Western innovation challenge helps refugee business owners thrive

The inaugural WSU Paddl Games at Parramatta South campus

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The inaugural WSU Paddl Games held recently brought together a team of Western Sydney University students, academics and alumni, who worked with the Business team from EnergyAustralia to find an innovative solution to Parramatta-based Thrive Refugee Enterprise’s clients’ energy needs.

The team, who won the one-day innovation challenge at the University’s Parramatta South campus, developed a strategy for the not-for-profit organisation that provides business support to refugees and asylum seekers wishing to grow new businesses.

Ishmamul Haque, who studies the Bachelor of Information and Communication Technology/Bachelor of Business (Accounting) at the University, said: “The organisation’s work was so inspiring and heart-warming that each member of the team made it their mission to meet the challenge. The obstacle before us was to find a way to educate and inform Thrive’s clientele about energy solutions for their businesses.”

Anshu A Naidu, who studies the Bachelor of Nursing at the University, said the team worked together to develop a simple but effective solution.

“Our idea was to close the information gap about energy consumption and sustainable energy usage. We proposed Thrive implement workshops, training and energy usage assessment to make their clients more knowledgeable and help them put in place sustainable energy practices in their business,” said Anshu.

Eymie Prieto, Marketing Manager from Thrive Refugee Enterprise, said refugee and asylum seekers often arrive with very little but are motivated to work hard and given the right information and support can go on to run successful businesses in their local communities.

“At the challenge, we thought about our clients and how we could help them understand their energy requirements which affect their businesses. We were surrounded by an astute team of big thinkers from a range of different backgrounds and were able to get a comprehensive and informed point of view,” said Ms Prieto.

CEO of Paddl Co., Dominique Fisher said: "The judges were very impressed with the winning team. Their solution to this WSU Paddl Games challenge was creative, innovative and practical capped off by a winning slogan Powering Dreams!. The judges also commended how the team, which included students who had never done anything like this before and who had not met each other until 8am on the day, embraced the process and delivered an outstanding result."

Challenge partner, EnergyAustralia, worked with each business competing in the friendly games to overcome their obstacles and, in the end, awarded Thrive Refugee Enterprise $2,000 for their winning concept.

Duncan Bryce, EnergyAustralia Head of Business said: “The reason we partnered with Paddl on this wonderful program is to help more businesses take control of their energy costs as we transition to a cleaner energy system. Thrive Refugee Enterprise delivered a concept that delivers on this promise with enormous potential to reach many other startups. In our view, that’s success.”

The WSU Paddl Games are a series of five fast-paced one-day innovation challenges that provide learning and networking opportunities for students and graduates with industry leaders and future employers, including businesses (small to medium) in Western Sydney.

For more information, visit the WSU Paddl Games website (opens in a new window).


29 July 2019 

Ali Sardyga, Senior Media Officer