New England Girls School (NEGS) student, Olivia Joyce, is this year's youngest participant in the UNE Smart Region Incubator Emerge Young Entrepreneur Program. With a maturity beyond her years and a vision to see her products being worn by girls and elite athletes, this young entrepreneur is an emerging star on the start-up scene.
When Olivia completed a Year 11 Business Studies assignment to create and market an imaginary product, she never dreamt she would find herself in an intensive start-up young entrepreneurs program just months later.
"It's all happened so fast, sometimes I forget that I've got this business idea that I'm working on! But I'm really enjoying balancing my studies with exploring and developing my idea. It's exciting."
Proving that even the simplest of products are ripe for innovation, Olivia is working on a range of hair accessories designed for active girls and women.
"I've always had really long hair and as a netballer, I found it frustrating that I had to wear several hairbands so that my bun didn't bounce out as I ran and jumped. I thought that if I had this problem,then surely other girls did too."
Olivia came up for her brand Running Bun Active, a unique all-in-one hairband and scrunchie solution to keep hairstyles in place while exercising or playing sport. Olivia's Business Studies teacher was instantly supportive that her hypothetical product could be a business opportunity.
Olivia conducted a survey on her fellow students at NEGS to see if other girls faced the same frustrations with hair accessories. She discovered that the majority who played sports used several hairbands to keep their hair off their face.
The next step included developing prototypes and getting real feedback from students.
"I spent a lot of time experimenting with different fabrics and elastic types. Scrunchies are really on-trend right now and a lot of girls are using them for additional hold while they're playing sport. So, I designed a combined hair band-scrunchie to keep hair in place," Ms Joyce said.
The feedback for the initial designs was promising, so Olivia decided to test her idea at the State Netball Championships. Again, she found that other girls were looking for a better solution.
Olivia's teacher recommended that she apply for the UNESMART Region Incubator's Young Entrepreneurs Emerge Program. Despite the competitive selection process, Olivia was successful in securing one of just 12 places in this year's four-week program led by Ian Mason Founder and CEO of Rainbow Bridge Education.
Emerge is one of the UNE SRI's annual line-up of programs and events designed to support start-up founders in the New England Region. The program has been taking place in Armidale and Tamworth over the last three weeks and will conclude with a pitch event and graduation ceremony in Armidale on the evening of September 26 at Charlie's Last Stand in Armidale.