First Nations Entrepreneurs Program opens for applications

11 June 2024

Expressions of interest to join the NativeGrow™ First Nations Entrepreneur Program are open with applications closing 8 July 2024.

The program seeks applications from First Nations female entrepreneurs working on business ideas in food and agriculture, including food products, ingredients, skincare and beauty, health and wellness, technology, and medicinal products.

Successful applicants for NativeGrow™ will undertake a tailored three-month program to help tackle their biggest business challenges to growth, whether that’s branding, product development, market intelligence, sales or supply chain.

Bek Shepherd
Bek Shepherd from Edible Native Landscapes

The program, delivered in partnership with Australia’s Food and Beverage Accelerator (FaBA) and The University of Queensland, includes time On Country, industry visits, and access to a panel of expert mentors and advisors.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 0.2 per cent of Australian businesses are operated by Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander women, while Indigenous representation in the native agriculture and food sector is less than 2 per cent.

Dr Christine Pitt, co-founder and CEO of Food Futures, said the program has been designed to illuminate the journey of First Nations women to reclaim their place in one of the fastest growing agrifood sectors globally.

“The native agrifood sector is fundamental to First Nations cultural and social identity, " Dr Pitt said.

"With programs like NativeGrow™ , we are focused on promoting First Nations Sovereignty in the native food and agriculture industry by providing additional resources and tools to fast-track business growth."

Program alumni Bek Shepherd, founder of Edible Native Landscapes, said her involvement in the program was instrumental in making her more confident and taking the first steps.

“I have gained a wealth of knowledge and amazing friendships and connections," she said.

"With guidance from experienced businesses and mentors, the templates and resources that have been provided, I have so much more confidence in myself and am far more adept at building my business and becoming more successful.”

UQ Professor Yasmina Sultanbawa

UQ Centre for Nutrition and Food Sciences Director, Professor Yasmina Sultanbawa, who is supported by FaBA, described the program as playing a key role in developing future Indigenous entrepreneurs.

“The future success and strength of Australia’s food and beverage manufacturing industry relies on the diversity of knowledge and tradition that come from all corners of Australian society, none more so than First Nations Australians,” Professor Sultanbawa said. 

FaBA Director Dr Chris Downs said he hoped a similar opportunity would be made available to First Nations female entrepreneurs in another Australian state in the future.

NativeGrow represents an excellent opportunity for First Nations entrepreneurs to develop their skills and businesses, and we are delighted to support this program,” Dr Downs said.

We are searching for First Nations aspiring female entrepreneurs in Queensland who want to develop products and businesses in the food and agriculture sector. 

Applications to join the NativeGrow program are now open via the Food Futures Website and will close on 8 July 2024.

Contact: Blaire Burke, Food Futures Project Coordinator, Food Innovation & Entrepreneurship, mobile: 0478 559 978 or email: bburke@foodfutures.com.au or Sibilla Foxton, Food Futures Program Manager, Indigenous Women STEM & Entrepreneurship Pathways Project, mobile: 0458 767 615 or email: sfoxton@foodfutures.com.au.  

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