If we had three words to sum up yesterday’s panel pitch event? INSPIRING. PASSIONATE. EPIC!

It’s hard to believe that only 7 months ago, a casual conversation in a small Melbourne café between CEO of The Duke of Ed Anoushka Gungadin and Founder of BIGthink! John Di Natale, has turned into such an incredible triumph. Proving that if you have a clear vision and enough determination, your big ideas can indeed become a big success, which is the core of what Young Business Hustler is all about.

Eight aspiring finalists came together yesterday for a supportive business mentoring session at youth employment academy, Fingerprint me.

The vibe was relaxed, supportive and encouraging (anti shark tank!) and our hustlers received some fantastic advice from inspiring mentors; Kylie Harker, Liliane Grace and Gavin Sequeira. After discussing their business vision, goals and overall concept with the mentors, our Young Business Hustlers were then ready to present their business ideas to our panel of expert entrepreneurs.

Once all guests arrived, CEO of Fingerprint me Peter Coronica, kicked off the event by talking about his own career journey and how he discovered his passion for helping young people find their way in the competitive world of work. It was then time to get down to business (pardon the pun!) as our hustlers one by one took to the stage their passion, drive and determination, pitching their business ideas to our audience and panel.

On the panel we had:

  • Alexie O’Brien– Head of Australia & NZ at Kit and Ace
  • Holly Ransom – CEO of HRE Global
  • Sue Barrett – Founder and CEO of salesessentials.com
  • Nick Pearce – Co Founder of Homeless of Melbourne and HoMie
  • John Di Natale – Founder and Managing Director of BIGthink!
  • Anoushka Gungadin – CEO of The Duke of Ed Victoria
  • Brad Smith – Founder and Director of braaap (thanks for the Skype session Brad!)

The first hustler of the pack was 17 year old Barbara Van de Merwe, a Dukes Gold Award Participant from Haileybury, pitching her tech savy software: SNAQ, which is essentially the evolution of the QR code, moving from the need to create a code, to the ease of using an existing physical image as code.

Next was Chelsea Macague, a Gold Awardee from Rochester. Having created Yalang a Lang Jewels at only 16 years old, Chelsea is now 18 and hopes to grow her sustainable jewelery business in order to give back to those living in third world countries.

We then heard from James Burton and how his sports apparel business, Active Change, is challenging how fashion garments are made, as well as making a difference with profits being donated to health initiatives in developing countries.

Determined Deakin student, Lauren Allnut was next to pitch Cross Roads Stationary; a unique range of stationary items with zero environmental impact. Lauren’s business also gives back to support education for children in the developing world.

Natalie Alkire then took to the stage her business, Hale; an underwear brand on a mission to foster the evolution of our collective consciousness. With profits going towards creating mentorship programs for victims of human trafficking, Hale is clearly more than just an underwear brand!

Duke of Ed Awardee, Prateeti Sabhlok was next to pitch. Showing great passion and drive, Prateeti’s business Eastern Sirens is a synchronized swimming club that aims to raise more community awareness and social participation for the sport.

Richard Homewood impressed us with his highly innovative business, SafeDrive; an app that uses positive reinforcement to incentivise behavioural change and reduce the number of road accidents caused by phone use.

Last to pitch was St Helena’s College Duke of Ed teacher, Shaun Doherty. His business; Performance Pods introduces health supplements into ordinary coffee pods turning simple coffee into a health powerhouse.

I think we speak for everyone that was in the room yesterday when we say WOW! We are so incredibly inspired by everyone’s passion, determination, creativity, innovative and all round hustle!

There can only be two winners however, and, drum-roll please; a huge congratulations to Barbara and Natalie, the winners of #YBHustler2015. Both Barbara and Natalie now have the opportunity to turn their business ideas into a reality through the BIGthink! Baby Booster, an intensive 12 month growth program! What an incredible and unique opportunity!

The skills developed through completing The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award; initiative, motivation, passion and persistence, are all the key traits of a successful entrepreneur. If you’re inspired by our Young Business Hustlers and are interested in taking your career to the next level, we encourage to get involved in our Go for Gold! Mentoring opportunity. More details here!

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