Here are the 12 female-founded startups the University of Newcastle just helped women build

- December 8, 2023 5 MIN READ
The I2N female founders program class of 2023
If you’re a VC looking to improve your track record on investing in startups led by women, bookmark this story.

Twelve women-led startups are about to emerge from the University of Newcastle’s I2N Female Founders Program.

The program’s main aim is to level the playing field for committed female founders to build their businesses and reach their fullest potential.

Designed for women in the Newcastle and Hunter region, and supported by the NSW government, the dazzling dozen will showcase the results of the 10-week course, which spans customer interviews, market analysis, and business model validation, to potential investors, and others, next Wednesday, December 13 at the University.

It’s free and if you’re keen to get along, you can book tickets here.

While not every idea is unicorn material, they’re nonetheless addressing serious problems, especially when it comes to keeping women safe.. A great example of that is What Were You Wearing, a non-profit addressing sexual violence, founded by student Sarah Williams. It offers services such as festival safe spaces, free survivor healing groups and drink spiking training.

Then there’s Neon Shed, which is tackling workplace bullying and sexual harassment by giving teams and leaders training courses, podcasts, and more to better understand and address the problem. Given recent debate in the startup sector, it sounds like a startup for startups.

So here’s a sneak peek at the 12 startups in the showcase, courtesy of University of Newcastle

Built in Kind

Women can’t use tools? Oh, please. Built in Kind are breaking down the barriers that have traditionally withheld women and members of diverse communities to access education in design, tool use and construction skills.

This social enterprise offers educational hands-on workshops tailored to not only increase physical skills, but build a glowing sense of empowerment, pride and confidence amongst these diverse community groups, improving participants professional and social life.

Founded by: Hannah Cheetham (currently studying Masters of Architecture at University of Newcastle) & Maryam Farnia (currently studying Masters of Disaster Resilience and Sustainable Development at University of Newcastle)

Mindful Splash

Want a healthy alternative to your usual soft drink, glass of wine or beer that isn’t pumped to the brim with sweetness? You’ve come to the right place. Mindful Splash have created effervescent powders infused with essential nutrients, including electrolytes and multivitamins, substituting those boozy or sugary drinks with a range of delicious flavoured waters and party mocktails.

The drinks are low in sweetness, making them ideal for daily sipping and boast benefits such as better hydration, reduced sugar consumption, improved health and a reduced environmental footprint – just to name a few!

Founded by: Kasia Gospos & Nino Laygan


Booking a sign language interpreter ban be a disempowering, time consuming and expensive process that often leaves users in the dark. Well not anymore. The PAH! platform allows users to connect with interpreters directly, with total control and autonomy over their booking.

It’s easy to describe PAH! as the Uber app for interpreting services, by giving users the opportunity to book sign language interpreters straight from their phone – in minutes!

Founded by: Rachel Sperinck


Krystalis has transformed the difficult process of crafting Kokedama – a traditional Japanese garden craft – into the perfect gift idea, a DIY Kokedama crafting kit. These Japanese ‘moss balls’ are a combination of gardening and craft and offer a great activity for the whole family to enjoy, with the final results making it easy to convince your friends it could’ve been crafted by a Japanese master!

Founded by: Kristina Bircsak

Activation Colab

Any HR professional can speak on the importance of avoiding disruption to employees and developing more succinct solutions to enable the most fruitful return on investment. Luckily, Activation Colab may have found the perfect answer, with their easy-to-use online database offering a comprehensive collection of local coaches who specialise in a range of different areas for employees to learn from and to make everyone’s lives that little bit easier.

Founded by: Michelle Dickson (Bachelor of Business at University of Newcastle)

Talking Circles

Nurses do a wonderful job looking after us – but who’s looking after the nurses? Talking Circles are on a mission to create meaningful, positive and fun opportunities for Nurses and Healthcare and Emergency Workers to recognise, inspire and enable themselves.

In the idea stage of their business, Talking Circles is prioritising retreats, workshops, and a podcast series – with a wealth of other exciting ideas in the pipeline.

Founded by: Jennifer O’Donnell (Bachelor of Nursing at University of Newcastle) & Natalie Hicks (Bachelor of Nursing at University of Newcastle)


Everyone should be able to wear stylish and comfortable snow wear that makes them feel confident, right? That’s exactly what BASIC thought, and it is proudly offering its snow gear range in sizes 2XS to 6XL, ensuring that everyone can find their perfect fit and look great while hitting the slopes.

Founded by: Madeleine McVie (Bachelor of Business, currently studying Bachelor Laws (Honours) at University of Newcastle)

Neon Shed

Neon Shed is shining a light on the dark sides of the workplace, eliminating bullying and sexual harassment and igniting courage in teams and leaders through training courses, podcasts and articles.

These stimulating training courses give companies the tools to identify the root cause of issues and reduce bullying and harassment by 90%, creating positive and long-lasting change. Sounds good to us.

Founded by: Nicole Turnbull (Bachelor of Management Marketing and Human Resources at University of Newcastle)

What Were You Wearing

What Were You Wearing is a Not-For-Profit Organisation fighting to end sexual violence in Australia. Offering services such as festival safe spaces, free survivor healing groups and drink spiking training, this company has been operating for two years and has generated increased traction as it continues to tackle this vitally important issue.

Founded by: Sarah Williams (currently studying Bachelor of Law/Communications at University of Newcastle)



Need to know which plant goes where? How much water and when? Which season will this flower finally bloom? Then Bud is exactly what you are looking for! The online platform offers garden and balcony owners easy access to thorough botany knowledge, garden design and landscaping ideas, and ongoing planting and maintenance guidance, covering all their gardening needs.

Founded by: Tanja Ghahraman (Master of Business Administration and International Business at University of Newcastle)

Your Future Matters

Your Future Matters is providing young women with the inspiration, tools and resources to help develop the knowledge and skills needed to navigate their future, helping our future community feel empowered and educated.

Currently in the idea stage, the company will feature their website as the focal point of their operation, with access to integrated blogs, online courses, e-books and printables.

Founded by: Hayley Clements (Bachelor of Primary Teaching at University of Newcastle) & Rachel Noonan (Bachelor of Business and Graduate Diploma Secondary Education at University of Newcastle)

Mum Notes

Being a mother is a hard enough job without the added pressure of trying to record and capture all those precious moments spent with your young one. This is where Mum Notes is changing the game, allowing users to record their baby’s memories in real-time, take photos, and effortlessly search for memories with a click of a button in a virtual journal.

Founded by: Ana Prestwidge

If you’re interested in joining UoN’s  Female Founders Program in 2024, you can send in a short EOI here.