By working with Indigenous kids I am helping bring work experience to the local community and I have a chance to connect them to other Indigenous agencies. I have lived their life and I know what hurdles they are going to face at work. Also, I talk to them about how to balance culture values and work values. We have responsibilities at home especially when someone passes away. So we discuss how to approach that with an employer. How do we deal with this?
Engaging young men and women to challenge themselves outside their comfort zone. I know it is welding, but all trades have a lot in common with safety procedures and stuff like that. Welding is what I know so it is my tool to help reach the kids. They come in and experience it and maybe they find out that welding is not for them. They don’t have the expectation to finish the program. There are no expectations on the kids and it teaches them responsibility and ownership. For example, reminding them to put their safety glasses and gloves on.
There are heaps of training courses but my difference is the cultural stuff. At the end of the day it is a competitive job market. This is the sort of thing that I want to teach them. How to engage with the team when you start a job, tell them that you’re Aboriginal or Torres Islander. The main thing is building that work culture and combining the two cultures together. They must go from school to a place where it is cut-throat. I help them get ready for this.
Working With Many Rivers
They have provided me with legal support for my business through one of their pro bono legal partners. Troy, my Many Rivers business coach is more of a mentor, any question I have I feel comfortable asking him because he either has an answer or he can refer me to the people who do have the knowledge.
Having an Indigenous business coach is a big thing for me. It has given me the confidence that I can go further with my welding small business. Most of what he does is listening and he only answers when I ask a question. That is what we need. I sometimes need to just release what’s on my mind and then he will point me on the right path. Everyone who I have referred to him has had no issues at all, we are all very happy to have met him.
Working out quotes, baselines and hourly rate. I have good negotiation skills from my community work and being on a board, so I am pretty lucky in that sense. But I think that Many Rivers is going to give me more guidance on this down the track.
The biggest success is seeing the kids be happy! They have a go with no pressures, no expectations and they come back smiling. I know this is only a little thing but for me it is the best thing. I had a kid that two years ago, never used to speak to anyone and now he’s the first in the program and he’ll pull other kids up on safety. He feels confident enough to do that now.
It is only early stages but for me but it has given me more time at home. It has made me feel really proud as well.
I want to teach them more about finances and loans in the future. How loans work, what credit rating is, what unions do. Often, no one ever tells them these things, so I want to start looking after them so that they know what is there for them.
We know that there are many other people out there looking to take the next step towards setting up their own business. Your story will inspire them to take the first leap.
Do you have a passion or small business idea? Do you have a business you would like to expand or would like some business coaching support?
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Many Rivers supports clients with all sorts of businesses. If you would like to take a look at another client story, check out Frances Painting which is a residential and commercial painting small business in Broad Meadows, Victoria.