Alison Price is the founder and Managing Director of SoilCyclers Pty Ltd – a mobile soil recycling and amelioration specialist for the construction, waste and mining industries.
While the business started as a means to give Alison’s husband and his former boss something to do, it has grown to become a full-scale operation with offices, a lot of specialised gear and staff who work on some of the largest projects in Queensland. Having undergone rapid growth in the last eight years, SoilCyclers are on track to become one of Australia’s largest soil recyclers, processing half a million cubic metres of soil in 2017.
With the launch of a new product, Alison decided it was time to bring an investor on board and ensure they could meet the expected demand. She successfully applied for a sponsored place at the Virgin Startup StepUp Program, a joint initiative between QUT Business School and QUT Creative Enterprise Australia.
Alison joined 30 other business owners in London for the two-day program earlier this year and shared some insights from the experience.
What are some of the competitive advantages of your business, SoilCyclers?
By testing and ameliorating additives to existing site soil, SoilCyclers make quality topsoil for around half the price of imported topsoil. This also delivers huge environmental benefits such as diverting soil from landfill and minimising truck movements on roads.
What was it like, being in London, surrounded by other passionate start-up founders?
The UK has tax incentives for investing in small businesses. Many of the businesses in the room already had millions of pounds in funding with international expansions underway. I’ve only ever been able to imagine operating as a local business, but this experience has given me insight into a different way forward and we now have an offer of funds on the table to expand in the UK.
What kinds of start-ups were other participants working on?
Everything from technology to food and beverage products as well as clothing and consulting businesses.
What were some of your key learnings?
The program was a rare opportunity to work with some of the Virgin Group’s key contacts and gain insight into applying big business thinking to a small business. I loved the two-hour session on negotiation strategies and techniques by the BBC’s head of purchasing. Working with the head of the branding agency that manages Virgin’s brands is the kind of experience a small business would never get elsewhere.
What did you find most challenging?
The jet lag! The Bootcamp was two long days, from 9am to 9pm – with a huge amount of information to take in.
What did you find most rewarding?
I don’t often get the opportunity to sit in a room filled with business owners of much larger businesses than mine, so it was a great opportunity to expand my entrepreneurial network.
Would you recommend the program?
Definitely. It’s a great opportunity for Australian businesses looking to expand internationally or expand into the UK. I love the tax incentives available to small businesses over there and hope Australia will consider something similar soon.