Meet our Melbourne February 2020 E3 Cohort

Meet our Melbourne February 2020 E3 Cohort

We've kicked off February 2020 with a Melbourne  E3 program with 8 incredible women, hosted by the amazing Mary Minas. Mary's background in film and entrepreneurship is instrumental in helping teach the cohort invaluable storytelling skills as well as great industry insights. 
The 8 women attend once a week to learn how to pitch and consider all elements of their businesses. Thanks to Phillips Ormond Fitzpatrick for hosting the women. Read on to learn more about each participant and their business.

Jacqui Bloom – The Helping Hub

The Helping Hub is the only online gifting marketplace matching real-world needs with practical solutions and feel-good ideas designed to make a difference.  The Helping Hub gives people the opportunity to gift themselves or others professional support services and a range of thoughtful gift options that focus on helping people heal, restore and re-energise when they need it most, through life’s ups and downs. Focused on making people feel better in a way that’s useful, purposeful, meaningful and sustainable, The Helping Hub is a go-to solution for thoughtful gifts that delight and support in a truly meaningful way. It’s the gift of comfort, relief and a smile.  We are the answer to the question, “how can I help?”.

With a passion for helping others and through her own personal experiences of grief, loss, motherhood, illness, injury, and divorce Jacqui recognised that help is often the most difficult to ask for, but also the most appreciated.  Following the devastation of her mum’s passing, Jacqui was inspired to find an easier way to help people help themselves and others in need – as well as making ways to celebrate life’s happiest occasions more meaningful and memorable.

Jacqui seamlessly blends 20+ years of business acumen, strategy and creativity, together with experience in Personal and Palliative Care to deliver the best possible partner and customer experiences both online and face-to-face.  She has created a collaborative team of highly experienced finance, commercial and marketing consultants dedicated in sharing the overall mission of The Helping Hub. 


Vanessa Babuin-Perera – Sonsee Woman

Sonsee Woman committed to making innovative solutions to empower women through technology in garments. We believe a woman who is comfortable and confident has more time to think of concurring the world. 

When you start your career as a pattern maker in an exclusive wedding fashion house, you learn a lot about women, fashion and fit. When Vanessa moved onto product development, creating private label fashion for large retailers, including Kmart, Target, Country Road, Witchery, Seed and Gap, she learned about mass production and she saw the limitations it brings. After 20 years in the fashion industry she really understood the importance of marking products that make you feel confident and comfortable through fit and technology. Vanessa quickly recognized the synergy between technical fibres and our modern lifestyle and how bringing technology into garments can greatly impact our well-being and comfort. Sonsee was born out of embracing the traditions of well fitting tailoring and modern innovations in technology.  

Mereki Nieman – Backpocket 

At BackPocket, our purpose is to support people to prioritise their physical and mental health by helping them manage out-of-pocket expenses. We provide a simple and disciplined way to save and pay for health expenses and get extra financial help when needed.   

Mereki has over 15 years experience in Product, Technology and Management Roles in Payments,  Financial Services and Online Retail at MYOB, ANZ and Coles. Her previous start ups include Rensa, a healthcare payments business (formed as part of the inaugural Australian Antler program) and co-founder / Director at Spezia, a small business focused on delivering affordable IT Solutions for SMEs. Mereki has also had first hand experience with significant out-of-pocket expenses through several rounds of IVF, driving her passion behind BackPocket.


Ravini Abeywichrama – Knowlab

Knowlab is a consulting service aimed at improving the motivation, wellbeing, and efficiency of our customers. We do this through products and services that have deep roots in psychology and neuroscience. Specifically, we use our expertise in a particular area of psychology called “self-persuasion” to encourage healthier behaviors, such as, exercising.  Our key service offering (currently in the Validation stage) will merge our cutting-edge research in self-persuasion with technology to deliver an online platform called “Athena”. Through conversations with Athena, users will be able to motivate themselves to make better, healthier decisions.   

Ravini is an avid learner and educator, having worked in the higher education sector for over half a decade. She designs and facilitates bespoke training programs to educate and empower tertiary students to pursue work that is aligned with their unique strengths and capabilities. Ravini loves solving complex problems, and her approach is driven by her passion for understanding the human mind, and her strange obsession with data. She is currently combining her passions for people and data by pursuing a PhD in psychology. Through her research she investigates this pressing question: how can we leverage psychological processes to help people make healthier decisions?


Karen Tan – The Wellness Keeper

The Wellness Keeper is a corporate wellness coaching and consultancy service working with high achievers and organisations apply healthy habits across all aspects of their lives and business to reach their full potential and be their desired best, create sustainable positive workplace cultures and happy, healthy businesses.

Our mission is to support and inspire you to invest, enhance and sustain great health, wellness and comfort. Through our values of connection, collaboration, respect, resilience, empathy and empowerment, we aim to build a movement of simple, positive actions and steps for everyone to live well, eat well, work well and play well to achieve the balance and wellness we all desire.

Karen is a wellness and built environment expert with a passion in advancing workplace wellness through the delivery of wellness programs that incorporates all aspects of individual wellbeing and the built environment to create a happy healthy culture, laying the foundation for a focused, productive, creative and influential business. Through her own lived experience, Karen views the foundations of wellness as critical to the future of a happy healthy individual and has set off on a mission to empower each person she meets to make health an everyday priority.

Sage Lamont – Golden Grind

Golden Grind celebrates the natural medicinal benefits of Turmeric across a range of 8 products, sitting across Superfood, Supplement and Skincare categories. Founded 4 years ago, Golden Grind supplies Turmeric based products to over 2000 health food stores, grocers, retailers, food service outlets, as well as direct to customers via an online store, in Australia, New Zealand, the UK & USA. Market leading with innovative ingredient specific products, Golden Grind has won awards such as Best Beverage Australia, as well as receiving thousands of positive testimonials from customers who have had positive results after using a Golden Grind product. Golden Grind won the prestigious award of Best Beverage Australia in 2017.

Graduating from Victoria University in 2013 with a Bachelor of Law (Hons) and Bachelor of Business (banking and finance), Sage followed her passion and opened the Melbourne division of then Sydney based talent agency, WINK models. Sage was the epitome of ‘breaking the mould’ when it came to the modelling industry. Starting out as a model in her early teens in a cut-throat world where girls were expected to change, alter and lose weight just to get the job, Sage’s inner compass and academic history directed her towards a higher road. She joined the WINK Models head office, an industry leading agency known for its healthy perception and projection of beauty, and seven years later was the Managing Director and part owner of a national, multi-million dollar business. Critical to the success of WINK Models has been Sage’s innate ability to predict trends and remain innovative amongst a saturated market. Passionate about inclusivity and diversity in the industry, Sage saw the first disabled models booked on an Australian Fashion Week runway as well as two internally created, successful campaigns, #BackYourself and #DiverseTalentMatters, amongst other industry leading initiatives to encourage a representation of inclusive and diverse talent in Australian advertising. Sage resigned from an operational role in WINK Models in June 2019 to focus on her other ventures.

In addition to running WINK Models, Sage launched Golden Grind in 2016, along with her co-founders, Tahli and Renwick Watts. In 2019, Sage co-founded Be Bliss Baby, a modern cloth nappy company that provides a solution to socially and environmentally conscious parents and their needs, whilst aiming to demystify the concept of cloth nappies.


Tina Waru – Indigenous Runway Project

Not for Profit, The Indigenous Runway Project, has transformed the lives of more than 1600 Indigenous young people; increasing their confidence and self-esteem so that they feel empowered to take ownership of their future.  The Indigenous Runway Project develops programmes that responds to community needs and that develops leadership capacity providing structured support to help Indigenous young people from around the world define their own careers in the fashion industry. The Indigenous Runway Project has been nominated for the 2014 and 2016 National Australian Reconciliation Action and Best Practice for the Aboriginal Education Strategy - Garrin Garrin; a strategy introduced to improve learning and development outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians.  In 2015 its founder Tina Waru received the Australian of the Day Award for Victoria and was nominated in the 2016 Australian of Year Award. Since then she has taken the initiative to other Indigenous communities; to New Zealand and Canada and was instrumental in the establishment of international sister organisations in New Zealand and Canada. 

The Indigenous Runway Project has grown a great deal gaining support by various partners like PwC, MECCA MAX, MCEC, Allens Linklaters to name a few, and are now moving towards a Social Enterprise model.

Tina Waru is an Indigenous woman from New Zealand, living in Melbourne, Australia. In her earlier career she worked in a factory sewing sportswear and later trained as a makeup artist. It wasn’t till her late twenty’s that Tina decided to pursue an education gaining post graduate qualifications in psychology and Indigenous studies. 

Tina worked in the mental health sector for 10 years in New Zealand and spent the past 14 years in Australia working in the health and education sector developing initiatives for Australian Aboriginal communities. In 2011 Tina facilitated a makeup workshop for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in Melbourne Australia and soon after she embarked on a journey to develop an empowering global Indigenous initiative. 

In 2014 Tina founded the Indigenous Runway Project in Australia; the concept was driven by her desire to empower Indigenous young people with confidence, motivation and pride; the very qualities she lacked as a young Indigenous woman. The Indigenous Runway Project has now gained national and international recognition and has received over 6,500 expressions of interest.  The initiative embraces the hidden beauty and talent of Indigenous young people, enabling them to explore career pathways in the fashion industry.

Tina went on to pioneer the world’s first Global Indigenous Management for international Indigenous fashion projects and events. In 2014 Tina was invited to host the Global Catwalk for the AIDS Conference supporting diversity and creating awareness and support of other unique challenges.

Tina is the first Indigenous person in the Commonwealth to change the face of the Australian fashion industry after introducing and creating the Global Indigenous Runway platform in 2012 showcasing Aboriginal, Maori, Native American, African, Pacific and First Nation designers for more than seven years and continues to feature in two of Australia’s top fashion festival’s Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival (VAMFF) and Melbourne Fashion Week.  In 2016 the Global Indigenous Runway made history becoming the first independent fashion event to be included as part of the official core program for VAMFF.

Tina Waru asserts that, “Our success comes from empowering Indigenous young people to feel comfortable in their own skin and the need to showcase the multitude of talented Indigenous designers we have.  What better time than now to make a mark in the fashion industry, so that Indigenous beauty and fashion can be unearthed, as cultural diversity and appreciation evolves. The visibility of Indigenous fashion, models and talent around the world is few and far between. We have now become the driving force in promoting First Nations peoples and making a significant impact on the fashion industry in Australia and around the globe.”