SUCCESS, setbacks, and all out vulnerability is the stuff of startups, and many business owners of Douglas have experienced it all first-hand.

It’s long been celebrated that the Douglas Shire is brimming with self-starters – with one in ten people recognised as a small business owner, many of the businesses in the region have been founded by everyday people with an idea and a vision.

Expanding on this culture of innovation and entrepreneurial pride in Douglas is a top priority recognised in Douglas Shire Council’s Economic Development Strategy.  Small business growth and startups, with their inherent innovative nature, are identified as major contributing factors to the future economic success and robust societal profile of the Douglas Shire.

Establishing an ecosystem of entrepreneurs and increasing business support are key priorities identified in the strategy, and its collaborations with organisations like YEP Entrepreneurship Facilitators where the future magic is already taking shape.

YEP Entrepreneurship Facilitators, founded in 2017, is a government funded program aiming to inspire, guide and educate future entrepreneurs to help them build sustainable and rewarding self-employment.

Lesley Van Staveren from YEP Entrepreneurship Facilitators during a visit to Port Douglas.  Lesley has an impressive background as a Business Founder & Operator, Author, and Mindset & Communication Coach. 

Mentors from YEP Entrepreneurship Facilitators for Cairns and FNQ have been visiting the Douglas Shire offering guidance and business coaching to individuals and small businesses for the past ten months, and we spoke to them about what it takes to get a business off the ground.

It’s the good dose of gut-wrenching confidence and vulnerability that really sets the doers from the dreamers,” says Lesley Van Staveren, Mentor at YEP. “Starting your own business or reframing an existing business takes a huge amount of tenacity and resilience. It’s not just about what’s on paper – getting the vision right, laying the path forward, and realistically understanding challenges is crucial, but it’s seeing people back themselves – that’s what’s really thrilling, and that’s where the real rewards come.”

It’s this idea of vulnerability that sends most of us running for the safety of our partitioned office desks, but for the YEP team it’s at the heart of start-up success.  “It’s being prepared to bare-all, face set-backs and failures, and still forge ahead that’s an important part of the winning formula,” says Lesley.

The mentors at YEP come with an impressive list of achievements – as business founders and entrepreneurs themselves, they are all about empowering individuals to harness their talents, seek realistic goals, and take on a confidence they may not have known they had.

“During our mentoring sessions we discuss the importance of being realistic and committed. It’s not just about an idea – that’s the important first step but it’s only the precursor,” adds Lesley.  “It’s about creating a path forward, defining a vision and not getting fixated on uncertainty – that will always exist. There is inherent risk in starting a business, and I encourage people to embrace that risk, understand that there are challenges and have strategies and plans in place to meet challenges head on.”

“There are many businesses thriving now in the far north, amid the most uncertain times many of us have ever known, and they are not thriving through sheer luck.” Adds Lesley.  “They have shown the agility to diversify and refocus resources and in doing so have built resilience – many now catering successfully to a local market, and domestic travellers.  They still face the same uncertainty, and times will be challenging for a while yet, but they now have the resilience to help them through it.”

Rohan and Marlene Erard from Epicurean in Port Douglas have benefited from mentorship though YEP Entrepreneurship Facilitators.

From boutique eateries, to tour businesses to a brand of healing creams for women, the YEP program has helped guide businesses to success across Douglas. “There’s a great sense of community and respect that exists between businesses in this region.  Rather than consider themselves as competitors many operate alongside each other and understand the importance each plays in developing the local economy – this way of thinking is crucial to a thriving business scene,” says Lesley.

Fellow Mentor at YEP, Kate Montgomery says it’s also important to be realistic about success.  “Through our work in the community, we’ve had the privilege of meeting with many highly successful people across a diverse range of industries and fields, and have seen that success can come in many forms.”

“Deciding to start a business or build a startup in this part of the world usually comes with significant lifestyle ambitions – wanting to embrace a working life closure to nature, or seeking a change from the high-rise boardroom, there’s a lot of factors that motivate people to set up shop here, and it’s not necessarily about making big bucks,” adds Kate.

“Be honest about what success looks like for you, and be realistic about the path you map to get there.  We encourage people to think about the thrill of the journey as part of their success and fulfilment – enjoy the small moments and celebrate the small wins along the way, they all form part of the bigger picture.”

So what’s the wash up on how to start up for success in Douglas?

Put pen to paper on your idea, create your path and understand your market and your challenges. Be prepared to tackle challenges and don’t get fixated on uncertainty.  Think lifestyle and define your success. Collaborate and connect – the Shire is full of amazing people doing incredible things. Embrace the risk, stay committed, and put yourself out there. Now you’re on the path to start up success in Douglas!

Keep tuned for YEP Entrepreneurship Facilitators next visit to Douglas, and don’t miss the rare opportunity for a one-on-one consultation with an inspiring business leader of FNQ.

More about YEP Entrepreneurship Facilitators.

YEP Entrepreneurship Facilitators offer a wealth of free resources accessible to the business and entrepreneurial community in Douglas. In addition to face-to-face business mentoring, there is a raft of workshops and events to attend, online courses to get stuck into, and great tools like the Starting a Business checklist.  Virtual one-on-one mentoring sessions are also available for convenience.

Check out full YEP offering at