Forum - I Did it My Way

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(Life lessons from Australian rural entrepreneurs)

Wednesday 25th July, 2012

Australian rural regions are being rejuvenated by a new generation of entrepreneurs.  Rural entrepreneurship is developing economic and life opportunities for young people and provides a motivation for returning and staying in their communities.  At this forum you will learn how a group of entrepreneurs met the challenge of starting a new rural business and they will share with you the lessons of their resilience, innovation, flexibility and creativity.

I Did It My Way Flyer (2421 KB)

Key Speakers

Jan Vydra
Director, Australian Fresh Leaf Herbs


Jan Vydra founded Australian Fresh Leaf Herbs, a leading Australian herb grower and distributor, in 2008 with business partner, William Pham.

His keen interest in implementing innovation to business saw him and his partner bring change to a traditional industry that was fragmented at the time.
Using his business acumen and entrepreneurial skills, Jan has developed a new supply chain process which has benefited all stakeholders involved including other growers around Australia and major retailers.

At only 29 years old, Jan strives to be an ambassador promoting the benefits of working in the farming industry as a viable career for young Australians.
He was recently named the nation's Young Farmer of the Year and aims to use this prestigious title to encourage more young people to enter the industry.

Some of Jan's credentials:
Australian Young farmer of the Year, 2011/2012
Listed in the Age's Melbourne top 100 most influential people 2011
Listed in BRW fastest starters 2012, Rank 51 at 84% YOY Growth.

Matt Pfahlert



Matt has received widespread recognition as a social entrepreneur and community leader in rural Australia.

He has received a number of awards including the Sir Weary Dunlop 'Young Australian of the Year' Extraordinary Achievement Award, 1996, Rotary International - Paul Harris Fellow, 2003 and Leadership Victoria - (Fellows) Community Leader of the Year, 2004.

After working for a number of national and state-wide youth organisations, at age 24, Matt founded the Typo Station youth project in 1993 (now named Evolve) where he was CEO for eleven years. At Typo Station, a remote cattle grazing property developed in the mid 1920s by Leslie Clarke but abandoned after the catastrophic fires of Black Friday January 13th 1939, he worked with 'at risk' young people and their families conducting a range of outdoor wilderness experiences focused on life skills and personal growth.

Since 2002, Matt has been a board member of the Telstra Foundation a national philanthropic organisation supporting children and young people.

Matt and his wife Gina live in Beechworth (N.E Victoria) with their young children and are owner/operators of '1860 Luxury Accommodation'. In 2008, '1860' was voted by Travel and Leisure magazine as one of the top 50 places to stay worldwide.

Jessica Blackwell
Director of Equestricare


Jessica started Equestricare, a multiple award winning equine business, to fill a gap in the industry. A mobile equine health service, Equestricare provides services such as massage, laser therapy, ultrasound, electrotherapy, deep tissue mobilisation and myofascial release as well as workshops and education.

Jessica was awarded the 2010 Marcus Oldham Graduate of Excellence, the Most Innovative Woman of the Year at the 2010 Telstra Business Women's Awards, as well as being a finalist in the Marie Claire Young Business Person of the Year Category.

Jessica was just 25 when she set up Equestricare, and now the business has more than 400 clients on the books. She is one of the most qualified therapists in the industry with a Bachelor of Science, Diploma of Horse Business Management and Certificate in Herbal Medicine on the books as well as international qualifications in Equine Bodywork, Myofascial Release and Red Light Therapy. She has also undertaken extensive study in Equine Muscular and Neurological Disorders and Exercise Physiology.

Jessica, an avid rider, said, "I was led into my current role because I am passionate about helping horses and want to make a difference to their performance."

Nigel Pannett
Director Agribusiness Solutions


Nigel Pannett brings more than 15 years experience in the financial advisory and agricultural consultancy sectors to the MGI team.

As MGI's Director of Agribusiness Solutions, Nigel's role is to work with Agricultural clients on succession planning, financial modeling, establishing farm partnerships, capital raising and growth and development strategies.

A graduate from Lincoln University in Canterbury New Zealand, Nigel has spent the past seven years in agricultural financial services with a major bank (in both New Zealand and Australia), establishing farming partnerships - for both farmers and investors. Previous roles included agronomist, regional manager for a specialist seed production company and agribusiness consultant.
Outside his corporate life, Nigel has owned and run a profitable crop and stock operation in South Canterbury NZ. He also established, and was a Director of and an investor in, a successful dairy farm equity partnership in Methven (Canterbury). He remains involved in this business in an advisory capacity.

Nigel has a passion for relationships and a proven track record in setting up long term, profitable partnerships.