In Startup Smart

RMIT University is set to run a new program aiming to inspire, connect and prepare the next generation of female entrepreneurs thanks to a $100,000 Victorian state government grant.

Senior projects office at RMIT’s College of Business Bri Johnstone created the Bright Sparks program, which received the grant as part of LaunchVic’s first round of funding.

The program will aim to empower the institution’s global network of female staff, students and alumni, and connect them with world-class leaders and entrepreneurs.

“What inspired me to create this is that there is such a low proportion of women in leadership positions and, in my experience, nothing that can help to get that,” Johnstone tells StartupSmart.

Helping the next generation

Beginning in February next year, Bright Sparks will take 14 Australian participants through a four-month program that will include a two-week trip to San Francisco.

All these activities will focus on fundamental leadership themes like purpose, vision, agility, collaboration and teamwork, resilience and intercultural communication, Johnstone says.

“The vision is to create a community of women at RMIT that can be there to inspire and support each other,” she says.

Applications for Bright Sparks will be open till September-end this year.

“The ideal participant is someone that has never had the chance to do something like this before, who has never been exposed to this type of learning or this type of experience,” Johnstone says.

Thanks to the $100,000 share of LaunchVic’s grant, Johnstone says she’ll be able to secure the best facilitators and programming for Bright Sparks.

“It will also help to really profile the program and participants,” she says.

The first Bright Sparks intake will also be filmed by a student documentary crew during the San Francisco trip.

Johnstone says the funds will also be used to build an online platform for Bright Sparks that will help connect RMIT’s worldwide network with a digital face-to-face community.

Rocket Seeder

RMIT also received a $675,000 grant from LaunchVic for Rocket Seeder, a startup accelerator focusing on agricultural technology.

Rocket Seeder will be based in Melbourne with programs running initially in Shepparton, Sale, Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat, Colac, Horsham, Wodonga, Mildura and Warrnambool.

The LaunchVic funding will be used to scale up the programs and increase the pipeline of startups and high growth companies coming out of RMIT.

RMIT’s accelerator and incubator initiative director Renzo Scacco says the programs are a snippet of what’s to come as the tertiary educator deepens its footprint in the startup sector.

RMIT also runs other programs like the New Enterprise Investment Fund offering interest-free loans to student startups and Indigenous Business Creation scholarships.

“We are increasing the flow of entrepreneurial talent by drawing on our large, diverse student and industry networks, expanding our established methods and building new partnerships,” Scacco says.

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