Louise McGregor, co-founder, Big Blue Sky

My blue-sky dream is when people talk about the Gold Coast, they use words like innovation and intelligence ...

Louise McGregor is a lady with ideas. But while most people are content to put their crazy notions in the too hard basket and move on, Louise McGregor has to see them to fruition. Her most recent idea was for a one-day event that brought professionals from a wide range of industries together to converse and ultimately inspire change on the Gold Coast, it’s called Big Blue Sky and it’s happening on November 5. Louise teamed up with Dr Christine McDougall and Iain McGregor to bring together an incredible line-up of speakers from around the world. The Weekend Edition Gold Coast had a chat with Louise about blue-sky dreams and reputations.

Can you tell us about Big Blue Sky?
Big Blue Sky is a collaboration by a small group of local Gold Coast professionals who have lived in the city for a long time or who have gone away and come back and really want to be able to showcase the best that the city has to offer. From all of our travels and all of our experiences working with different people, we just see there is this depth of talent that you just don’t read about in newspapers. So we want to come together and rewrite the story of the Gold Coast. There’s so much about the day and the event that it’s hard to contain in an initial paragraph!

One of the key purposes of the event is to re-write the Gold Coast story. What are some of the other topics that will be covered?
Instead of objectives or purposes, we’re calling them moon shots because we loved that terminology when JFK talked about the United States going to the moon before the end of the decade, years before anyone had really considered it to be possible. We’re focusing on three moon shots and the day’s speakers and panelists have been pulled together based on these three subjects, the first one is how do we position the Gold Coast as a centre of innovation, intelligence and IT, the second one is called 100 percent sustainable and we’ve brought in some leading experts in the area of sustainability and the third is provisioning the impossible. Some of these things seem too hard for us as mere humans in our every day jobs so we want to create a platform where people could come into the same room to see what is being done, look at case studies and then work together to create it on the Gold Coast.

What have been some of the biggest challenges pulling an event like this together?
It has been a really interesting six months! I’ve pulled this together with Dr Christine McDougall and one of the hardest things about Big Blue Sky itself is that it doesn’t fit into a hole, it’s not a conference, it’s not a lunch, it’s not a breakfast. It starts at 7:00 am and goes till 7:00 pm and a few people have said that it’s too long but how can you actually start to look at projects in a few hours? You can’t. The hardest part is trying to sell it to the masses but that has also been the best part. When I was chatting to Christine at the start we said if we’re going to do it we want it to be meaningful and we want it to be different, not for the sake of being different but because it needs to be.

What outcomes do you hope to achieve from Big Blue Sky?
The best part about it is that we don’t know what the outcomes are going to be. We don’t know who is going to end up talking to whom in that room on that day and have that idea or hear something that a speaker says. A key thing about this is that our speakers are staying the whole day, they aren’t having their five minutes of fame and running off, they are part of all of the workshops, which is incredible.

What do you see are some of the biggest challenges facing the city?
I think one of the biggest challenges from a branding perspective is the way the city is percieved. It’s getting better but I think we are often guilty of dumbing ourselves down and saying we’re just beaches and the glitter strip, but we’re so much more than that. I think we’ve got to start talking in a different language, to change our perception of ourselves first.

What conversations do you hope will transpire as a result of Big Blue Sky?
One of the things that we are looking at is the start-up sector, the Gold Coast is known as the small business capital of the world but what can we do to support these people? The Queensland Government last week announced they were putting millions of dollars into the start-up sector so how can the Gold Coast get some of these funds? Who are the people mentoring these businesses? These are the types of conversations we hope will be started by Big Blue Sky.

What’s your blue-sky dream for the Gold Coast?
That is a really tricky one. I have a one-year blue-sky dream, I’m starting small. My blue-sky dream is when people talk about the Gold Coast, they use words like innovation and intelligence as part of the language. Once perception changes, reality follows. Once the Gold Coast is perceived in that way it is going to attract investment and interest.

Are there plans for any future events in the pipeline?
Yes! This is the first year for Big Blue Sky so we’re doing it all on an absolute shoe-string but it is going to be an annual event. The whole point of this is by this time next year, at Big Blue Sky 2016, we want to talk about the outcomes that have come from this. We want to be accountable for what we have achieved so that it does have a future and can grow every year.

What inspires you?
I get inspired by people and ideas. It’s a good thing and a bag thing but if an idea like Big Blue Sky comes to me, I can’t let it go. It’s a blessing and a curse because you have to do it and the only way you can make it happen is by putting your heart and soul into it. My children and our beautiful beaches are also a source of inspiration.

What is the best advice you’ve received in your career or life?
Be authentic and it’s okay not to be perfect.

Perk up …  
Relax … 
Burleigh Hill.
Indulge … 
It sounds nerdy but indulging to me is sitting on my balcony with a coffee reading a great book.
Dine …  
I love Etsu Izakaya and Alfresco Italian Restaurant in Surfers Paradise.
Be inspired … 
Surfers Paradise. I walk on the beach and see people from all different nationalities freaking out because some of them have never been in the water before and the joy on their face is incredible. We are so lucky to live here.


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