The Upstart Challenge

The Upstart Challenge, promoting entrepreneurship among kids, was started by the ‘two mad Scottish Women’, Jen Perks and Heather Kelly. We talk to Jen. ‘At a time when the nature of work is changing so rapidly we wanted to equip young people with the ability to create their own job and be in control of their future lifestyles. It is important that all young people have confidence and optimism in their future, regardless of whether they are sporty, creative, or academic.

Jen and Heather student launch 2016

What is the Upstart Challenge?
Upstart is a not-for-profit on a mission to raise awareness of entrepreneurship and business start-up as a career option. We equip young people for the jobs of the future as the economic and employment landscape transforms.
The Upstart Challenge is an entrepreneurial program and business ideas competition for high school students. We are working to build a culture where young people believe in themselves and their ability to start their own businesses at any time.

What inspired you to start it?
The existing thinking that we too often came across when speaking with young people was the traditional two option approach to life after school: either go on to further education (University, College, Trade) or else look for a job. We are presenting them with a third option. Create your own job.
Coming from a business/industry background and as parents of high school students ourselves, we felt there was a need to add value to the learning being undertaken at school, a need to get students working with industry mentors and learning through ‘real world’ experiences and connections.

What has been the most inspiring moment?
We are always inspired by the number of Big Ideas that are based on solving community issues and improving others’ lives. Many of our young people are very aware of the needs around them, whether in a local or global sense and show a great deal of empathy and determination to enhance the lives of others. For example, this year we have a couple of teams working on technology to assist the elderly and/or people living with a disability to live a normal life.

What’s your message for the people of Geelong?
Being involved in Upstart is a great way to invest in your community and make Geelong a fantastic place to live, work and play. Upstart celebrates our young people’s achievements and encourages a sense of ‘have a go’. Why not come along to our finale Pitching Showdown on August 25th and see first-hand what it’s all about?

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