Ben Riches headshot
Ben Riches headshot Arthur Gorrie

POWER 30: Sneak peek into Gympie's most influential #18-16

# 18 BEN RICHES

WORKING together is all part of the deal for online marketing expert and Gympie Chamber of Commerce president Ben Riches.

Mr Riches is also principal of his firm, Enriches Business and is coming into his third year as chamber president, working with other Gympie business people to help them optimise their online presence.

"There's a lot of aspects to it - the words you use are just part of it.

"I've been four years doing that, three of them in Gympie since I moved here.”

How does he combine running a business with keeping a diverse organisation like the chamber functioning for the benefit of members, with regular functions and relevant speakers?

"It's not easy,” he admits. It's a lot of hours.”

Ben Riches in Mary St
Ben Riches in Mary St Arthur Gorrie

One of those important events is Ignite Business, a project he is running for the first time this year.

"It's a one-day event with four nationally recognised speakers from all over Australia, imparting their knowledge at workshops.

"And the chamber puts on monthly events with engaging and relevant speakers.

"I got involved in the chamber firstly because the board came to me, hoping for a new website.

"I started volunteering my time after setting it up, helping run it.

"Then I thought , 'I'm already volunteering my time. I may as well volunteer a bit more.

"Also, when I can I have enjoyed mentoring students.

"I've helped do that at James Nash and Gympie high schools, including working for disengaged students.

"Basically I help them look at options, including not just getting a job, but potentially creating one by getting into business.

"For two years I've also been working on the idea of a co-working space, a hub where people in business can have an office where they share with others in an office environment, instead of having to rent the whole space themselves.

"On the Sunshine Coast there are about eight of them.

"One just opened at TAFE in Gympie, set up in co-operation with other business owners and Gympie Regional Council.

"We call it the Fish Tank, which is partly a take-off of the Shark Tank television show.

"I didn't set it up, but I'm grateful they used the name I suggested.

"I thought it was a really cool name for an environment where people get together and work.

"We're all in the boat, working together and looking out,” he said.

#17 MARLENE OWEN

Marlene Owen
Marlene Owen Arthur Gorrie

"YOU don't want to do a story about me,” the unstoppable Marlene Owen said when asked about the work she does in the community, helping hundreds of people dealing with cancer, homelessness and drought.

The bookwork and administration associated with the family business, Gympie Bearings, would be enough for most.

But there are 24 busy hours in any of Mrs Owen's days.

The 2017 Gympie region Citizen of the Year, returns to the Power 30 list at number 17 this year, rising up the chart from Number 23 last year.

Working around the clock to provide assistance to families battling the horrors of cancer is a job she says is only possible because of the team she works with at Supporting Chemotherapy in Cooloola.

"I've been raising money for that for 12 years.

"It's a community of us, not just one person, not just me,” she said.

"For change to happen, it takes all of us to do something, this was never something I could do on my own.”

"Every two years we have the Gala Ball to raise money for SCIC and we fund-raise at the Melbourne Cup every year.

"I look after lots of people I suppose.”

Marlene Owen in Nash St
Marlene Owen in Nash St Arthur Gorrie

Mrs Owen has been volunteering for decades, starting with the Red Cross when she was 25.

But there always seems to be room for one more worthy cause in her life. Wherever people are in need people like Mrs Owen lead the helping effort.

More recently, she has branched out and has been helping her fellow Citizen of the Year, Tony Stewart with his Drought Runners and Bush to Beach campaigns to take food and hope to the drought-stricken west and to give the children of drought some respite, with holidays at Rainbow Beach.

And she has stepped in to help real community efforts for the homeless.

"Tonight I'm getting a big stew organised,” she said.

On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, she makes dessert as well.

"And if I'm in town, I do this every night, at the Six Mile rest area and Nelson Reserve.”

She says the generally good behaviour of homeless people in Gympie makes it easier to help.

"A big shed is all it would take to provide proper shelter, along with normal policing,” she said.

"I like to help the genuine people, and there are many.

"I feed between 20 and 30 people some nights,” she said.

"I've just been to Cooloola Fitness Centre in Chapple Lane. They're putting out a container so people can make donations.

"Recently I was in Rainbow Beach, helping Tony Stewart with Bush to Beach and Drought Runners.”

She is also keen to work with people helping the wildfire victims of the Woolooga district.

In what would otherwise be her spare time, she does all that bookwork for the business. "It's 43 years we've owned that,” she said.

#16 STACEY LOWE

Stacey Lowe is the part-owner and manager of the Royal Hotel in Gympie.
Stacey Lowe is the part-owner and manager of the Royal Hotel in Gympie. Max Van Heusden

STACEY Lowe has moved up the Power 30 List this year from #24 to #16.

The co-owner and manager of the Royal Hotel is passionate about not only her family and business but about the Gympie community as a whole and works hard to make weekends out in Gympie as safe as possible for young people.

Her involvement with the Liquor Industry Accord Group (LIAG) has this principle at its core.

LIAG is a network of hotels and nightspots that work together to ban known troublemakers and to put in place procedures that will help to kerb alcohol-fuelled violence and anti-social behaviours among patrons.

"Times are tough for business everywhere but when alcohol is involved, and people drinking, they need to have boundaries drawn and know what's acceptable behaviour and what's not,” she said.

She is also a passionate advocate for Mary St and a member of the Mary St Stakeholders Committee.

She and a number of traders stepped up this year to host the Pre-Muster Party.

"This year it wasn't clear who would organise the Pre-Muster Party and council and the Muster committee had their plates full.

"Many traders, including myself, wanted to see it continue this year.

"After consulting with the mayor and council representatives, they were happy for the traders to put it on this year.

"Next year, with more future planning, it'll be bigger and better than ever,” she said.

When she's not growing her business or working for LIAG or the Stakeholders Committee, Ms Lowe is managing fiance Linc Phelps' music career or being a mum to her son Jack who has autism or running after four-year-old live wire daughter Lyric.

Ms Lowe, who is due to get married next Saturday, would like to see more done to keep young people in Gympie.

"We need to make it attractive for young people to stay and a vibrant place for young families. We need the kids to not turn 18 and want to leave,” she said.

What do you think about Gympie's Power 30?

Some could argue money is influence, and in some cases, they would be right.

Others could argue sports stars hold greater influence than, say, artists and charity workers.

Both could be right, or wrong, because that's the subjectiveness of power.

Let's start a conversation.

Email your thoughts to editor@gympietimes.com or leave your comment online at gympietimes.com.au.