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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Business Activation

Far North Queensland is known for its innovation and hard workers, and graduates from a recent program proved local business entrepreneurs are on the cusp of building big impact long-lasting concepts to change the business landscape. 

Tackling issues from housing insecurity to circular economies, workplace stress and trauma, and play-based learning, the emerging social enterprises combine creativity, innovation and great ideas.

For the first time, CQUniversity Cairns ran the highly successful iActivate short course. The popular 13-week program involved face-to-face and online support, thanks to the Queensland Government’s $8 million Social Enterprise Jobs Fund.

Initially kicking off in Bundaberg in August, iActivate is CQUniversity’s innovative short course for developing a social enterprise or “business for good”, while connecting with other passionate entrepreneurs.

The 12 inspiring participants of CQUniversity’s social enterprise accelerator iActivate graduated from CQUniversity Cairns in December 2022 after 13 big weeks designing and growing their for-purpose business ideas.

The program, co-presented with Queensland social impact business Impact Boom, earns a digital badge and micro-credential for LinkedIn profiles and CVs.

CQUniversity Social Innovation Program Manager Steve Williams says iActivate has already prompted exciting new initiatives for North Queensland, Far North Queensland and Wide Bay – Burnett.

Here are a few of the 2022 FNQ iActivate participants and their big ideas:


The Circular Economy FNQ is about curating and collaborating with circular solutions that help businesses reduce waste while monetising food waste and reducing the carbon footprints of clients’ waste management systems. President and iActivate participant Irene Pollack explain that the accelerator has supported her social enterprise to develop and grow. “We’ve developed a business plan from the Theory Of Change, which has been mindblowing, and the whole course has been insightful,” she said. “Seeing us all round out our ideas, it’s been gorgeous watching how everyone is evolving, from unsure to getting more solid as the weeks go on.”


Driven by her own experience in the social sector, Sandra Walden Pearson founded The Neuro Nerd® to “help the helpers”. The social enterprise specialises in brain mastery education for improved mental health and supports businesses and workplaces with innovative, evidence-based and scientifically-validated support to meet the growing demands of legislated positive duty. The experienced Cairns businesswoman says the pandemic has “really accentuated just how phenomenally challenging it is for people who are dedicated to making a positive difference”, and workplaces and workers will benefit from professional support.


New food business ventures can establish the foundations they need with mentoring, training, resources and events support from FNQ FOOD INCUBATOR. Founder and CEO Lara Wilde has developed networks and systems to showcase small-scale and start-up food-focussed businesses, producers and manufacturers. The iActivate participant has focused on ensuring the initiative reduces the expense, anxiety and personal financial risk to local entrepreneurs.


Founder Sari Lorner created Cairns Children’s Museum as a hands-on interactive educational playspace, and the initiative has morphed over a busy three years. “We are currently homeless and operating as a mobile museum, bringing Tiny Town: An Interactive Road Safety Experience, and Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) activities to children and families in the Cairns region,” she said. “iActivate has helped with making a huge idea more manageable, and seeing past the limitless potential to create a business model.”


Cairns software solutions architect Adam Jacobson wants to use his skills to help teach, build independence and instil confidence in those who struggle to understand the spoken word. “Whether for an autistic child, a dementia patient or a refugee entering a foreign land, pictures can act as universal cues to take action,” he explained. “Bringing together new and proven technologies, Cue Pics will be a fun and accessible online platform with avatars relatable to neurodiverse and vulnerable people, where care providers can create custom picture-based communication resources.” Through iActivate, Adam has designed a subsidised family access model, and aims to immediately create positive change within households and relieve day-to-day routine struggles.


A coffee roasting business with a vision to make a positive difference to people, communities and the environment through coffee. Co-founder Ali Slotemaker has been running the business for good since 2010, contributing a portion of profits to the Reef Restoration Foundation to help create a more resilient Great Barrier Reef. Taking on iActivate has helped the award-winning initiative identify opportunities to grow and increase impact.


A social enterprise designed to help people whose work creates excessive stress and affects their personal life negatively, founder Sophie Anderson says being part of the iActivate cohort was fulfilling and inspiring. “Understanding the nuts and bolts of a social enterprise inspires me to become an engaged entrepreneur and citizen,” she said. “If we all make an effort to make this world a better place, we will succeed.” Using techniques to grow calm and improve mindset, relationships and overall health, Sophie partners with people to clarify how to improve her life situation, and to establish a powerful action plan to progress.

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