Bond graduate jets to UK thanks to entrepreneurial education

Young entrepreneur and Bond University graduate Alisha Geary is on a mission – to showcase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and stories locally and across the globe to raise awareness and appreciation.

But what makes her journey unique is the way she’s decided to share the rich culture and history of her peoples. She’s ingeniously created Faebella, her own luxury brand of active wear that incorporates the designs and artworks of selected artists.

By ingeniously deciding to transform active wear into moving canvases, she’s found a way to stand out in the saturated active wear market and in the process, make a name for herself in the start-up world.

Such is her talent and enthusiasm, Alisha is just one of three Australians chosen to fly to the UK in December to battle it out for [email protected] honours. Here she will showcase Faebella to some of the world’s most influential entrepreneurs from around the globe, and along the way be aligned with potential investors, mentors and stakeholders.

It’s been an exciting few years for the Cairns local, who has ties to Thursday and Horn Island in the Torres Straight Islands. She received an Indigenous Scholarship in Community Excellence in 2013 and instantly fell in love with Bond University and embraced the idyllic Gold Coast lifestyle.

She is graduating this year with a Bachelor of Business Law with a Major in Accounting, but it was in January 2016 she had the idea for Faebella. She volunteered to be one of the student tour guides of the Corrigan Walk tour housed at Bond University; it’s one of Australia’s largest private collections of indigenous art on public display.

“It was through learning all of the stories about the artworks, the symbolism and the artists that inspired me with the desire to share those stories. Often when people purchase indigenous artwork they do not realise the significance of our artworks,” she says.

“Many don’t know they depict stories of history, morals, maps, medicinal knowledge and astronomy. As a people, we never wrote anything down and so our artworks are the last physical form of expression of those stories.

“Coming up with the name was a struggle. The obvious choice was to choose an indigenous word. But I am both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, cultures involving hundreds of languages. To choose one would isolate the others. Additionally, I didn’t want to send the message that the brand was just for indigenous people.

“Faebella is actually targeted at non-indigenous people, to share our art and stories and raise more of an appreciation for them and consequently, our culture. So, I looked at universal languages, explored Latin and looked for a name that would represent what the brand was about. So, I found Faebella, it means beautiful story.”

Dr Baden U’Ren, the Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship at Bond Business School, says he knew Alisha was destined for great things. He was her professor when she took part in The Bond Business Accelerator course, the ultimate incubator for early start-ups where for 12 weeks students are mentored and encouraged to take their idea from the classroom to the boardroom.

“Alisha was passionate about finding a way to share indigenous art. We spent countless hours working together trying to come up with a way that it could work, from licensing agreements and intellectual property rights to business plans,” he said.

“Ideas are cheap, everyone has ideas, but what’s really hard is turning ideas into action and getting traction, and that’s exactly what Alisha has been able to achieve. Our role as a university is to build skills needed to convert ideas into traction and that’s how we’ve seen our role with Alisha, she’s had the passion, the perseverance and the endeavour.”

Dr U’Ren said education was one of the big three pillars of the Gold Coast community and Bond University was a pivotal component of that. But like many other businesses in the current economic climate, education was being disrupted. This meant providers had to adapt and find a way to focus and work to its strengths.

“Bond is a small private, non-profit institution which means we can be flexible and proactive. As such we see entrepreneurial education as being a real driver of the future of education and it delivers on so many types of future work skills that are needed,” he says.
Alisha recently spoke as the guest entrepreneur at the Somerset Celebration of Entrepreneurship and her key message to young minds was simple; ‘to think for yourself’.

“Often there are only really a couple of pathways highlighted for young people following school. But I want them to realise they must do their own searching because they’ll never know what new, amazing pathway they’ll stumble upon,” she says.

If Alisha’s enthusiasm and current success is anything to go by, her goal to turn Faebella a global brand and success within the next 10 years is a real possibility.

Want to find out more about Australia's favourite classroom?