Networking out of a garage: it's not the location that matters, but the size of your ideas

Natalie Robinson
Born out of frustration trying to start her own business, Mum’s Garage was created by Natalie Robinson to be an early-stage networking platform for corporate types sick of the rat race – literally in her mum’s garage.

Some of the most successful businesses in the world have humble beginnings. From the boot of a car for Nike or a parent’s garage for Google and Apple, a lot of great ideas came out of some ratchet-y locations.

But just like Nirvana and Metallica, where these successful people did their jamming sessions was never the issues – it was when they were going to make it.

And that’s what’s happening in Natalie Robinson’s mum’s garage.

Having gone down the corporate route as an institutional banker with BNZ, Robinson, 26, took a look around one day and decided sparking ideas would be a more interesting use of her time.

“I’ve always had a lot of ideas, and I’ve never really known how to take the next step,” Robinson says.

“I was, for a long time, quite lost. I never really knew what I wanted to do, except I knew I wanted to be my own boss and start my own business. You sort of just drift through life if you don’t know what you want to do,” she says.

“And then, I sort of just realised one day: ‘what if I was still doing this in five years time?’ and decided I couldn’t [be a banker] any more.”

Robinson’s business has been set up to specifically help out people who are living in the daily nine-to-five rat race, but want to get into innovation and entrepreneurship. Robinson believes there are a lot of people out there with great ideas, who just need a helping hand or a leg up over the wall.

“Mum’s Garage is an entrepreneurial network that is looking to break down the barriers for startups in New Zealand. It’s doing that by providing support and confidence to people who have an entrepreneurial flair, but don’t know what to do,” Robinson says.

In Auckland alone there are more than a handful of incubator programmes – The Icehouse, PowerHouse, AstroLab, and BizDojo, with many others such as CreativeHQ down in Wellington and Lightning Lab events across the country – so it’s not exactly a market that’s lacking competition.

However, Robinson says Mum’s Garage will be an even earlier-phase platform than what these existing places offer. Businesses that go through incubators and acceleration programmes already have a business plan, potential staff lined-up, and fully formed product ideas, she says, but that doesn’t help people who want to get into the space when all they’ve got is the spark of an idea.

“It’s about that ‘student phase’,” she says. “When you’re still learning about entrepreneurship, learning about yourself – it’s going to be about helping people discover what their vision for their life is going to be,” she says.

She stresses it’s about getting people to understand the “heart and soul” of entrepreneurship, rather than the hard skills budding startup enthusiast can pick up from development programmes.

Mum’s Garage will also be more grassroots – meaning a gentler introductory slope for people to get into the industry, as well as playing into the name of her business.

“There’s less of a commercial corporate feel with [Mum’s Garage]. And well, it’s actually in my mum’s garage!”

She’s hoping for people to rock on up to her new “office” in hoodies and track pants, and possibly even onesies. Some friends have joked about bringing knitting gear and starting The Knitting Club, “fighting each other with knitting needles”.

Robinson says at the moment, there’s so much potential for people to do things that those who are interested don’t know where to get started. The technologies that are now available mean anyone can just dive right into starting their own business, but it’s a bit of a ‘cliff-jumping’ endeavour rather than a gradual descent down the hill.

Having set up Mum’s Garage, Robinson hopes to become the gentle slope, setting people on the right path to doing what they truly want to do with their lives.

She officially launched her business this Saturday past (August 1), and is keen for anyone to contact her for a chat.

The business will operate on a membership basis with a $49 fee for two months, with one-to-one consultation and networking events included.

You can find out more details here.