It’s dusk in tropical Wujal Wujal; twilight is a gold blip on the horizon and one of the 12 young entrepreneurs ‘roughing it’ for a week pulls out another ‘dab’ move to the uproar of her dusty companions.

It’s day 5 on the 7-day ‘no technology’ wilderness expedition in Far North Queensland designed to build the mental stamina, personal qualities and physical resilience that are the hallmarks of all successful entrepreneurs.

The 12 city slickers of varying fitness levels just spent 3 days mountain biking the legendary 71km CREB Track just north of Daintree, regarded as one of Australia’s most spectacular and challenging 4WD trails.

The Venturer Program

Ben Southall, winner of the Best Job in the World and now Chief Adventurer at The Office of the Queensland Chief Entrepreneur developed the Venturer Program. A stand-out moment for him was reaching the top of ‘Big Red’ on this infamous track.

“The moment we spotted the length and incline of the mountain through the rainforest canopy I realised this was going to be the make or break point of the adventure,” Ben said.

“After an hour of huffing, puffing, cursing and crying we all stood on top of Big Red, having taken on one of the toughest challenges of our lives together powered on my each other’s motivations and friendship – it was the most incredible part of the expedition.”

Participant Raphael McGowan, founder of bakslap said what he took away from the experience was that the company we keep are vital to our success both professionally and personally – ‘we must connect with others regularly,’ he said.

Wujal Wujal – a place of healing

Back in Wujal Wujal, the 12 settle their aching muscles and grazed knees at the second smallest Aboriginal shire council in Australia.

“It was one of the friendliest and innovative communities I have ever been to,” Raphael said.

“It was such a privilege for our group to spend time there, to share meals with the community and even receive a blessing – it was a place of healing for sure.”

The humble town was like many others in Australia with a giant mango tree, a bridge over a sandy river and a local Council Chambers. It also boasted a beautiful back deck at the Chambers where the group enjoyed clearing their heads with a panoramic view which gave the place a calming effect.

Learning to ask and listen

Throughout the seven days, the group were thoroughly challenged with activities, conversation and exploration designed to help them reach their best potential and truly connect with each other and their entrepreneurial goals.

A group activity on the second morning before starting the mountain biking saw all 12 of them stand on a 4x4m tarp which they had to turn over without anyone standing off.

“We looked at one another and one of the team started giving instructions as to how we should do it. We had just two minutes. When time was up the tarp was only a quarter turned and we were all bunched up, some people were on the backs of others,” Raphael said.

“There were lots of ideas but very little listening; what I took away from this was that we didn’t ask one another who has done this before or what ideas does the ‘team’ have to solve the problem.

“We were reminded to ask and not assume. The group reflected on this and agreed for the next seven days we would allow everyone to have a voice, recognise we can all learn from one another on this trip, regardless of the stage of business and life people were at.”

Andy Ridley – creating a global movement

Another highlight from the expedition was a session with Andy Ridley, Co-Founder of Earth Hour on how he started and created a global movement to impact the world. He explained his new initiative as founder of Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef.

“His message struck a chord with me that as a founder you need belief and to concentrate on hope, not fear in campaigns,” Raphael said.

“His message struck a chord with me that as a founder you need belief and to concentrate on hope, not fear in campaigns,” Raphael said.

Naomi Simpson’s business journey

Founder of Red Balloon and Shark Tank investor Naomi Simpson also joined the group for the final two days at the Barrier Reef near Bloomfield sharing insights about her business journey, the challenges she has faced and how she overcame them.

Going from bush to beach to connect with the famed entrepreneur, the group were taken aback by the natural beauty, clear aqua waters and endless blue skies of Far North Queensland.

“Meeting Naomi allowed us all to share our business journeys and she shared her experiences and insights. It was invaluable for us all,” Raphael said.

“One day we set off to snorkel the reef and she asked one of the girls in the group to put sunscreen on her back. A couple of the group overheard and said: ‘Naomi, you need a bakslap’ and did a pitch on my sunscreen applicator product for me.

“She replied that she looks forward to seeing me on Shark Tank in the near future. Made my day!”

“The week spent in Far North Queensland with no phone or internet was simply life changing and something I will never forget – our team formed memories and a bond together that will be with us for life.”

“The week spent in Far North Queensland with no phone or internet was simply life changing and something I will never forget – our team formed memories and a bond together that will be with us for life.”

Personal belief

Ben Southall said throwing the participants into tough physical challenges increases their personal belief in what can be achieved with continued effort.

“These relationships are future door openers, business resources and ultimately a confidential contact that each Venturer can utilise. Having been through such raw experiences together there’s very little sacred ground to worry about!”

Why Raphael McGowan created bakslap

It was the tragic loss of Raphael’s beautiful sister Tess McGowan-Chan to melanoma skin cancer at age 31, that inspired this adventurer-turned-inventor to create bakslap in 2016 after investing all his life savings into researching and developing the product.

bakslap is a unique applicator allowing people to apply sunscreen (and lotions) to those hard to reach places like your back without the messy hands.

“I’m passionate about keeping Tess’s memory alive and determined to prevent other families from experiencing such a devastating loss” Raphael said.

bakslap recently successfully crowdfunded $48,377 via a Kickstarter campaign, allowing the company to get the product to market faster this summer.

After a long history together, bakslap is also proud to support Melanoma Institute Australia. From every purchase of bakslap $1 will be donated to support the vital research it conducts to find a cure.

Participants in this year’s Venturer Program 

●     Raphael McGowan, founder bakslap – a revolutionary sunscreen and lotion applicator for your back and hard to reach places

●     Program developer and facilitator Ben Southall, Adventurepreneur 

●     Susana Uribe, Masters of Business Student, QUT

●     Luke Baker, Founder, Open Cloud Broadband

●     Caitlene Hillman, commerce student at Griffith University

●     Leigh Grigaliunas, Co-founder World’s Biggest Garage Sale

●     Cody Williams, Designer at Waterline

●     Abbey Byfield, marketing graduate, Bond University

●     Brad Caird, IT professional, Account Manager, Cisco

●     Russell Wright, Founder, Vital Projex

●     Margaret Powell, Co-founder, Catch ‘n’ Release anchor retrieval device

●     Bekky Joy, Head of Economic Development, Etheridge Shire Council

●     John Sharpe, Brisbane Small Business Tourism & Tech Entrepreneur