QUT has welcomed its first cohort of Budding Entrepreneur Scholars – four talented young women who have each secured a $24,000 scholarship to help them through their studies and on their entrepreneurial journey.
The first-year students are fashion designer Elise Berry (Brisbane), robotics workshops company founder Sarah Eisenmenger (Sunshine Coast), motivational author Coby Lee Davis (Sunshine Coast), and dress hire company founder Jessica Carlile (Toowoomba) … all of whom only graduated from Year 12 last year. (See below for their stories of what drives their entrepreneurial passion.)
The new QUT Budding Entrepreneur Scholarships will provide support and funding over three years for each student and show that university is a great nurturing ground for enterprise.
“The aim of the program is to continue on the great work that many secondary schools are now doing in entrepreneurship,” said the Executive Director of QUT Entrepreneurship, Professor Rowena Barrett.
“Too often students think it’s a binary choice – you go to university or you go into the world and continue to grow your entrepreneurial venture.
“But you can do both. Come to QUT and we’ll help you grow and develop your entrepreneurial skills and ideas alongside whatever degree you choose to study.
“And, on International Women’s Day, we are particularly pleased to welcome these four young women who have received our first scholarships.
“There are many structures that work against women as entrepreneurs. We see those in venture capital funding decisions or intensive accelerator program structures, or in a ‘bro’ culture that discourages women (and other diverse peoples) and narrows the focus of what is entrepreneurship.
“Surprisingly, COVID changed some of this by levelling participation in the ecosystem with the increasing use of virtual technologies. But there’s much more that needs to be done.
“At QUT, we’ve created a very diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem to address this imbalance. We work on the confidence, resilience, skill and mindset needed to tread a less certain, less traditional path.
“We’re not driven by the number of ventures created or the funding achieved, but by the learning, resourcefulness and networks that individuals build. And along the way ventures are created and funded, while degrees are earned.”
QUT Entrepreneurship is a dedicated arm of the university that helps students bring ideas to life and develop entrepreneurial mindsets through programs, events and mentoring.
Its free services are open to all students, regardless of what they are studying.
Elise, Sarah and Jessica met with their new mentors from QUT Entrepreneurship last week to kick off their scholarship journey. (Coby has deferred until Semester 2 and will start her scholarship then.)
Professor Barrett said the standard of applicants had been very high for the scholarships’ debut year.
“Our applicants were doing an extraordinary number of different things – and all while they were in Year 12, during the pandemic,” she said.
“We are agnostic when it comes to entrepreneurship, so we were looking at the wide range of ways students were creating value for others through gathering and organising resources and reaching their target market. Entrepreneurship can be found in all professions and industries.”
Professor Barrett said one of the biggest misconceptions about entrepreneurship was that it couldn’t be taught.
“People have this view that you somehow pop out of the womb and are born an entrepreneur,” she said.
“That’s not what we believe. Entrepreneurship can definitely be taught and capabilities amplified through the mentoring and development programs we offer, and by connecting people with others at events with our large alumni group and the wider entrepreneurial community.
“If you are someone who enjoys problem solving and critical thinking, we want to meet you. Maybe you already have a business idea. Maybe you don’t … that’s okay, because we can help you with the skills to find an opportunity to realise or a problem to solve.”
Applications for the QUT Budding Entrepreneur Scholarships for 2022 will open later this year.
The 2021 inaugural recipients of the QUT Budding Entrepreneur Scholarships are:
Elise Berry, Bachelor of Creative Industries – Brisbane Christian College graduate and founder of Thyme + Rose fashion label:
"I’ve always been creative, whether it was making dress-ups as a kid, playing around with colours and fonts on my assignments, making drawings for my friends and family, or sewing with my grandma. I’m a big dreamer, a big picture kind of girl – so in the back of my brain I was constantly working on new ideas or side hustles. There was a stage in my life when almost every week I was going to my mum and saying: ‘Mum, I have a business idea!’ I loved clothes as a teenager but they were expensive – so I decided to try making what I wanted. I started posting Instagram photos and telling my friends that I was sewing my clothes. I also started researching it as a business idea, but it seemed overwhelming. Then a friend saw me in one of my dresses one day and begged me to make her one, which all sounded well and good – but then she said those magic words: ‘Elise, I’ll pay you for it!’. That was the moment I understood I didn’t need a flashy website, or a big advertisement or anything else on my list. Those things will come later but, right at that moment, I just needed a few people who believed in me. And so Thyme + Rose was born."
Sarah Eisenmenger, Bachelor of Business and Bachelor of Engineering – Chancellor State College graduate and founder of Zest Robotics:
"My passion to be an entrepreneur is driven by change – I want to push boundaries and defy stereotypes. In 2017, I took a step into the unknown and joined my school’s robotics club. I was the only girl in a room amongst 20 boys. The figures that I had read online regarding the gender gap in STEM suddenly became all too true. From that moment onwards, I decided that I wanted to inspire more girls to challenge themselves to explore the world of STEM. In 2018 I was one of 50 Queensland girls to participate in the annual STEM Girl Power Camp, which included working with QUT researchers. That inspired me to start my own ‘girls-only’ STEM initiative at my school, and hold weekly lunchtime activities where students in grades 7 to 10 could learn the basics of engineering and robotics. Our RoboGems team also entered – and won – the 2018 Sunshine Coast Mayor’s Telstra Technology Awards with a small group that fabricated an automated indoor agricultural system over eight weeks. In 2019, I travelled to Houston, Texas, to compete at the international FIRST Robotics Championship with the Chancellor State College team and, back home, founded ZEST Robotics to create interest in STEM in primary-school aged girls. I have now partnered with the Peregian Digital Hub and USC to deliver 20 Engineering and Robotic workshops to over 400 girls across the Sunshine Coast region."
Jessica Carlile, Bachelor of Creative Industries – Toowoomba State High School graduate and founder of Attention Dress:
"Mass clothing production generates rapid turnover – perfect for retailers, but a trap for consumers. Fast fashion has established materialistic habits within our society and tricked shoppers into a cycle of spending less money more frequently … But for every new piece there is an old one, and each of them contributes to the fashion industry’s status as the second-biggest source of pollution in the world. I believe that this can be changed through ‘fulfilling fashion’ – the achievable balance of sustainable, quality fashion, and fast fashion, using methods including DIY clothing, upcycling and second-hand shopping. The massive success of fast fashion means that it cannot be eradicated, but wastage statistics can be lowered with more sustainable habits. Currently, Australians throw away 85 per cent of textiles every year, proving that as a society we are stuck in the toxic cycle of buying cheap and throwing away. Most wastage comes from wear-once events like formals and the races. But hiring is an easy, affordable and sustainable option. That is why I started my own e-commerce for the purchase and hire of formal and cocktail dresses – Attention Dress. I hope to reach at least 5000 people with fulfilling fashion by 2025 through Attention Dress. I also plan to expand the services to provide personal styling and DIY education."
Coby Lee Davis, Bachelor of Creative Industries and Bachelor of Business – Noosa Pengari Steiner School graduate and author of Thrive: A Young Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting a Business:
"As a young child I always wanted to be a part of the business world – to sell stuff, to make friends and to make people smile by bringing value. It all began with busking, and small market stalls selling succulents that I propagated which eventually grew into a larger indoor plant side-hustle. I couldn’t study business at my small high school so, in Year 10, I completed a Diploma of Business externally. When I was 12, I fell in love with writing, and wrote and self-published a young fiction novel and then at 14, I wrote a 60,000-word self-published novel for my Year 8 school project. And at the end of 2019, I decided to write a book that would assist young Australian entrepreneurs in starting their own businesses. I interviewed business owners from around Australia, and included their advice and experiences. In October 2020, I self-published Thrive: A Young Entrepreneurs Guide To Starting a Business. I wanted to prove to the youth of today that anybody can do anything if they set their mind to it. I may not be the most academically gifted, but there’s one thing that I live by and that’s taking matters into my own hands and setting goals, meeting new people, and trying new things. My goals for my future are to one day build a café/retail/studio complex, to promote my book further, and to explore holding workshops, podcasts, and mentorships."
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