A Melbourne accelerator for startups that are helping to reduce poverty has welcome nine Australian entrepreneurs into its three-month program, including former Neighbours star Saskia Hampele.

Spark Accelerator founders Kaitlin and Aaron Tait say the program, which is run around the world with mentors like Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, has impacted more than 150,000 people living in poverty.

The Taits head the Melbourne arm and work closely with new founders on the ground and mentors like Vinomofo co-founder Justin Dry and Pozible co-founder Rick Chen.

Over the next 12 weeks, accelerator participants will receive training, coaching and mentoring as they build a range of impact-driven ventures.

“They will work closely with the YGAP team as well as with key experts in our networks to help them in key areas they need to focus on,” Kaitlin Tait tells StartupSmart.

“They’ll also learn from some of Australia’s top social ventures like Who Gives a Crap and Thank You.”

In addition to opportunities to apply for funding, accelerator participants will have access to a range of resources including creative support.

At the conclusion of the accelerator, two teams will be chosen to enter YGAP Spark’s 12-month incubator which includes $25,000 in early-stage funding and one year of office space to keep the teams on track and scaling upward.

“Everyone has come in with a strong idea that is getting good early impacts, but we are super excited about the potential many of them have for significant growth, not just here in Australia but globally as well,” Tait says.

Hampele, who has appeared on Neighbours since 2012, is building Gift Box, a startup top help more than 85,000 homeless women across Australia get better acess to sanitary products, and is one of the nine accepted entrepreneurs.

“Last year, I was asked to donate to a tampon drive to help supply sanitary care to homeless women,” Hampele tells StartupSmart.

“I set out to create a sustainable enterprise that would absorb the costs of donating product one for one. I don’t think it is fair that women are being made to buy double the product and pay double the tax to ensure that fellow women didn’t have to go without.”

Gift Box, which raised nearly $50,000 in a crowdfunding campaign this July, donates one box of tampons for each one sold.

“Our customers will be able to sign up to a subscription service or purchase product from our online store, and eventually our tampons will be available in select stores as well,” Hampele says.

“I’m really excited to start implementing some new strategies and ideas into the business.”

Meet the other impact entrepreneurs:

  • Sisterworks: a social enterprise and online platform helping asylum seekers, refugees and new migrants start and run micro-businesses, founded by political refugee Luz Restrepo.
  • Scrubs for Change: offers women and girls who have survived sexual exploitation and extreme poverty sustainable income through sewing of medical scrubs, led by Hope Ink director Valerie Richards.
  • Fruit2Work: platform for fresh fruit delivery to offices that creates supported employment for for former offenders, co-founded by former psychologist Doron Lavan.
  • Bueno Apparel: subscription platform for white T-shirts to fight forced labour and unethical manufacturing practices in production of cheap clothing, founded by ex-commercial lawyer and market development associate for Impact Investing Australia Alex Clifton-Jones.
  • No Fixed Address City Tours: online store and tour guide service that employs disadvantaged individuals, including people considered homeless, to share the untold stories of Melbourne, founded by employment services professional Joanna Jenkins.
  • Freed to Feed: pop-up cooking school run by refugees and asylum seekers, co-founded by humanitarian Loretta Bolotin and husband Daniel Bolotin, whose parents are refugees from Uzbekistan.
  • Your Move Online: one-stop-shop for socially conscious, ethical and sustainable products, co-founded by entrepreneur and conscious consumer Ida Martin.
  • Just Peoples: online platform connecting users with unfunded local projects in developing communities to help raise funds and drive progress on issues like human trafficking, co-founded by former corporate Johanna Peek.

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