Startup Mentors


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Amy Hill

Owner / Co-Founder - Norte Wear & General Manager Operations - Australian Grand Prix Corporation


With plenty of business experience behind her, Amy is the co-founder and owner of Norte Wear, an outdoor apparel business making eco-friendly outerwear. She is responsible for the delivery of marketing, digital, website, sales, strategy, branding, and partnerships. When she isn’t busy with Norte Wear, she’s  the General Manager Operations at the Australian Grand Prix Corporation. Within her role, Amy is responsible for the delivery of Operations, Risk Management, Hospitality, Venue Operations, Customer Experience, Infrastructure, Construction, Crisis and Emergency Management of two of Australia’s biggest global sporting events.

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Angelo Saridis

Manager ICT & SCADA South Gippsland Water, founder of Urban Farmland


As a transformation specialist and former executive in both government and non-government organisations, Angelo has a passion for innovation and technology. He has a Masters of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Business and Marketing, and with a keen focus on innovation, strategy, and transformation, Angelo utilised his skills to join the 2019 Startup Gippsland program and launch his own business, Urban Farmland. Winning the People’s Choice Award, Angelo’s business sees landlords lease out available urban farm land to local farmers looking for more land to cultivate crops. 

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Annebelle van Tongeren

Founder - Fern & Frost


After a long career in television styling, Annebelle decided to follow her instincts to train and teach yoga. After moving from Sydney to Gippsland in 2017, she established yoga classes in Inverloch, and in 2019 she joined the Startup Gippsland program to launch her new business, Fern & Frost. Fern & Frost was developed to couple with Annebelle’s yoga teaching, as a way to promote both physical and mental health through a range of eco-focused relaxation products to encourage the habit of self care.

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Caitlin Grigsby

Director of Full Circle HR & Business Services


With almost 15 years of experience in human resources and industrial relations, Caitlin has built her career in supporting businesses to operate, resource and manage themselves for success. She has a Bachelor of Business Commerce, Human Resources from Monash University and has worked across Gippsland, Melbourne, and London. Having launched her own business, Full Circle HR, Caitlin comes with a unique blend of experiences, from extensive social inclusion advocacy to large scale event production. Her skills in not-for-profit and community are centred on her key value, that relationships are king.

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Casey Hill

Owner / Co-founder of Norte Wear


Casey is the co- founder and owner of Norte Wear, an outdoor apparel business making eco-friendly outerwear.  Working alongside her sister, Amy, she has combined her passion for creativity with sustainability and social responsibility. She holds a Bachelor of Social Science from RMIT, a Graduate Certificate in O, H & S, and a Certificate 4 in Training and Assessment.  Prior to founding Norte, Casey’s career was in the field of industrial relations, where she worked in various roles including training in the area of prevention and response to bullying, harassment and discrimination.

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Christine Boucher

Managing Director of Natural Health Balance


With a Bachelor of Nursing, specialising in Intensive Care Nursing, a Masters in Business, and over 20 years’ experience in the healthcare industry, Christine is passionate about health and wellness. When she launched her business, Natural Health Balance, she saw an opportunity to transform organisations to work productively and cohesively, through improving the health of staff, and wellbeing of businesses through performance management, health coaching and team building. Christine is also the president of EmpowHer East Gippsland Events, and understands the value of networking.

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Danielle Holloway

Merry People


Gippsland born and raised, Dani grew up to appreciate the importance of the humble gumboot. In 2013, she took off her stilettos and left the corporate world behind to launch Merry People gumboots. Dani began selling Merry People full time at weekend farmers markets, growing 300% year-on-year. Now a multi-million dollar business, it ships to customers and retailers from third party warehouses in Melbourne and LA. She was recently named as one of Inside Retails top 50 people in Australian eCommerce for 2020, coming in at number 12 and given "The One to Watch" award.


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Danny Blackford

Psychologist/CEO Behaviour Solutions


Danny is a registered psychologist, Business Advisor, Executive Coach, and author of 'Asperguys'. With a Masters in Mental Health Science, a graduate diploma in Psychology, and a Bachelor of Art Social Science, he works extensively with children and adults who experience learning difficulties, social functioning and behavioral problems. Danny has worked in both the corporate and education sectors, visited educational facilities in the United Kingdom, and delivers Mental Toughness training & workshops through his business, Behaviour Solutions. He is also a registered NDIS service provider and has previously taught Psychology at Monash University. 

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Darren Hotchkin

CEO of Saferoads


With a diverse background in business and entrepreneurship, Darren has started or been involved in the retail, wholesale, property development, property management, agriculture, horticulture, and building ventures. Darren has a particular interest in startups, having founded Saferoads 28 years ago, and built the idea into a company which is now listed on the ASX. He has also served as a Director on a not-for-profit board at Lardner Park Events for the past 10 years.

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Darren Randle

Coordinator for Park Services


Darren has a small business and management background having farmed, butchered, and worked for local government. With a Bachelor degree in Applied Management, and a Diploma in Sustainability, he is currently working to complete his Masters in Business Administration. Darren has a passion for community, economic development, and innovation. He has a broad range of skills in management, business strategy, process improvement, and operations improvement. He currently works as the Coordinator for Park Services with the Wellington Shire Council.

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Deanna Ingravalle

Venue Manager, Narkoojee Winery & Restaurant


As a qualified chef and a previous restaurant owner, Deanna now manages Narkoojee Winery & Restaurant. She has a breadth of experience in the food industry, having cooked for the King of Belgium and renowned chef, Peter Gordon. Deanna is committed to helping local communities; teaching youth with autism and aspergers to cook. When she isn’t working, she’s cooking meals for the homeless or disabled. Having participated in the 2019 Gippsland Community Leadership Program, Deanna is keen to pass on her business and leadership knowledge to this years’ cohort. 

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Erika McInerney

Founder/Director of Mac&Ernie


Born and raised in Gippsland, Erika holds a Bachelor in Media and Communication, and a Masters of Marketing. Having worked in the advertising and marketing industry for 25 years, she launched her business, Mac&Ernie, in 2016. Mac&Ernie has become the platform for Erika to empower small regional businesses to take control of their marketing. Combining training, workshops, and online courses in marketing, she shows businesses just what can be achieved, even without a large marketing budget. 

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Erin Lord

Managing Director Aeromedical Solutions


With a Diploma of Management, Diploma of Finance, and Diploma of Human Resources in Operational Management, Erin has extensive experience in both management and leadership roles. After working for The Department of Human Services, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and Monash University, Erin saw a gap in the marketplace and co-founded Aeromedical Solutions with Steve McLaren. Launching in 2019, Aeromedical Solutions provides an essential brokering service for the return of Australians who become ill or injured interstate or overseas and require clinical support to get back home.

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Helen O'Brien

Parliamentary Adviser for the Parliament of Victoria


Having recently completed a Masters in Business Administration through Federation University, Helen is an advisor with the Parliament of Victoria. With over 10 years’ experience in leadership, stakeholder relations, and policy, Helen is passionate about helping everyone thrive in Gippsland’s business ecosystem. Her role sees her support the Member for Morwell in his work in the Victorian Parliament. Helen also advocates and supports individuals, businesses and stakeholder groups in the community, in engaging with the Government.

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Hugo Richard

Co-founder and CEO of Dystech


Hugo is a serial entrepreneur with a keen interest in innovation and bright ideas that can change our society. Originally from France, he has worked internationally and built relationships around the world, including in Asia, Europe, US & UAE. Hugo is the co-founder and Co-CEO of multi-award winning Dystech, a startup which is currently building the fastest, most cost-effective and accessible assessment tool app for dyslexia and dysgraphia, using artificial intelligence. Growing up dyslexic and dysgraphic, he is passionate about creating an efficient tool that can be used for early detection of the learning disability. 

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Jane McKay

Marketing Consultant, Jane McKay Communications


Jane McKay carries a Bachelor of Social Science, Advanced Diploma of Management, and a Masters of media and Communications. With 15 years of experience in the marketing industry, having worked in copywriting and as a marketing manager within corporate organisations, Jane launched her business in 2009. She provides a one-stop-shop for her clients, coupling website design, graphic design, copywriting, social media strategy, and marketing strategy. Jane is passionate about creating an authentic approach to marketing, to help her clients achieve greater levels of success within their businesses.

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Janet Robertson

Director of Mount N Hide


Local to Gippsland, Janet is currently working as a Local Content and Skills Coordinator in the mining industry. With a Certificate III in Financial Services, and a diverse career background, she is skilled in coordination, business planning, and event management. Janet co-owned and ran a successful Real Estate agency in Omeo, securing over 4 million dollars in sales in her first year of business. After completing the 2019 Startup Gippsland Program, she and her husband's business, Mount N Hide, developed and grew to new heights.

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Jo Eady

CEO & Director of RuralScope


With a background as a Senior Executive Officer for TAFE Queensland, Jo is passionate about economic development, sustainability, and growth of businesses and rural communities. Having launched RuralScope 20 years ago, they now serve clients in all states and territories. RuralScope is a boutique management company, specialising in leadership development, strategic planning and facilitation, including contentious issues for Australia’s agricultural and rural sectors. The business has seen Jo coaching 300 emerging leaders, facilitating agricultural programs to hundreds of graduates, and facilitating the formation of the National Rural Women's Coalition. 


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Kerryn Vaughan

Director - Girls With Hammers & Get Off The Bench


Gippsland born and bred, Kerryn is an international speaker & author, trainer, mentor and podcast host. She is also the founder of not-for-profit One Planet Classrooms, co-founder of Girls With Hammers, and creator of Get Off The Bench. With a background in disability, autism, and behaviour, Kerryn is extremely passionate about inspiring people to find the courage to back themselves and take that first step. Her work in African countries has enabled multiple women’s empowerment groups, provided clean water solutions to schools and communities, and supported children to access education.

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Kristy Norton

Owner - BeSeen Communications


Launching BeSeen Communications in 2016, Kristy is a digital marketing specialist, dedicated to helping businesses flourish and grow. Kristy helps business owners to harness the power of digital marketing to tell their brand story. She is your go-to for all things marketing - think social media, website development, blog posts, email newsletters and PR. Kristy is passionate about diving deep into your business to fully understand your offering, your points of difference and what motivates your audience to buy from you. She then creates clever strategies to engage and connect with them.

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Kylie Johnson

Principal Consultant of Sadhana Consulting


Kylie holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting and Economics, and a current member of CPA Australia (Certified Practicing Accountants) and the AICD (Australian Institute of Company Directors). When she isn’t running her own business management consultancy business - Sadhana Consulting - she is busy in her role as the Director and Finance & Governance Committee Chair for Destination Gippsland Ltd. Through her previous roles in Executive and Chief Financial officer positions, Kylie has diverse experience in best practice for startups, SME’s, government and multinational organisations.

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Laura Eddington

Little Bumble Reusable Food Wraps


Growing up in Yarragon, Laura returned to Gippsland after attaining degrees in both science and education. With a deep passion for the environment, she put her science skills to use to develop a unique, natural formula for quality reusable food wraps. It was here that Little Bumble Reusable Food Wraps was born. Little Bumble has since grown into a team of 9 local employees, with over 100 stockists, and are now in the process of beginning automation to take their products to export markets.

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Michael Piko

Director Valavon


Michael has over 25 years’ experience in the effective, efficient, and secure delivery of ICT services across the Utilities, Higher Education, and Health sectors. His career has spanned Chief Information officer, leadership, management, and consultancy positions. Michael has proven strengths in enterprise-wide strategic thinking, leadership, and governance in delivering well considered, fit for purpose solutions. He has delivered services to over 300,000 end users across large geographical areas, and believes in meeting organisational needs first and foremost.

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Paul Bury

Director of Bury Design


Educated as an Aerospace Engineer at RMIT, Paul has over 20 years’ experience in the marine design industry. He is a member of the Royal Institute of Naval Architects (RINA), Engineers Australia, and is an accredited marina surveyor with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). Paul developed his business. Bury Design, to couple his extensive technical and practical experience to modern yacht and commercial design. Prior to Bury Design, he worked as Chief Designer at Tripp Design, USA, and Wally Yachts, Italy.

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Paul Pratt

Director of Pursuit Advisers


Having worked in the accounting industry since the age of 19,  Paul has significant experience in dealing with small and medium businesses across a wide variety of industries, including agriculture, dairy, manufacturing, franchising, building & construction, retail, web-based, professional services, wholesaling, travel & hospitality. Paul particularly enjoys working with business owners and high net worth families, helping them to achieve financial independence and meet their goals. Paul works with an easy to understand, matter of fact approach, to deal with anything that comes up for his clients.

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Robert Kiddell

Consultant CFP at McMillans Traralgon & Consultant Solicitor & Notary at Verhoeven & Curtain Moe


Robert is a certified financial planner, lawyer, and notary public and company director who is passionate about entrepreneurship and business. He is a former shire councillor, Life Member of Apex, Secretary of the Gippsland Law Association, and a Fellow of the Gippsland Community Leadership Program. Robert has seen his financial expertise published in Bulletin, Money and Money Management, and in 2002 was awarded the Money Management Australian Financial Planner of the Year. Robert has extensive experience and expertise in the legal and financial spheres, and currently consults to Gippsland based businesses, as well as maintaining his own practice.

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Ross McWhirter

Wellington Shire Council - Aqua Energy


Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Ross has 11 years’ experience working for the Wellington Shire Council in a number of community wellbeing roles. With a Diploma in Business, and currently completing a Bachelor of Business, he is passionate about developing value driven teams with a people first attitude. His current role sees him as Aquatic and Operations Coordinator, overseeing all Wellington Shire Pools. Ross is responsible for the management and leadership of over 70 staff, and he is one of the founding members of the “Regional Industry Conference”, led by Aquatics and Recreation Victoria.

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Ryan Leslie

Principal Consultant of Aerium


With over 20 years’ experience in business development and transformation, Ryan is passionate about helping entrepreneurs and business managers succeed. With a background in LEANSTACK continuous innovation, LEAN start up, marketing, brand development, product development, engineering, and intellectual property protection, he delivers practical no-nonsense advice. Ryan’s role is to assist entrepreneurs and business managers to commercialise their ideas, build scalable brands, and increase their profitability. He achieves this through providing professional services in the areas of business strategy, brand and product development, organisational design, trademark protection, market analysis, marketing strategy, and project management.

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Sandy Norton

Owner of Norts & Crosses Bookkeeping


With 15 years of experience working as a certified practicing accountant and bookkeeper, Sandy brings her knowledge to businesses in her local community of Inverloch. She is also a registered BAS agent. Sandy has a Bachelor of Commerce - in Commerce, Accounting, and Business Management, and is passionate about helping people grow thriving, resilient, and prosperous businesses. Sandy is particularly skilled in business planning, capital raising, angel or seed investing, finance and accounting.

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Sara Prendergast

Senior Manager of Strategy - Orica


Sara Prendergast has worked in the Australian mining industry for over 15 years, living in a range of remote outback locations across a variety of commodities. She is a Senior Finance professional with Orica, leading the performance reporting for their largest division of Australia, Pacific, and Asia. Her career has seen her take on challenges in project expansion, asset overhaul, finance and commercial system and process improvements, and leading major, multi-million dollar improvement initiatives. Sara is a Director on The Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) board, and her work has seen her recognised in both global and national mining awards. 

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Shaun Mallia

Community Advocacy Manager, AGL Loy Yang


As a life-long Gippsland Resident, Shaun has a passion for working with and representing the local community. Starting his career as a journalist for an agricultural newspaper, Shaun moved on to become an award-winning editor at one of Victoria’s largest non-daily regional newspapers. Since then, Shaun has held a role as a Communications and Engagement Advisor at a world-first study looking at the community health impact of 2014 Hazelwood mine fire, and then as a social marketing team coordinator at the Latrobe Health Assembly, before landing at AGL Loy Yang as its manager of Community Advocacy. 

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Steve Lowe

Regional Coordinator, Gippsland - Boosting the Local Care Workforce Program


Steve has an extensive background and over 30 years of experience in the disability, mental health, carer support, respite, and aged care sectors, both in regional and metropolitan locations. Through working in a wide range of roles, from Direct Service delivery, Governance, Policy, Program Delivery, Project Management, WHS, HR, Stakeholder Engagement, and to Change Management, he is passionate about delivering services which are transparent, and continually improving. Now working as Gippsland’s Regional Coordinator under the Boosting the Local Care Workforce Program, Steve’s role is to help local organisations grow their workforce under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

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Steve McLaren

Director of Operations Aeromedical Solutions


With an extensive background in the health and hospitality fields, Steve has worked within the Royal Flying Doctors Service as an ambulance attendant, regional manager, and an operations manager. After seeing a gap in the marketplace, he teamed up with business partner, Erin Lord, to launch Aeromedical Solutions. Launching in 2019, Aeromedical Solutions provides an essential brokering service for the return of Australians who become ill or injured interstate or overseas and require clinical support to get back home.

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Tanya Heaney-Voogt

Director & Principal Consultant of Wombarra Consulting & Research Assistant at Deakin University School of Business


Tanya holds an MBA and qualifications in Workplace and Business coaching. She is a mentor for the Australasian College of Health Services Managers mentorship program and passionate about helping businesses and organisations invest in their people. She is fascinated by “change” - both on an individual and organisational level, and supports her clients with implementing change initiatives. Tanya is also a Research Assistant with Deakin University School of Business, currently working on a leadership wellbeing project in the education sector.

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Tom Ponting

Founder of Upskill Gippsland and Tom Ponting & Associates


Living on Raymond Island, Tom has a breadth of knowledge of both Gippsland and running successful businesses. For the past 20 years, Tom has run his own development and marketing consultancy business. And with extensive experience in senior management roles in FMCG companies, he holds extensive knowledge of both national and international markets. When he isn’t assisting business owners with their development, marketing, and strategic planning, Tom is helping the community on many boards and projects. He currently holds a voluntary position as President of the Raymond Island Sustainability Association.

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Wayne Dowd

Director of DMG Financial Pty Ltd


Wayne is a Certified Practicing Accountant, and a Specialist Advisor with the Self Managed Super Association. He has a Bachelor of Business, Accounting, Economics and Law, majoring in Accounting from Monash University, and has over 30 years’ experience in public practice. He has specialised in small business advisory and taxation, and now works as Director and shareholder of a local middle tier accounting and financial planning firm known as DMG Financial. Wayne is proud to operate locally and support small businesses in the Gippsland region.

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