Meet Newcastle’s next cohort of entrepreneurs. 

Young, innovative and passionate about what they can offer the city’s residents, the students participating in a new 18-month startup program are challenging the idea that people with intellectual disability cannot create, and sustain, their own businesses.   

Michael Peard, 19, of Maitland, already runs his own startup. He says his goal isn’t just self-employment. 

“I am going to employ someone one day, it’s going to come to a head,” he said.

After completing an internship in car detailing, Mr Peard swapped his shifts at McDonald’s for creating his own mobile service called ‘Sparkles with Shine’.

“Vacuuming, polishing, hand-washing the car, doing the wheels and tires and dressing them… I love working with cars because cars are my favourite,” he said. 

Mr Peard said he hoped the course, held in Mayfield, would teach him more marketing strategies.

“It’s a great journey, it takes time to get where you want to go,” he said

Jonathan Bridge of Raymond Terrace, 21, says he has struggled to find job and training opportunities that suit his skills and interests, but has an idea that would allow him to work in his dream field. 

“I’m a wannabe game developer. I’ve tried, but me and courses don’t get along nicely,” he said.  After playing a board game with friends of differing intellectual abilities, he came up with a plan to run an accessible board games group. “There was value to the connection and community it provides,” he said. 

Mr Bridge would modify and select games to suit the players. Participants would include the activity as an expense in their NDIS plans. 

“I found that people like working together. If I could potentially rig up some kind of team mode for these games then people can come along and have a full competitive experience,” he said.

Challenge Community Services’ Beth Innes, who designed and secured government funding for the “completely new” program, which is in its second week, said it would cover “pretty much every aspect of starting a business”. 

“I guess the reason the idea came about is because people with disability, more so physical disability, are actually over-represented as business owners,” she said.

“Some of them because they can’t get mainstream employment. A lived experience of having a disability also gives you ideas that other people don’t see.

“I thought then why not people with intellectual disability? Because they have faced similar barriers.”

Amparo Morgan, 33, of The Hill, who is currently working as a cleaner said she did not have a specific business idea yet but would like to look after other people’s pets.

“I’m a big believer in animal care,” she said.  

The incubator’s participants will pitch their businesses to interested community members at the end of the course. 

For more information about the Start Up program contact disabilityservices@challengecommunity.org.au.

Story and photo by Newcastle Herald, 14 December 2018.