JOBS CREATION: Ballina MP Tamara Smith with co-founder of Byron Bay Chilli Co John Boland at yesterday’s jobs summit in Ballina.
JOBS CREATION: Ballina MP Tamara Smith with co-founder of Byron Bay Chilli Co John Boland at yesterday’s jobs summit in Ballina. Graham Broadhead

Want a job on the Northern Rivers? Go and make one yourself

JOHN Boland is an example of how a small business can grow on the North Coast, and create jobs.

The co-founder of Byron Bay Chilli Co was one of the speakers at a jobs summit in Ballina yesterday, organised by Ballina MP Tamara Smith.

Mr Boland told the story of how his business literally "grew from the ground" as he and wife Lynne had the idea to make some money from the 500 jalapeno chilli plants they grew at their home.

That was back in 1992.

The chillies were turned into a home-made sauce they used in a taco stand at local markets.

But it wasn't long before customers were bringing jars to the stand to buy the sauce as well as a taco.

There were some serendipitous things that happened along the way, like a mention in a Courier Mail foodie column and a sponsorship to attend a Melbourne trade show, which led to the product hitting the shelves of the major supermarkets and then earning a string of awards.

Now Byron Bay Chilli Co employs 15 people locally and distributes nationally and internationally, selling 500,000 units of the 250g bottles of sauce and one million units of the 300g jars of salsa annually.

Mr Boland's message to others keen to create their own job through a business was to "talk to people".

He received advice from government agencies aiming to support start-up businesses.

He quoted a piece of advice he received years ago: "If you want to attract bees, you have to plant flowers".

That was exactly the kind of story Ms Smith wanted the 70 representatives of a range of businesses and local government wanted to hear.

The jobs summit was a pre-election pledge and she said she didn't want it to be a talk-fest.

She asked each of the attendees to pledge that they would mentor someone in their field or "do something tangible that is going to create jobs".

While it was a "bipartisan" event, Ms Smith said it still had a Green edge, aligned with her own politics, and she wanted to see job creation in industries that offered "sustainable development".

She said in her former role as a teacher, she saw many young people having to leave the area and families for work.

She said there were obvious socio-economic benefits to creating jobs, and she would take the ideas generated at the summit to various levels of government, along with specifics for the local region, like the roll-out of the National Broadband Network.