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40 Under 40 winner of the day: Ben Hood

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A passion for agriculture and regional South Australia inspired Ben Hood to use technology to teach school children about farming. The South-East man is director of creative agency Hello Friday and in 2016 helped create children’s character, George the Farmer.

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The educational character teaches children about where their food and fibre come from through apps, picture books, songs, performance, curriculum-aligned teacher’s guides and educational videos.

The 38-year-old is partnering with the South Australian Film Corporation to bring George the Farmer to life in an animated TV series. He is also expanding the successful brand into more picture books, free curriculum-aligned teachers’ guides and interactive apps for children.

Hood’s achievements were recognised this month when he was named a winner in InDaily’s inaugural 40 Under 40 awards. We asked him some more about doing business in South Australia.

What do you believe are the strengths of doing business in South Australia?

South Australia is an incredible place to have a business and raise a family. Living in regional SA, I am afforded a great work/life balance. Rather than being caught in the rat race of Melbourne or Sydney, I can drop my kids to school and be back at my computer by 8.45am.

South Australia has always been a great place for innovation, especially in our regions. There are now some great initiatives being rolled out for businesses like Hello Friday and George the Farmer, such as the eNVIsion Limestone Coast Hub, which allows regional start-ups to become globally competitive by providing co-working spaces, acceleration programs and access to high-speed internet.

Our George the Farmer business is also able to leverage off of our state’s growing reputation as a clean, green, premium food and wine producer. The excitement and buzz off this industry is putting South Australia’s regions on the map.

What do you believe are the weak points of conducting business in South Australia?

Strong regions equal a strong South Australia.

Being a regionally-based business, the need for high-speed internet is crucial within our creative agency Hello Friday. Reliable, affordable high-speed internet means more regional entrepreneurs and businesses can remain just that – regional – and not be forced to move to Adelaide, or interstate, to see their businesses grow. Unfortunately, we are still struggling regionally to secure these high-speed connections.

In the past, I have found our state has been too city-centric and the state as a whole has not embraced regional entrepreneurs as much as it could.

George the Farmer has been wholeheartedly embraced by other states. We’ve been invited to the Royal Sydney Show two years running to headline the “Food Farm” which is visited by more than 400,000 people over the 14-day show. We are regularly invited to perform throughout Queensland and NSW and we have appeared on The Project, Kids WB and the Today Show to promote our message of where food and fibre comes from.

Unfortunately, our attempts to showcase George the Farmer to South Australian audiences, particularly in Adelaide, has been more difficult. We would love to be part of the Royal Adelaide Show and do many more events in the city but so far the response has been lacking.

Luckily, we South Australians are also a tenacious bunch, so we’ll keep trying!

Our state could also be even greater if South Australian businesses were encouraged to collaborate and work with one other. Our George the Farmer picture books are printed right here in South Australia and using local creatives within our Hello Friday creative agency is extremely important to us.

Do you see your future in South Australia?

Absolutely. I love South Australia and could not see myself, my family or my business anywhere else.

Specifically, I see my future in the Limestone Coast. It’s an incredible community and one of the most diverse areas in the world. I want to promote the Limestone Coast as a world-class global food hub, an amazing place to visit, work, live and thrive.

We all have a great SA story to tell. Let’s embrace our unique stories and show them to the world.

How can the state encourage more of its young leaders to stay?

I remember travelling from Naracoorte to Adelaide as a kid and the only thing that changed was that John Martin’s closed. Now when I drive down North Terrace, there is a real sense of opportunity.

That’s what young leaders want to see – opportunity and possibility.

We need to take what’s happened in the CBD of Adelaide and duplicate that across our whole state. Innovation precincts like SAHMRI and the Tonsley Innovation Hub in Adelaide’s south, are proof that SA can be at the centre of innovation, new discoveries and new opportunities.  But it shouldn’t stop at the toll gate or Gepps Cross – we need whole-state thinking.

Throughout the state I meet so many amazing people who have brilliant ideas and the drive to make them happen. But currently, the invest.sa.gov.au website is too Adelaide-centric. If we can promote our regions as amazing places to live, work and innovate, it will only help to grow our state brand as a whole.

The 40 under 40 awards is an amazing start in promoting and advocating for young leaders to continue to innovate in South Australia.

Additional programs where the finalists of these awards go out into the community to encourage innovation, community and philanthropic spirit in our young people would also be a huge benefit.

More about 40 Under 40

An assessment panel representing the South Australian business community judged hundreds of nominees for the inaugural 40 Under 40 awards, which aim to identify and promote a new generation of local leaders under the age of 40.

The final 40 includes a hugely varied collection of South Australian talents, who are making a mark in fields such as health, technology, the media, property, social innovation, agriculture, finance, the law, and much more.

For the full list of 40 Under 40 winners go here.

40 Under 40 is an InDaily initiative supported by the following partners:

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