People & Human Resources

Why this Brisbane accountant is hosting dinner parties for small business owners

Caleb Triscari /

Nathan Watt Founder's Feast

Nathan Watt. Source: Supplied

For many small business owners, the concept of a ‘networking event’ would no doubt conjure up images of cheap wine, name tags and a collection of business cards. Or perhaps, the scenario they picture is one of fumbling through a ‘speed dating’ round, trying desperately to make a connection.

But one Brisbane business owner is taking a different approach, channelling the powers of a good ol’ dinner party to bring together a community of up and coming small business owners in a relaxed setting.

Nathan Watt is a partner at Brisbane SME financial consulting firm Watson & Watt. Since the launch of his firm in July 2017, Watt’s business has focused on guiding SMEs through multiple aspects of financial planning and setting goals.

“I’ve been an accountant for eleven to twelve years. I see the industry as not changing the ways it deals with clients,” Watt tells SmartCompany.

“Most owners go into business with an idea in mind, but when they get into business, things change.”

One of the issues Watt repeatedly noticed was how small businesses would fail to plan for what happens after they achieve their goals.

“If we go and increase your sales two hundred percent, that’s great. But how many staff will you need? How will it impact your overheads?”

Watt saw a need to network with other business owners who were sharing similar experiences or facing problems as a small business. So in an attempt to build this community, he sought out his connections on LinkedIn, invited them to a dinner party and asked them to bring along others.

In February, the inaugural Founder’s Feast was held in a private room at the Deer Duck Bistro and funded by Watson & Watt.

Watt’s first dinner party hosted nine business people from a range of industries including marketing, law and accounting. The dinner was designed to stir discussion amongst the guests and provide solutions to problems others might have.

The guests of the first Founder’s Feast included Joe Fox, business and development director of marketing agency Studio Culture; Nick Eckers, principal at Bluewater Lawyers; Jason Andrew, co-founder of financial firm Smartbooksonline; Nathan Schokker, facilities manager of commercial service firm Talio; Kaitlyn Sapier co-founder of proptech firm Orbmaps; and Tara-Jay Rimmer, chief executive of The Van That Can.

“Its really about getting like-minded business people in a room to bounce off each other and have good time,” Watt says.

“There’s no sales pitches, it’s more about people who are also sharing the same experiences.”

Watt says the first dinner ran for four-and-a-half hours and by all accounts, was a success.

“The feedback I’ve had is its quite unique and one of the best events they’ve been to in terms of quality,” Watt says.

Joe Fox from Studio Culture tells SmartCompany the dinner party idea was a “fantastic” way of bringing a community together.

“It was a good idea to bring similar people into a room and hear everyone’s journey to date,” Fox says.

“In terms of networking, I already knew a few of the people so it was good to refresh those connections.”

Fox also says he would attend another Founder’s Feast in the future if it is offered.

“I think I’d certainly go again it was the same calibre of business people.”

The Founder’s Feast will not be a standalone event, Watt hopes, with plans to hold dinners twice a year alongside smaller events like lunches. He also hopes to extend the invitation to SME owners from other industries.

I’d like to get someone in from retail, someone who has got a product to sell, most of them [at the dinner] were services,” Watt says.

The best outcome I could get is this being the nexus for a good idea or a new product or connection you’ve made.”

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Caleb Triscari

Caleb Triscari is SmartCompany's subeditor.

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  • Absolutely fantastic. A key measure of anyone’s success is how willing they are to help someone else achieve their goals and what they do to back that up. Connecting people who can help people (through doing more than just offering advice) is what will increase success rates. This is particularly important for startup and early atage businesses but is equally important for established businesses that need to reinvent themselves.

    • Hi hear ya Jason,
      It’s the doing and not the talking that gets results.

      Connecting business people for a tangible, concrete outcome is the key.

      For a start, it builds real trust. The type of trust you can only gain by working with someone. 2nd it gives the more inexperienced party a way to measure the quality of the advice.

      • Spot on Chris. One (of the many!) things I have learnt through my startup is that there is no shortage of advice (everyone has a well meaning opinion) and I really appreciate and value the advice I am given (often some of it was conflicting advice). But I feel, for Australia to build its innovation capabilities and increase the rate of startup success, the focus also needs to be on what actions can be taken to improve execution capability and connect starups and innovators with the right people and organisations. This is being done to a limited extent, but the opportunity for improvement in this area is tremendous. For companies and corporates, its about how you introduce an innovation culture (or side-culture) that can flourish through interaction with startups and innovators yet not be stifled by past successes and fear of making a mistake. For private individuals, its about what I can do and who I can connect you to to help you achieve your outcome. An example close to my heart; if you have a fashion or retail tech innovation; who in the retail industry can I connect you with to help get traction and feedback for your innovation, and possibly funding. I’ll jump off my soapbox for the moment, but I see wonderful opportunities to improve the startup and innovation landscape. It will be challenging, but if it was easy, everyone would be doing it, right? All the best with Proquo.

  • stephen connell

    Whats surprising about the success of this event? People in business have always connected across the dinner table but what is surprising is that there are not more events like this happening around the country More power to them.