Mary Anne Cronin has been a local around Bondi for the past sixteen years, and president of the Bondi & Districts Chamber Of Commerce for the past five. Mary Anne has been at the forefront of change in Bondi during that time and still is today. Balancing life with her work as a real estate agent, her own personal endeavours such as Bondi Snapshot, and now her latest venture of building Bondi's entrepreneur community with the Bondi Disruptors.
How did you get involved with the Bondi Chamber Of Commerce?
They used to have what’s called the Bondi Beach forum, which was held at the Bondi Surf Club. This was a forum that the council put on and invited business representatives from all different areas of the business community. Through the forum it was mentioned that business in winter was really tough, and this was seven years ago now. They’re primed for summer when it’s busy, then a lot of them struggle during winter. Back then Bondi council put on a one-day event called ‘Bondi Bohemia’ in winter. It ended up being quite costly, so we started thinking about something else we could do. Terry, who ran the Bowhouse at the time in Bondi, he was from England, and he raised the idea that in winter Blackpool has the Blackpool lights, so what about lights lighting up Bondi in winter? So we came up with the idea of Bondi Winter Magic.
At the time there was an ice rink at the cathedral in the city and thought wouldn’t it be funny to have an ice rink down in Bondi. So we made it happen. The event ended up being a joint venture with the Chamber Of Commerce and Waverley Council. Soon after I was asked to be on the board, so that’s kind of how I got involved with the chamber.
Where did the idea for the Bondi Disruptors come from?
We sponsor the annual business awards. Last year the vice president and myself were watching all these people come up and get their awards and they were all young, vibrant, new businesses, and thought why aren’t we talking to these people? Most people look at the Chamber Of Commerce and think a bunch of oldies! So how in the current market place are we going to reach out to them? One way we thought was to create this group and then run a competition to get them to name it. We put it on our Facebook and had a great response.
We discussed the name that stood out and thought it’s all about disruption and that’s the modern terminology used for the youth of today – and 'Bondi' was too good not to use, so we went with that. The name was put forward by local Genson Glier. It’s already gained great momentum, the girl who developed the Bondi Bubble app has designed the logo, one of the guys from The Entourage shared it on their Facebook page and even the courier picked up the story and ran an article on it, so it’s been really great already.
There’s been a lot of talk regarding The Pavilion recently, what are your thoughts on this? Was this going to affect the Bondi Disruptors or is this completely separate?
Yes that’s separate. The Bondi & Districts Chamber of Commerce represents and looks after the interests of businesses, but it represents all businesses in the Waverley area, and has a lot of working partnerships with the Waverley Council. We have continued doing business forums, which is a pure joint venture with Waverley Council, and get ideas and businesses to talk about their needs. So the difficultly we have with things like the pavilion is that there are businesses involved who are upset about what’s happening, so we have to look after their needs, but then there are also business that are going into the new development. So in some ways we have to take a bit of a neutral stance.
C&H was a start-up and loves the idea of the Bondi Disruptors. Do you think it’s important for Bondi to have to have a support and networking system for start-ups and entrepreneurs?
Definitely, I think the traditional ways of doing business is changing and I think one of the reasons of doing this is that we need to learn the way the youth of today do business, because we’re used to doing business the old way, and there’s a different way of communicating now. If we can actually exchange ideas, new business will help old business and vice versa. That’s why we didn’t want to restrict the group to 18-35 year olds because there’s people running start-ups in their 40’s, so it’s really about tapping into all of that.
Many people (who do work from home), they’re mostly just dealing with themselves and sometimes it’s nice just to bounce an idea off someone else. I think any successful business is about the connections you make, and how strong you build those connections, and hopefully the Bondi Disruptors will be another way to do this.
This is a membership club, were there any plans for it to be purely a community co-working space?
We don’t have a space or run out of an office at all, so the commerce runs purely on volunteers, or funded on subscriptions. So when you join the chamber, you pay membership of $200 a year, then ongoing it’s $150 for renewals. We did debate about changing the membership for the Disruptors, but they will be getting all the same benefits as it gets you membership to the NSW chamber and access to their resources, and they’re always running workshops. We don’t have the facilities or resources that the NSW business chamber does, but through our membership we can offer those resources to our members. What we’re hoping to do eventually is set up a mentor program for young businesses but the first point was to start it up and then where we can go from there.
Ultimately, the Disruptors are going to be the ones to decide how to move forward. We’d like a couple of them to sit on the board of the Chamber of Commerce so there is that synergy and continued communication, regarding things like how the networking events are run. We’ve had a few functions at Westfield suite, Event Cinemas, and the North Bondi Surf Club. The Icebergs Club are really big supporters and we usually have our Christmas party there.
What’s it like to be apart of the Bondi community?
I eat, sleep, and breathe Bondi. It’s very hard to get me out of the Bondi Bubble. I’ve lived here for 16 years. I’ve been very lucky, soon after I moved here I got introduced to a lot of the locals; the guys that ran The Garage, Beach Road, Bondi Hotel, and that was a really good introduction to the community. Back then, the pubs were where people hung out, as you didn’t have as many cafés as you do now.
I guess as my role in the chamber I’m lucky enough to have developed a very good relationship with Sally Betts, I think that’s helped us develop a good working partnership with the chamber and the council and its helped keep business at the top of the list.
There’s the first Bondi Disruptors networking event coming up soon…
I’m very excited about that! Anthony Kaplan, owner of The Bondi Bowling Club, and The Corner House, actually approached us at one of our functions, and we said how it’d be great to have him on board. We were talking about venues, and he said why not the bowls. I didn’t realise at the time he did the Fluro Bowls, and thought wow this is perfect! One of our board members, Keith Hodgson who runs Neighbourhood will be the DJ for the night as well. It’s a chance to come along as a non-member and see how you like it. The chamber usually runs a networking event each month.