In launching B2Me Australia, a community-driven marketing platform, Dr Ray Bartell is living proof the best business ideas often come from the most unusual places.
A self-described “serial entrepreneur” has turned his community development expertise to utilising the Internet to bring communities closer in a meaningful way, after inspiration struck during a five-year stint in Papua New Guinea.
Dr Ray Bartell told Startup News what he learnt while living with PNG’s Kyaka people helped him find a gap in the way businesses are marketed.
“I could see every community had amazing strengths and once understood, brought to the surface, and mobilised towards the common good, that’s when I saw some amazing change,” he said.
“When I came back to Australia, I started to see gaps in our culture and wanted to see something of the sense of community here, as I had seen in PNG. I decided I wanted to play my part in rebuilding a sense of community.”
Those lessons have culminated in the development of B2Me Australia – an ‘innovative way’ for businesses to market directly to consumers.
The service connects users with providers based on established referral groups, including sporting clubs, school groups, friendship networks or other community links.
Ray said the service was designed as a ‘community building enterprise’, building on the best bits of community-driven social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn to better replicate real-life relationships.
“Our purpose is to assist individuals to thrive and communities to flourish by connecting professional service providers with service users in a way that builds valuable relationships, trust and rapport,” he said.
“B2Me Australia is a service-finding, reputation-driven platform that helps you to find, access, connect and engage with service providers recommended by friends or affiliate communities as well as the broader marketplace.”
The service has already signed up almost 400 professionals and tradespeople, including photographers, accountants, beauticians and writers, with 25 per cent growth in sign-ups each week.
Ray said the team that worked to build B2Me Australia has proven the value of relationships.
“Collectively, there is probably about 100 years or more of business experience in total, enabling us to avoid the many pitfalls along the way,” he said.
“One of the biggest lessons we’ve learnt is that we are more together than when we are apart.
“Creating and strengthening relationships where you can make a contribution in meeting the needs of others, and who can also support you to help advance your purpose and vision, is crucial.”
The father-of-three also said despite the experienced team, he was cautious to not rush the business’s growth.
“As the key driver, I am learning to be patient as we take this to market,” he said.
“I recognise that our team has in-depth knowledge, both in terms of the methodology and practical outworking of B2Me, and we need to carefully scaffold people during the onboarding process.”
B2Me Australia said they hope to reach their ‘Founders 500’ before launching the platform’s final stage on 12 July.
For more on B2Me Australia, visit their website.