The Parliamentary inquiry into Indigenous enterprises notes that successful Indigenous businesses have much in common with those run by non-Indigenous people. However, Indigenous business success can mean something more than balancing the books and something less than continued expansion.15
Bankers, other financial lenders and business development managers have defined successful Indigenous businesses as those that survive for one year or more.16 Survival is based on financial viability.
We explored the following questions:
Why, then, do some succeed while others do not? What challenges do they face? What helps or hinders their business success? Because of the lack of detailed information about success factors, Hunter17 recommends that researchers look at case studies.
Using data from interviews with Indigenous business owners and business mentors, questionnaires and published case studies of successful Indigenous business owners, we developed a model of successful Indigenous small business owners (Figure 1).
Almost all our interviewees were based in urban or regional areas. Most of the successful business owners that we examined were in 'mainstream' industries, such as hairdressing, car repair, building trades (carpentry, plumbing) and manufacturing. There were also a few in 'cultural' businesses such as boomerang makers and artist/painters.