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

Women At Work

Women working in trades is hardly a new concept, yet even in 2017 it is still perceived as somewhat unusual.

As is the case with many minority groups, women in trades are often faced with additional obstacles in the workplace. Some are forced to work in environments, which either cannot or will not protect them from harassment, while others face ongoing scrutiny of their professional abilities.

Over the weekend an all-woman plumbing company called Tradettes received a slew of negative reviews on their Facebook page from a number of men who, as it turns out, have never used their services.

Luckily for Tradettes the Project TV reported the story and were very much in support of the business concept. The page has since received over a thousand good reviews, trumping the 62 negative ones.

In Australia trades make up just over 14% of the entire workforce. However, enforced stereo-types in academic learning, lack of support for female apprentices and the common misconception that women just aren’t up to the task are a few of the reasons women make up only 2% of this workforce.

The five women featured in this photo-essay all work in non-traditional roles and are paving the way to a better and more equal future by breaking down barriers and shattering stereotypes of women at work.

Gianna (left) and Anna (right) in Anna’s Fitzroy leather repair store ‘On The Mend’. Leather work requires strong hands and great attention to detail.

Photography Folio PJ5 - Women in Non Traditional Roles

Women in Non Traditional Roles

Women in Non Traditional Roles

Women in Non Traditional Roles

Marcelle is a Carpenter and sole trader with 10 years experience.
Marcelle is a Carpenter and sole trader with 10 years experience.

Marcelle's Carpentry

Marcelle's Carpentry

Marcelle's Carpentry

Marcelle's Carpentry

Tiff (left) and Jaimi (right), interior and exterior painters. Tiff has been in the trade for close to a decade.
Tiff (left) and Jaimi (right), interior and exterior painters. Tiff has been in the trade for close to a decade.





Pip restores furniture and various other vintage goods at 'Recycled', the popular industrial homewares store in Fitzroy.
Pip restores furniture and various other vintage goods at ‘Recycled’, the popular industrial homewares store in Fitzroy.





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Cat works as a bicycle mechanic in Brunswick and is part of Wrenchworthy, a bike collective that provides a comfortable working space for women and the like.

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Cat_Bicycle Mechanic_4762

By Tiyana Matliovski

City of Yarra celebrates ‘bold women’ on International Women’s Day

The City of Yarra celebrated International Women’s Day (IWD) by holding its annual Inspirational Women of Yarra morning tea and award ceremony at Richmond Town Hall.

This year’s IWD theme was ‘Be bold for change’, and 17 women were awarded for their contributions to the Yarra community.

The awards were presented by Yarra Mayor, Councillor Amanda Stone, who highlighted the importance of International Women’s Day by stating that women have “such a long way to go when there is so much push-back against an idea like changing pedestrian crossing lights to reflect gender balance.”

Cr Stone with members of ‘Chompers’ dental program. Photo: JessieAnne Gartlan

The award recipients came from fields as varied as science, childcare, climate advocacy and women in sport. There was even a team nomination – school dental program, Chompers – which treats disadvantaged children for preventable dental diseases.

Students from Melbourne Girls’ College were also in attendance to support their own nominee, Amanda Lucas, for her work as an outdoor education teacher.

Cr Stone and Amanda Lucas. Photo: JessieAnne Gartlan

The morning tea was presented entirely by women, with Wurundjeri woman Georgina Nicholson opening the ceremony with a traditional Welcome to Country, and senior council staff MC-ing the event.

The keynote speaker was Stephanie Woollard, who founded a not-for-profit organisation after a trip to Nepal, where she met seven disabled women in a shed making candles and soaps that they were trying to sell at their local market.

After a phone call to consult with her mother, Ms Woollard immediately invested $200 to support the women to be also trained in knitting, selling the fair-trade products through her university back in Melbourne, and the organisation Seven Women was born.

The organisation has since expanded to include a literacy school for other disadvantaged women, a cooking school where visitors can learn authentic Nepalese cooking, and a tourism program.

Ms Woollard said women in Nepal who are disabled, widowed, or single mothers face enormous discrimination, but that education and income make all the difference to them.

Sharing her views on making an impact, Ms Woollard told the crowded room that “every one of us can make a difference, whether in the workplace or as (our choices as) consumers.”

Nominations were reviewed by a selection panel made up of council and community representatives and the award was open to all women who live, work, or study in Yarra.

Written by JessieAnne Gartlan