“There is a gap in Auckland that we are trying to fill.”
Sabrina Nagel is the CO.STARTERS Program Director (or “Dot Connector,” as she is reverently called by her colleagues) at Auckland University of Technology (AUT). The gap she is referring to is the absence of a practical, real-world entrepreneurship program beyond the basics of a college finance course and short of the demanding tech accelerators that tend to appear by the dozen in large cities.
Sabrina has been administering the CO.STARTERS Core program at AUT for a few years now; after observing tangible improvement in students’ grades and business aptitude after participating, Sabrina is now cooperating with several departments at AUT to explore how CO.STARTERS can become part of the curriculum as an accredited course.
In addition to their main programming, Sabrina and the entrepreneurship team provide ad hoc seminars and workshops as experts and authorities visit the school. They’ve also offered the CO.STARTERS Generator youth program for the local community in addition to some workshops for local entrepreneurs. A small coworking space for students is receiving a sizeable upgrade this year and a new digital hub that provides a ‘front door’ to entrepreneurship at the university is being launched.
“Our focus isn’t so much to feed into the local ecosystem, but rather on the impact the program has on the students and—by extension—the university.” Sabrina maintains that the most undervalued benefit CO.STARTERS offers is the newfound confidence it brings the starter—not just confidence to launch a business, but also the confidence to dare to see oneself as a contributing member of a community with unique capabilities and talents.
In Western societies where the tendency is to hunker down and self-isolate, the value of this effect cannot—for both the individual and the community—be overstated. Entrepreneurs are often those who have been divested of their personal power, whether it be in oppressive work circumstances, financial circumstances, or familial ones. The value of self-confidence through entrepreneurship to empower an individual is a value Sabrina observes on a daily basis.
“Sabrina maintains that the most undervalued benefit CO.STARTERS offers is the newfound confidence it brings the starter—not just confidence to launch a business, but also the confidence to dare to see oneself as a contributing member of a community with unique capabilities and talents.”
An exciting recent development for the AUT team is a pilot program of CO.STARTERS for an indigenous people. One of the AUT CO.STARTERS alum loved the program and thought it could be a vital resource for New Zealand’s native Māori population. AUT is now piloting Te Kōrau, contextualised version of CO.STARTERS that weaving Māori worldviews and narratives into CO.STARTERS for rural communities in the far North of the country. Though convincing individuals who have very little in the way of financial resources to take the risk of starting a business can be a difficult road to navigate, Sabrina’s Te Kōrau team is up to the challenge.
With the new Māori pilot and the expansion of AUT’s coworking space in addition to the CO.STARTERS cohorts she manages, Sabrina anticipates an exciting and busy year. Nevertheless, she doesn’t see the program slowing down, and is seeking to add on new programming in the near future.