Marina Paronetto’s dream is to create a platform that will help young women learn and develop business skills and in the process set themselves, and their communities, up for success.
That dream is now a step closer after Paronetto was selected as one of a group of seven entrepreneurs to share in $300,000 in grants as part of Optus Future Makers program. The telecommunications giant launched the program earlier this year as a way to provide grants for digital projects with the ability to “change the social landscape”.
Paronetto, who works in the innovation team at PricewaterhouseCoopers and is the founder of Powerhousehq, secured a $50,000 grant for her Biz App, after a three-minute pitch to a panel that included Thank You Group co-founder Daniel Flynn, One10 founder Geoff Gourley, Foundation for Young Australians chief executive Jan Owen and Optus chairman Paul O’Sullivan.
The Melbourne-based entrepreneur told SmartCompany the grant will allow her to ramp up her plans to roll-out a minimal viable product by November for her app, which will be a peer-to-peer mobile platform targeted at teenage girls from all backgrounds who are starting to think about their future career options. Together with practical workshops at schools, the Biz App will allow users to setup a business with their friends, track sales and performance and connect with other young founders.
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“When you learn about business and finance you also gain some confidence to negotiate better and for women in general, those can be some of the things that are difficult for them – the more business side of things,” Paronetto says.
“It’s about giving them skills when they are young to encourage these visionaries who may feel a bit blocked.”
Paronetto says studies have also shown that when women in disadvantaged communities are given skills and support, they are able to improve not only their own lives, but those around them too.
“If we can support someone in a disadvantaged community, we will be helping much more than just one person.”
Paronetto hopes to develop close relationships with schools, saying the Biz platform can complement existing programs run by schools to teach business skills to students.
“One feature we hope to develop in the future is a connected account for classrooms that can be used for competitions or day-to-day learning,” she says.
“We want to make it easier for schools. If they are increasing their business curriculums, that’s a plus for our platform.”
And as for how she prepared to pitch the platform in just three minutes, Paronetto says she focused on finding the right words that she was comfortable using.
“The biggest break through for me was when I was practicing, I went into a private room and did a very funny version of my pitch,” she says.
“It was more playful and had a relaxed feeling … I think it helped translate into a more easy-going, more natural pitch.”
Also receiving a $50,000 grant from Optus Future Makers were: Colin Jowell from Sydney; Penny Harnett from Newcastle; Marita Cheng from Melbourne; Dr Rowan Tulloch from Sydney; and Brian Collyer and Rhianon Vichta from Brisbane, who were awarded a joint grant of the same value.