Our Explore Experience

Our Explore Experience

Written by Explore Alumnae Chelsea Smoker & Caris McClements
Soon to be: Bekdel Capital

A shared passion for woman, venture capital and entrepreneurship were the foundations that turned a 30 minute ‘virtual coffee’ into months of idea development and an application into the SBE Explore Program!

At the time, we were both working full time at PwC, one of us studying to be a Chartered Accountant and the other studying to be a Chartered Financial Analyst. Needless to say, spare time was a hot commodity!  In addition to this, Caris is based in Melbourne and Chelsea based in Perth so logistics were what some may call…tricky.  In spite of this, our passion for woman in entrepreneurship and desire to start a business kept us on call after call, working through what a female-focused crowd equity platform would look like.

In addition to having industry experience in start-ups and venture capital, we were constantly reading articles and websites all about “how to start a business” and quickly becoming inundated with enormity of the task at hand. We found ourselves going in circles and extending our timelines in order to incorporate a new idea from a new article that “we must do before anything else”. We started to realize we might not have all the answers and needed some guidance and structure to help us progress from ideation into an actual business.

Chelsea had heard about the SBE Explore program during her time on secondment with Scale Investors. The alignment between SBE’s mission and our business idea made it a no brainer to apply. After discovering that the deadline was less than 24 hours away, we hustled like crazy and got the application in 1 minute before closing, unsure if we even had a chance (hello imposter syndrome!). We were absolutely thrilled to be selected and it was with a huge excitement we embarked on the 8-week SBE Explore journey.

We immediately knew we had made the right decision. Through the steady guidance of Rochelle Leahy, our program coordinator and successful entrepreneur herself, we knew were in the right hands. The program gave us structure, perspective and insights while also ensuring that the two of us set aside time each week to work on our idea. We become more efficient and effective when it came to achieving milestones and knew we had people to talk to if and when we became stuck.

The Program covered all the essentials including branding, making money and communicating with your intended market. Our three biggest learnings (in no particular order) were;

  1. to stop endlessly deliberating over the little things because your first product should not be your final product (it is call minimum viable product for a reason);
  2. the importance of being flexible and (actually) responding to the feedback you are given; and
  3. sometimes it is important to spend money rather than trying to do it yourself (consult a lawyer!).

Every week challenged our thinking and pushed us out of our comfort zones and into the start-up world. When we look at the impact The Explore Program had on us and our business development, it is hard to know where to begin. A few of the most notable impacts include:

  • The network of incredible woman taking part in the course alongside us and the opportunity to be in a group of people at a similar stage of their journey;
  • The guest speakers and network of entrepreneurs who were all so open about their journey, insights and challenges; and
  • The opportunities that comes from being part of the SBE community.


In truth, it is all the above that cumulated in an invaluable experience for our business development We are incredibly grateful to Rochelle and the SBE team including Libby, Anna and Olivia for facilitating such an empowering program. The guest speakers were nothing short of exceptional offering insights into venture capital, financial modelling, government and grants, law and entrepreneurship.

We will be forever looking back at our time on the SBE Explore Program. The Saturday morning classes were often followed by hours of discussions between ourselves and other founders in the course. We were able to develop, brainstorm and progress our ideas feeling the dream of our business coming to life. We will forever lean on the network we have from the course and be able to reach out for inspiration and motivation when required. We whole heartedly recommend this program for anyone who is in the ideation stage of your business and just needs that extra bit of guidance. Be prepared to leave with a clearer business roadmap and a network of incredible female founders.

 To find out more about the Explore Program, click here.