Yarra, Moreland and Darebin unite to help give young entrepreneurs a go

Do you ever feel attacked by the media for being a part of a generation of self-centred narcissists who spend too much money on smashed avo and not enough on a housing deposit? Kate Rizzo, youth development officer for the Yarra council and leader of the Young Entrepreneurs in the North program, thinks this assessment of young people couldn’t be further from the truth.

Rizzo, 27, has a degree in Psychology and Social work, runs her own social enterprise and has a passion for working with what she says is one of the most misrepresented demographics: youth.

Kate Rizzo (centre) with last years Young Entrepreneurs. Photo: Juan Castro.

Since being developed by a colleague of Rizzo’s in conjunction with the Yarra council in 2014, Entrepreneurs in the North has since expanded to the cities of Moreland and Darebin under Rizzo’s leadership, beginning in 2015.

Rizzo said the aim of the program is to “support young people in business develop an idea,” by running weekly workshops with guest speakers, and providing mentors for participants. With 18 young people from the City of Yarra currently receiving mentorship as part of the program, Rizzo said that about 80 per cent of participants are of African heritage, and are inspired to develop many of their business ideas specifically for the African community.

Rizzo gave an example of two young Somalian women called Fatima and Huda who are creating a “safe space” for Somalian women to discuss traditionally taboo subjects like sex and relationships. The young women told Rizzo that many African women are discouraged from talking about sex and relationships among family and peers, making this project especially beneficial for these women.

Young entrepreneur Nyonno Bel-Air is a success story from last year’s intake. Bel-Air, pictured above, discovered a gap in the cosmetics market for people with tan to dark skin tones, so she used the program to help create the highly successful brand, Kleur Cosmetics, which specialises in formulating shades for skin with high levels of melanin. The brand already has a following of almost one and a half thousand on Instagram, and is definitely a space to watch.

Kleur Cosmetics latest foundation. Photo: Instagram.

Rizzo said that Young Entrepreneurs in the North was developed after seeing a lack of employment opportunities for youth. It has since received funding from the Yarra and Moreland council’s youth services and economic development units.

The workshops are run weekly on a Tuesday night by the Roshambo Group, who, according to their website are “founders, investors and advisors, working with … individuals, teams, departments, and businesses to efficiently and effectively deliver the critical 21st-century adaptability [to business].”

Rizzo said that the young people in the program are working to “modern models of business” rather than the old school, and are using state-of-the-art technology and strategies to make sure their businesses get off the ground in the right direction.

So, if you’re a young person who resides in the City of Yarra, Darebin or Moreland and have a great business idea, email kate.rizzo@yarracity.vic.gov.au or phone 9426 1455 to sign up for this awesome program to kick-start your career and prove to the media and your parents that young people aren’t just self-absorbed avo-eating dreamers with no realistic goals.

Watch last year’s video by Moreland City Council to find out more:

Written by Caitlin Matticoli

Cultivating workplace culture: how migrants are enriching this Collingwood enterprise

Consumerism, fast fashion and immigration are issues that are fast becoming household discussions. The ever-increasing conversations surrounding these socio-economic and environmental topics are making them much harder to ignore.

As we all struggle to be better humans, to find a way to make a meaningful difference, one social-enterprise in Fitzroy has already done just that. For almost a decade, The Social Studio has been employing a globalisation of a different kind using an untapped resource many Australian employers are ignoring – individuals of migrant and refugee backgrounds.

In February of 2017 it was reported that the unemployment rate of East African and Middle Eastern immigrants was averaging 33 percent in the first five years of settlement; six times higher than the national average. While, most migrants will cite employment as an integral part of their settlement, they often face hurdles in getting into the Australian workforce.

The Social Studio, situated amongst the cultural crucible of Collingwood’s Smith Street is a not-for-profit social enterprise on a mission. Founded in 2009, what originally began as a provider of design and sewing classes has since evolved into a successful, multi-faceted organisation intent on improving the lives of those most marginalised in our community. According to CEO Eugenia Flynn, the enterprise’s objectives are simple; “We use the vehicle of a fashion and hospitality business including a clothing label, retail shop, digital printing studio, café and a catering business to create meaningful social change”.

Through its fashion label, textile studio, and café, The Social Studio employs young refugees and immigrants, or those hailing from migrant backgrounds, offering employment with a creative twist. Employees are encouraged to express and share their culture, forging links between refugee and migrant groups and the wider community. Clothes sold in the Social Studio’s Smith Street store are produced locally, with sustainable resources to minimise environmental impact. Designs are affordably priced and feature vibrant, bold prints with significant cultural meanings behind each piece. The adjoining café, The Cutting Table, is also staffed by young refugees and migrants and serves a menu featuring a blend of East and West African fare.

The label’s designs feature vibrant prints all produced locally and sustainably. Photo: Alice Wilson

In addition to providing employment opportunities, the Social Studio makes it possible for refugees to get certified within the areas of hospitality and design. “Our purpose is to create meaningful and long-term pathways into employment for young people from a refugee or migrant background, and who may have experienced barriers to accessing education and/or securing employment.” Says Ms Flynn. “We provide TAFE level training, work experience, volunteer opportunities and employment in fashion, manufacturing, retail and hospitality, creating imperative education and employment opportunities and pathways.”

Since its beginning, the Social Studio has provided education and employment for over 580 people from refugee and migrant backgrounds. One such individual who has benefited from this enterprise is Abuk Bol, who worked as a seamstress in Sudan before she came to Australia in 2004 as a refugee. Abuk came across the Social Studio, after several failed attempts to get into the Australian workforce. She has since gone on to work for Brunswick-based bridal designer Mariana Hardwick and is now the owner of her own enterprise, Twich Women’s Sewing Collective, which sells clothing and homewares in her home town of Dandenong. “I was interested in clothes making and wanted to do something that could get me a job, being an immigrant and hardly knowing English, I decided to do the Certificate III in clothing production with the Social Studio.”

Abuk’s story is a great example of how increasing just one persons skill set can, in turn, work towards increasing many. The Social Studio champions multiculturalism and demonstrates that these individuals contribute to, rather than diminish the economy. “I now have my own store and space where I can help women like me get certification and jobs.” Abuk says.  “I would like to provide women, especially ones in a minority, the opportunity to get an education and a job. Or just somewhere they feel they belong.”

The Social Studio and Cutting Table Cafe, located on Collingwood’s Smith St. Photo: Alice Wilson

This sense of belonging is perhaps the most important contribution the Social Studio provides. “For students it’s developing friendships and broadening their community, branching out and become more open to everyone else.” Says Helen Kelabora, a teacher for the Certificate III clothing course the Studio offers. The benefits of an organisation like the Social Studio are as diverse as the services they offer to those they employ and to the Yarra community. For Eugenia Flynn, the is much more work to be done, “we would love to consolidate our work across the past eight years and create a deeper social impact” and it’s through the help of the Yarra community that this can be achieved.

Written by Alice Wilson

Coffee date with: Ruby Kerrison

Meet 20-year-old Ruby Kerrison, the super sweet and positively vibed barista at Richmond’s slightly outlying cafe Long Street Coffee. In a converted garage – complete with the industrial-minimalist look Melbournians love and basketball hoop out front – Long Street serves up sensationally good coffee using beans from Proud Mary and fights for positive social change with a hospitality traineeship that empowers refugees and people seeking asylum.

Yarra Reporter: So tell us a little bit about Long Street

Ruby Kerrison: So, Long Street [opened] last year and it was started by Jane and Francois Marx. They started it because they wanted to use their activism for refugees and channel that in a way that has real life outcomes for people. So, the principles of Long Street are that we offer paid hospitality traineeships for refugees [and asylum seekers] so they gain real life hospitality skills in Melbourne, which is awesome because it also gets them used to this dynamic hospitality industry that we have in Melbourne.

YR: How many trainees are involved in Long Street?

RK: So we have [3-month long] traineeships. At the moment I work with a girl called Malisha from Papua New Guinea.  She [works] two days a week and then we’ve also got another person who comes in on the weekends; I only work with Malisha. We start them out on the floor and from on the floor we start teaching them about filter coffees and get them working their way up to the coffee machine. They get to experience everything. [I get] to help with training, which has been awesome, and we all do coffee training at Market Lane. There is definitely an emphasis on how much of a team we are.

Entrance to Long Street Coffee. Photo: Roxanne Fitzgerald
Entrance to Long Street Coffee. Photo: Roxanne Fitzgerald

YR: How did you start working at Long Street?

RK: I found an add and had a couple of trials. It just worked out perfectly well for me. The values here are in line with my values because I’m quite passionate about social justice as well. It’s really awesome to be part of a team that’s all on the same level [and] all want the same thing. [We are all] really passionate about providing an awesome service for people and also creating a community of sorts. It’s just an awesome place to work.

YR: Where did you learn to make coffee?

RK: I worked at a cafe previously for a year. It definitely wasn’t like this – as in they didn’t have a strong set of values. Here we have a real emphasis on being professional and also being individual. I learned to make coffee in my first job and I got used to working independently because it was quite a small cafe. [Long Street] is bigger, so it has been good to be able to up my skills both in volume and also consistency. Francois has been making coffee for maybe 10 years, so he’s been able to really guide me through and, like, tell me how I’m going, and basically train me.

Inside Long Street Coffee, where staying for a while and relaxing is encouraged. Photo: Roxanne Fitzgerald
Inside Long Street Coffee, where staying for a while and relaxing is encouraged. Photo: Roxanne Fitzgerald

YR: What’s your favourite part of your day working at Long Street?

RK: I genuinely love coming to work with the people I work with. It’s such an awesome place to be because my colleagues are great people. North Richmond kind of feels small because we have so many regulars and we’ve created a nice little community. The other night we had our Christmas party [with] all of the regulars and it was so lovely to hang out with everyone. It was just nice and super chilled.

YR: And the worst part?

RK: I’m super prone to anxiety, so whenever it gets busy I do tend to get a bit flustered, however… always improving.

YR: If you weren’t making coffee at Longstreet what would you be doing?

RK: I’m also working at a Call Centre, which is all right, but I honestly much prefer doing this…[I love] being in this fast-paced environment, working with people, helping people, and really feeling like you’re getting something from other people.

YR: Do you see yourself doing this for the foreseeable future?

RK: I reckon so. I’m also studying Gender Studies and Australian Indigenous Studies at Melbourne University at the moment, but I have no concrete plans in terms of a career. Right now I’m really happy doing this because I feel comfortable and I’ve finally found the perfect balance with uni, work and having a social life.

YR: Awesome, so you study, you work at Longstreet and the call centre, what do you do in your spare time?

RK: Okay, what do I do… I love reality TV. I’m also a ferocious reader. I’ve been getting into pottery a bit, which has been really awesome, I also just, like, enjoy getting out and cycling. I’ve just moved house, so I’ve been enjoying getting out and about and exploring.

YR: Where is your favourite place to grab a coffee?

RK: I live in North Melbourne and at the moment I’m really enjoying going to Counter, which I’m pretty sure is owned by Auction Rooms, but it’s a much smaller place. It’s really lovely, though, super chilled – not as busy.

YR: What’s next for Ruby Kerrison?

RK: Oh my gosh, I don’t know. I think I’m going to do Honours in Gender Studies. Hopefully. And then go travelling a bit. But, in terms of the next year I’m so happy to be working [at Long Street Coffee] and studying. I feel like I’m in a really good place at the moment.

Read more about Long Street Coffee here.


Written by Roxanne Fitzgerald