Moving to an independent office location to accommodate growth three years after founding a new business is what most people would call incredible success. Nike Babalola (pictured above surrounded by some key members of her team) though takes this all in her stride – and says she is excited for the future of Senami.
Nike, who has worked in the social services sector since the age of 23, simply cannot imagine doing anything else, loving the ‘feeling of helping people make progress’ and when people come back to say “we thrived because of the support you provided”.
After recently moving her business from the Stretton Centre to 16 Anderson Walk in Smithfield, Nike was kind enough to sit down with us to map out her business’ journey – showing how Senami has become an inspiring northern success story.
In the beginning...
Already with a wealth of experience working in the development services sector in Nigeria, Nike first came to Australia in 2009, when she studied Public Policy and Social Research at the prestigious Australia National University in Canberra.
After experiencing one too many Canberra winter mornings though, Nike made the decision to move to Adelaide, where she went on to study Social Work at Flinders University – a degree she says is really important background knowledge to work in this sector in Australia.
With a hearing impediment and sensorineural hearing loss that makes it difficult for her to work in large and noisy offices, Nike came to learn that the best way for her to serve the community was through offering a one-on-one counselling and therapy service that truly played to her strengths.
Just as the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) began to ramp up, Senami was founded from Nike’s home in South Australia’s fastest region – Adelaide’s outer north, where the health care and social assistance sector is already the largest employer.
As her client base began to grow and request increasingly diverse services, Nike knew that she would need support to have any hope of meeting the demand – and that’s where the City of Playford’s Stretton Centre was really able to help.
Working with the Stretton Centre
Nike first heard about the Stretton Centre after her application for funding through the Small Business Development Fund was rejected. The Stretton Centre’s business support team advised that the application still had great potential – it just needed to be fine-tuned.
Working with the Stretton Centre team to tweak her application and secure $20,000 in matched funding was something that Nike described as an incredible boost to her business:
“I no longer needed to worry about the cost of equipment. I was instead able to focus on getting out there and networking. It was a huge weight off of my shoulders.”
As Nike explains though, the business support team were able to help with so much more than just funding:
“They were amazing. I came to them for a grant, but they just kept pushing me to go further. They were always sharing upcoming opportunities and connecting me with local business leaders. Those connections were key in the early stages – especially as someone relatively new to Australia.”
“If I said to them, I’m looking for a group-based program location, they’d give me ten different places or people I could contact.”
Moving into a shared workspace
Another key moment in Nike’s journey was a decision she describes as “financially perfect” – moving her business out of her home and into the Stretton Centre’s shared working space.
With dedicated desks available from just $250 per month, the all-inclusive cost structure was a weight off of Nike’s mind:
“The cost was very low compared to the community itself. It really helps in the early stages as you grow.”
“Now that I’ve moved out, I have more stresses meeting the different office requirements – that’s something I didn’t have to worry about when I was there. If the paper was running out, they would take care of it. It was just perfect really.”
Stretton Centre Business Development Manager, Jared Ahern, was there for Nike’s first day in the shared working space and remembers just how quickly the business was moving:
“Nike came to me just a few months in to tell me that she needed space for an accountant. Then for administration. I kept asking her if she was really ready for all these people, and before I knew it, she was leasing one of our private offices and then two.”
Even after moving out, the Senami team continue to be regular visitors, utilising the function rooms as training sessions and coming to visit the many connections they’ve made along their journey.
The way forward
As Senami continues to grow, one of the greatest challenges Nike and the team are facing is making sure they have the right people in the right roles:
“Often there is a disconnect with people applying for roles and then us realising after interviews that they don’t have the skills that they said they do. But, at other times, we strike gold”, Nike explains.
As Nike has grown her business in the area, she feels a sense of responsibility to invest back into the community. Nike says that up to 95 percent of her staff live in the Playford area – and she is confident that she can continue to find more staff in the north.
For now though, Senami are celebrating opening their new home on 16 Anderson Walk – an 800 square metre site with ample opportunities to expand.
Congratulations to Nike and the team!