Ryan and Soraya Smith had a newborn and toddler in tow when they set up their company three years ago.
But the business overcame the demands of good parenting and survived the pandemic to grow from two people to a staff of 10.
“We’re nothing if not resilient,” says Soraya.
The 33-year-old Aboriginal woman runs the administration and finance side of Darwin-based Top End Controls and Automation, which specialises in electrical control systems and automation, while Ryan, 35, is in charge of operations.
“You have to be flexible and able to adapt,” she says. “Owning a business makes you work harder.”
Ryan, who has more than
15 years’ experience in the electrical and instrumentation field, says he likes challenges.
“If we don’t challenge ourselves,
I don’t see how we can consider ourselves a success. Even if we fail I still see that as success because we will have learnt from our mistakes.”
The couple, who were both born
and bred in Darwin, hire locally, bar one international student, with
30 percent of their staff Aboriginal.
“Our mission is to provide opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to
work in the electrical industry with
modern technology,” says Ryan.
“We have two Indigenous apprentices, and we’d like to have more.”
Their vision to be a Territory-owned business competing in an industry that is normally dominated by national and international companies remains steadfast.
“Recently, we had a little win where we secured projects at a number of defence projects around Darwin and Katherine. We’re also waiting to hear if we secured an instrumentation maintenance project.”
Ryan and Soraya are passionate about contributing to the community, and generously sponsor many school, charity and sporting events.
“We want to make an impact in our community before worrying about being big enough to try to deliver things at a national level,” says Ryan.
They strongly believe in supporting women in business.
“We do our best to go to a number of female industry events,” says Ryan. “And I think it’s fantastic that Soraya is a successful female business owner in a normally male dominated industry.”
Another mission of the couple is to support as many Aboriginal-owned subcontractors as they can.
“We have an Indigenous lawyer
and plumber company we use.
We buy our safety equipment, work wear and cleaning products from Indigenous-owned businesses and our IT company is Aboriginal owned.”
Ryan and Soraya are proud of the achievements of the company, which is based in Berrimah.
“We already have a lot of trusted clients who have helped us with the success we have today, and we’re incredibly grateful to them. We also look forward to meeting new people and businesses in the industry.”
Aboriginal procurement policy
The Northern Territory Government’s inaugural Aboriginal Procurement Policy provides a step-change on the advancement of Aboriginal employment and business opportunities through government contracting activities.
The purpose is to:
Maximise opportunities for certified Aboriginal business enterprises and Aboriginal Territorians to participate in, benefit from and generate economic, social, cultural and environmental value through NT Government Procurement activities;
Build Aboriginal business enterprise capacity and capability through joint ventures and partnerships with other Territory enterprises with industry experience and expertise.
The policy introduces, for the first time, a target of 5 percent for the number and the value of Territory Government contracts awarded to an Aboriginal business enterprises.
Building the capability and capacity of Aboriginal businesses and increasing the economic participation of Aboriginal Territorians is critical to unlocking the full potential of the Territory. It will grow the local economy, increase business and regional development and build the local Territory workforce.
The Aboriginal Procurement Policy will apply to all Territory Government contracts with an estimated value of $15,000 or greater.
To view the Aboriginal Procurement Policy, visit aboriginalaffairs.nt.gov.au/economic-development/aboriginal-procurement-policy