Bundy-born entrepreneur 'bloody believes in this town'
GIOVANNA Lever has always loved Bundaberg.
She sees her hometown as the place to be - a city overflowing with beauty, smarts and potential.
Now, she's determined others see the Rum City through her eyes.
Recently appointed to undertake a project to drive tourism demand in Bundy, Ms Lever's firm Sparrowly Group is already consulting and surveying local high school students, young professionals and industry in an effort to determine the city's "DNA".
The consultation period is expected to last about six weeks, after which the company will develop a strategy to increase the demand for tourism.
"Tourism in Bundaberg is doing well according to the latest data ... but there's so much more," MsLever said.
"There is so much depth on offer here in Bundaberg, not just from a high level tourism perspective."
The Sparrowly Group founder said what the city needed to increase tourism demand was a perception shift - a key focus many regions are struggling with.
"Pride in Bundaberg is going to be key (in the strategy)," MsLever said.
"Tourism isn't just about getting people here. We need to create a place that the locals absolutely are proud of and love where they live. Because if the locals don't love where they live, how can we expect visitors to love Bundaberg?
The pride Ms Lever holds for her hometown is something she's carried around with her ever since she left the region to pursue her career.
"I've worked hard to get some work in Bundaberg because I bloody believe in this town," she told the NewsMail.
"Locals of Bundaberg should be really proud of what they have and acknowledge the smarts and talent in this town. There's so much home-grown talent here and it's a truly a beautiful, beautiful place to live."
One of the biggest points MsLever will push is how to showcase Bundaberg and realign some of the negative perceptions people have for the city.
"When people think of Bundaberg they think it's up in Mackay, so we want to make sure we are always educating first around that accessibility, but also showing how deep our agriculture and innovation sectors are in this destination," she said.
The businesswoman pointed out the region was "very well placed" in the food and beverage industry as well as in the music, arts and culture scenes.
"It's always been here, it's nothing new, but it's about how do we elevate it up so the visitor can see. And how we do that revolves around the locals," MsLever said.
Bundaberg Tourism appointed Sparrowly Group to undertake the demand-driving and place DNA project earlier this month.
The firm has worked across Australia and South East Asia for brands including Tourism Australia, Cradle Coast Authority, Virgin Australia, Destination NSW, Macadamias Australia and InterContinental Hotels Group.
"I feel really honoured to have won two pieces of work in Bundaberg (Macadamias Australia and Bundaberg Tourism)," MsLever said.
"I hold ethics and values really close to everything that we do and everything I do."
Ms Lever recently got accepted into an ethics in leadership program and said she didn't want her firm to be like every other consultancy.
"We really take every project with that pride and that care.
"Every client is individual. That cookie cutter model is just unacceptable."
Ms Lever attributes her high standards to her parents but admitted the trait was something she was proud of.
Now living in Sydney, the mother of two left Bundaberg at 17 to study at Queensland University of Technology.
"We had a family farm at Alloway where we grew small crops," she said.
"I was responsible for managing payroll and superannuation and supporting mum and dad ... being exposed to all of that was really incredible, in hindsight."
After university, MsLever worked for a number of major organisations including Rugby World Cup.
"I worked pretty hard and I did loads of work experience at university and just put myself out there because if you don't create your own opportunities, nobody's going to do it for you," she said.
"I've always wanted to be my own boss and business is in my blood."
Ms Lever founded Sparrowly Group in 2015.
"I thought I'd just be brave."
The demand-driving and place DNA strategy is expected to be complete by the end of the year or early 2019.