From Bollywood to Western Sydney, Sanjeev Mehra is helping to spotlight a local not-for-profit organisation that helps people achieve their business goals.
Despite his renown as an actor, director and writer in Bollywood, Sanjeev had difficulty finding work in Australia after relocating from India. He started Garage Film Studios and moved into the BREED Business Hub in 2017 – but he found much more than just an office space for nominal rent.
BREED Australia is a not-for-profit that offers business incubation and mentoring services. The Business Hub is located in Quakers Hill’s Nirimba Education Precinct, inhabiting a three-storey building that was once living quarters for the old Naval Air Repair Yard. Now, it is host to over 30 tenants who are directly assisted by BREED, who offer reduced rental rates and consultation services to local people starting businesses.
Emmanuel Martin, general manager of BREED and long-time Western Sydney local, is a strong believer in elevating the stories of small businesses. “Stories have the power to inspire and change the world. When we wake up, when we go to bed, we hear stories. Either through our own thoughts, or social media, or we read the newspaper – whatever it is, it’s important to tell stories.”
It’s those stories that Sanjeev has been able to help tell through video, showing the common thread that ties young beautician Annalise Matar, visual artist Caroline Khalil and horse wrangler Lyn Lynch together. Despite their ages ranging from 16 to 61, the three women have all had assistance with their small, independent businesses thanks to BREED’s entrepreneurship courses.
Sanjeev comments that BREED has given him much more than just a base for his business: “If I need to shoot a film around here, they will help me. And they have promoted us through their website and Facebook page. Any time an event happens in BREED, we make the videos, it’s a collaboration and network of support.”
Formed over 25 years ago, the Blacktown Regional Economic Employment Development (BREED) Taskforce came into existence after a study showed that youth unemployment was tied to a lack of education. BREED came into the picture to be a guide for young people in the area, and to assist small businesses by giving them the skills to be successful. After spending almost three decades in the corporate world, Emmanuel moved into his current role at BREED after spending 2019 on the Board of Directors. His first week on the job was in March 2020, settling into his role as the country was shutting down due to COVID.
Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, Emmanuel immediately drafted a plan to ensure BREED and the businesses under its care survived. “Half of the businesses struggled, they couldn’t pay their rent because there was no money coming in,” he says. “But we managed to fund their rent for three months, and we survived.”
In the Business Hub, a sense of community is extremely important for Emmanuel and administration manager Amber Carlson. Coming from a real estate background, Amber was enticed by working at BREED thanks to its focus on helping the community. “It really interested me, because they talked about being a charity and a nonfor- profit, and that was something that really resonated with me.”
Although the company team is small, Amber says that she never feels lonely thanks to people like Sanjeev with whom she constantly interacts. “I’m surrounded by a community of business partners that I have a really good relationship with. There’s always someone saying good morning or good afternoon, and it just really helps my day go by.”
Amber has been a driving force behind the Sunrise Studio, a community space for hire that can be used for shooting videos, podcasting and editing. She and Emmanuel believe that it’s a space that will help the local community by making audio and video equipment as accessible as possible. “It took a long time,” Amber comments, “but we just wanted to make sure we got everything right. And it’s not like we can’t continue to build upon the room, it’s a nice foundation. It’s been a long process, but I’m really proud that we’ve made it.”
Louise Azzopardi was the first to fully utilise the Sunrise Studio, using ANZAC Day to film seven episodes of her new podcast Let’s Talk Apprenticeships with co-host Raman Badekar. A life coach and heavy vehicle mechanic, Louise is using her podcast to address many frequently asked questions about securing an apprenticeship.
She says that “BREED has really allowed me to produce big things locally, with all this nice equipment. Being able to get it done locally has really allowed us to be anchored straight into the community.”
Stories like those of Sanjeev and Louise are common at BREED as the team works hard to continue supporting local people. Paired with learning programs for young people and providing assistance to small businesses all across Western Sydney, the Sunrise Studio is the latest stone on the path of innovation that BREED has brought to the community.
For Emmanuel, his role is more a passion project than work: “It’s not a job – jobs are corporate. For me, it’s a chance to live my life’s purpose, which is to help others find their goals and dreams,“ he says. “Through BREED, I can do it.”