Start Up incubator for people with intellectual disabilities begins in Mayfield

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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 disabilities 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 disabilities, more so physical disabilities, 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 disabilities? 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

Story and photo by Newcastle Herald, 14 December 2018.

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About Challenge Community Services

Over 60 years ago we were a small band of parents and friends seeking support services for our children with disabilities. Today, Challenge has grown to be one of the largest community support services in New South Wales. We provide support to over 2500 people from Albury to Lismore, Sydney, Dubbo, Tamworth and beyond. With over 700 staff, 85 of which have a disability, we strive to comply with and exceed all standards required under State and Federal Acts.
In the spirit of Reconciliation, Challenge Community Services acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of this country, and their connection to land, water and community. We pay our respect to them, their cultures and customs, and to Elders both past and present.
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