What originally began as a creative outlet for Ballarat-based medical student Olivia Lorkin is now a full-time passion that has grown into a business with a broad range of tech services, five staff and big visions.
Mrs Lorkin is creative director of Ballarat business Tech Studio, working beside her husband who is also the company's chief executive Anthony Lorkin, and a growing team of staff.
Tech Studio stemmed from a re-branding of the couples' two previous businesses Ballarat Web Design and SEO Ballarat, providing new opportunities for growth and expansion.
Now the team is soon to launch a new augmented reality educational app, and has big plans to broaden their offerings to education, training and community-based outreach programs.
TECH STUDIO JOURNEY
Mrs Lorkin first delved into the world of web design while she was completing an undergraduate degree in biomedical science.
Creativity and design had always been an important part of her lifestyle.
She initially chose to study fashion design in Melbourne after high school, before following her dreams in health studying health science, pathology and then biomedical science.
From the beginning of last year we were struggling in our business. I couldn't have dreamed we would be where we are now.Olivia Lorkin, Tech Studio
Her intention was to be a doctor, but a career in technology and web design offered an appealing lifestyle with opportunities for creativity and growth.
"I needed a creative outlet," Mrs Lorkin said.
"I was pretty scared. I didn't really have any idea as to what I was doing and didn't attempt to start a business from it. But I had always been very much into the entrepreneur lifestyle and had lots of ideas I wanted to go with.
"When I was doing my undergraduate I met my now husband who was business savvy, had his own business and wanted to do lots in the business space."
Mrs Lorkin started Ballarat Web Design, while Mr Lorkin started Ballarat SEO, and soon transitioning to bigger clients and more work made the job full-time.
Now four years on both business have combined and re-branded under Ballarat Tech Studio, what Mrs Lorkin described as a move that has provided clarity of direction and a future offering growth and expansion.
"From the beginning of last year we were struggling in our business. We didn't really have a clear direction. We weren't as profitable as we would have liked and we were concerned about more work and more clients coming in for us," she said.
"We were possibly considering shutting down our business for a period of time because we weren't sure exactly where we were going. But when the Runway co-working space started opening up we thought about the possibility of re-branding our business and condensing them just into one business. Being in this space helped us meet more people, more clients and get our name out there more."
Tech Studio now offers services in app and website design, SEO and digital marketing, UX design, software development and IT project management.
The team are passionate about expanding their vision to broaden the application of technology in the community.
They are expected to launch a new educational app that teaches young pupils primary colours through augmented reality called Primary Colours AR in coming weeks.
The new app comes after Tech Studio worked with the Ballarat Tech School last year to create an app that superimposed a 3D map of the school and innovation hub when viewing the cover of Ballarat Lifestyle Magazine.
"With Primary Colours we wanted more examples of how augmented reality could be used for education not just marketing purposes," Mrs Lorkin said.
"Augmented reality is a really fun space to work in and I love the idea of using it in tourism. I am also working on a project augmenting art works to bring them to life."
The Tech Studio team is currently working on a business strategy which will include a vision to offer research, education and community-based services.
Mrs Lorkin said the team hopes to deliver workshops, training and community outreach programs like scholarships and internships, with plans to create a broader regional business reach into areas like Horsham and Stawell with a Ballarat based tech hub.
Startup accelerator Runway is supporting a hub of innovation in Ballarat.
Located next to the Ballarat Tech School and near Fed Uni TAFE, the co-working space and startup support network has been helping to form an ecosystem of entrepreneurship and innovation since its launch in October.
Runway chief executive Peter Dostis said Ballarat was selected as a location to set up a new branch of the organisation after identifying a need to create a support mechanism for startups and new businesses in the region.
For Runway Ballarat general manager Nichola Sleight, it was an opportunity to harness the potential of regional Victoria.
"Population growth in regional centres is increasing exponentially with the pressures that are in existing major centres," she said.
"That movement of people moves ideas and businesses that need to be supported. So it makes sense that regional centres need facilities like Runway."
Collaboration is at the core of Runway's philosophy, with an aim to create an environment where users can tap into all existing skills and resources in the region.
The idea involves start ups working with each other and with partners like the Ballarat Tech School, Federation University, City of Ballarat and Regional Development Victoria to deliver innovative programs and a 'startup ecosystem'.
"The saying that I love is that the rising tide rises all ships. That's how we look to define collaboration,' Mr Dostis said.
"If you look at what is going to make a region successful in an innovation sense it is about working together. Ballarat is a great example of a region where that is possible to happen."
Runway Ballarat programs include a germinator program for new ideas, an accelerator program to prepare to launch a start up and an entrepreneurial skills program in high schools.
Ballarat Innovation series
The Courier'sseries Ballarat Innovation features stories each week that showcase and celebrate industry, business, innovation and entrepreneurship in Ballarat.
The new series comes as part two of the More than Gold series that told the stories of Ballarat's diverse community members last year.
This new branch continues the aim of More than Gold to create a sense of pride in Ballarat's achievements and celebrate the fantastic people that make this city great.
In partnership with Committee for Ballarat, we hope these stories help create a sense of aspiration, a sense of excitement at the possibilities of what can be achieved in Ballarat, and a sense of confidence to take a risk.
We want to move past the buzz word idea of innovation and instead celebrate the diversity the word offers by telling the stories of new startups, long established businesses that are innovatively responding to change and challenges, and experimentation with technology.
As we tell the stories of Ballarat's innovators, we will also be asking the harder questions: what is needed to support and promote growth in industry in Ballarat?; how does Ballarat address the skills shortages that are holding so many business back?; how do we create the estimated 15,000 new jobs that are needed in the region by 2030 to support the projected population increase?; how do we ensure our education offerings are prepared for the changing nature of jobs; and how do we create more high level career pathways for Ballarat's youth?.
We hope you enjoy the journey, as we explore and celebrate innovation in Ballarat each Saturday.
READ MORE STORIES IN THE BALLARAT INNOVATION SERIES:
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- This Ballarat business is disrupting real estate as we know it
- Enter the new world of video gaming
- Bartlett's success story is bucking the trend of manufacturing decline
- Welcome to Homestead Studio
- Bespoke shoe-makers Wootten move to Ballarat to find the right fit
- Gordon Hat and Boot Shoppe a shopping experience like no other