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University of Newcastle: Six local founders accelerate their businesses

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Six inspiring local founders pitched their start-ups at the Integrated Innovation Network (I2N) Accelerator Demo Night this week – sharing their ideas and impressive growth trajectory.

From developing sustainable furniture made from recycled plastic waste, to creating an innovative online health screening service the start-ups are as diverse as they are brilliant.

Over the last 10 weeks the founders have undertaken an intensive journey as part of the I2N Accelerator program to help them move the needle on developing their idea into a reality.

Assistant Director, Integrated Innovation Network (I2N) Siobhan Curran said the program had helped unearth and accelerate some incredible ideas.

“The diversity of the businesses and ideas from our founders shows that Newcastle is well placed in developing innovative ideas and translating these ideas into a viable business.

“It’s been a tough 10 weeks for our founders who have worked through customer interviews, business model validation, and marketing experiments, but the great news is that they’ve risen to the challenge.

University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky said it was wonderful to see the hard work of these founders come to fruition with support from I2N.

“Our region is known for its innovation and with the support through the I2N Accelerator program it shows what our local people are truly capable of. Congratulations to all six of our founders, who are all ready to take the next steps for scaling their businesses – it has been incredibly exciting to see them grow through this program.”

Founder of Resourceful Living, Jess Hodge said the program had honed her focus and got her working on the business rather than in the business.

“Being challenged to bring focus to our product range and narrow down on a well-defined segment of customers has been transformational for us. As a team we are now working more effectively week-on-week to grow Resourceful Living and redefining the way consumers think about and engage with recycled plastic,” said Jess.

“By having access to knowledgeable and inspiring mentors who understand what we’re doing and why has been such a tremendous help. And the chance to work through an accelerator program alongside other founders building equally amazing and inspiring businesses has made the last few months incredibly special and rewarding.”

The University of Newcastle’s I2N supports start-ups and entrepreneurs in our region to get new ideas and businesses off the ground.

To date, I2N has helped accelerate and incubate 136 start-up and innovation teams, creating 125 new jobs.

Accelerator Program – Founders

Business Sales – Founded by Shane Fox, Keiran James and Ian Jones has developed a revolutionary commercial sales platform that helps hard-working business owners transition easily into and out of their businesses. Determined to streamline the online sales process, founders Kieran James, Ian Jones and Shane Fox realised that many small and medium-sized business owners feel overwhelmed and underprepared when it comes to buying or selling a business. not only offers Australia’s first purpose-built live sales platform, but they also provide the tools, resources, clarity and support required to ensure owners can transition into and out of business with confidence.

Resourceful Living – Founded by Jess and Geoff Hodge

Resourceful Living has devised a novel, impactful solution to the plastic environmental crisis affecting our planet by creating sustainable furniture. Using recycled plastic waste, they offer indoor and outdoor furniture that is stylish and functional. All furniture is Australian made, durable, lightweight, waterproof and most importantly, recyclable at the end of its life. Not only are passionate environmentalists and founders Geoff and Jess Hodge aiming to keep as much plastic waste as possible out of our oceans and landfills, but they are also hoping to change the way consumers think about and engage with recycled plastic.

Ecowater Engineering Australia – Founded by William Perren-Leveridge

Ecowater Engineering Australia is on a mission to rid Australia’s waterways of deadly blue-green algae. Following the large-scale fish kills in the Murray-Darling River system, founder William Perren-Leveridge was driven to develop a natural water treatment system that would safely remove harmful algal blooms from Australia’s agriculture, aquaculture, recreational facilities and waterways. Ecowater’s innovative floating platform, Ecobuoy, uses light and sound to manage and maintain healthy waterway conditions. The Ecobuoy is self-powered, self-contained, free from any chemicals and delivers extensive environmental, cultural and economic benefits.

Hey Zomi – Founded by Mikaela Koelma and Zoe Fehlberg

Hey Zomi’s menstrual disc will redefine the Australian period product market thanks to founders Mika Koelma and Zoe Fehlberg. These savvy sisters set out to design reusable period care that is better for our bodies, our planet and our pockets. The innovative disc design eliminates leaks, allows for mess-free period sex, is suction free, has a long wear time (up to 12 hours) and is extremely comfortable to use. It is like having a period, without feeling like you’re having a period! The Hey Zomi disc is made from 100% medical grade silicone and is Australian made and owned. It is Hey Zomi’s mission to ‘embrace the flow’ by empowering all menstruators to have periods on their own terms.

Bush and Bush Coffee Systems – Founded by Jake and Clay Bush

Coffee aficionados Jake and Clay Bush have created a revolutionary new coffee system that is set to standardise and unify the coffee industry – from freshly harvested green beans all the way to your coffee cup. Using purpose-built precision equipment, roasters and brewers alike can feed their results into the online system and receive feedback and extraction advice. This will ensure a consistent, definable flavour profile, specific to the needs of the different sectors of the market. Bush and Bush bring home brewers, cafes, coffee roasters, educators, coffee machine manufacturers and coffee service businesses together to expand on their artistry, share their knowledge and support one another.

Hyphen Health – Founded by James Sneddon and Dr Mitchell Tanner

Hyphen Health offers an innovative online health screening service that makes obtaining a pathology test or receiving health advice more convenient, accessible and discreet. Co-founders James Snedden and Dr Mitchell Tanner were determined to create a simplified, safe space where patients could access quality online healthcare screening, treatment and advice by certified doctors. Using a secure, reliable platform, patients are empowered with their own medical information and decisions. Hyphen Health currently provides four niche screening clinics including: PrEP Health for HIV protection, Stigma Health for STI screening, Bloke.Health supporting men’s health, and Roidsafe providing a steroid harm minimisation service. At Hyphen Health, every body is important and they are passionate about helping Australians get the health care they need.