Female Founders Program

City of Newcastle's adopted Economic Development Strategy and Smart City Strategy advocate for inclusive innovation and the need to develop entrepreneurial capability and capacity to drive future opportunities for Newcastle both socially and economically.

In 2021, City of Newcastle awarded the University of Newcastle's (Integrated Innovation Network (I2N) to deliver a startup program to support the creation of more female-led innovative enterprise.

I2N worked with individuals and organisations from across the Hunter region and beyond to turn ideas and challenges into opportunities. As a leading driver of economic and business growth, I2N cultivated entrepreneurial mindsets behind many of the region's most innovative businesses and leaders.

Accelerator and incubator programs are essential elements of modern economic development seeking to both attract and grow high-value businesses. The Female Founders Program (FFP) is one of many programs that formed part of a funnel to support local innovative enterprise to accelerate the commercialisation of ideas, incubate for scale and grow to export. It is unique in its focus of supporting female-led businesses.

The FFP is a springboard for female founders based in the greater Newcastle region, empowering them to navigate their startup journey with confidence. The program’s main aim is to level the playing field for committed female founders to build their businesses and reach their fullest potential.


A total of nine founders (out of 946 EOI's) participated in the ten-week program which participants gave a Net Promoter Score of 100 (the highest score possible).

The final "Demo Day" was attended by 64 people in person and 78 people online across the Hunter where founders showcased their individual experiences.


The FFP has been invaluable in building networks and connections to further develop my start-up Ihydrate. The broad ranging topics from customer proposition through to IP and Finance provided an excellent overview tailored to the needs of start-ups. The connection and camaraderie with the other female founders was amazing. Since the course I've employed 2 medical engineers to assist with prototype development, established a group of local athletes to assist with testing and validation and secured a NSW government grant to support development"

The Female Founders Program has been instrumental to the growth and development of my business. Since starting the program, I expanded my team from 2 people to 4 and have refocused my energies towards prioritising roles that grow the business. I’ve gained in-depth knowledge and insights into my customers and have discovered new ways of adding value to my product and services. I feel confident, supported and inspired through the network of incredible women I’ve met throughout the program.”

I came up with my idea for my business 12 months before I started the Female Founder Program, however I didn't really know how or where to get stated. The Female Founders Program gave me the confidence to pursue my business idea and showed me practically what steps I needed to take to bring this idea to life. I don't think I would have been able to develop my business idea to what it is today without the resources, knowledge and network that the Female Founders Program has offered me.

Read more about the successful female founders:

Claire WardThe Nurture Centre

Bliss CavanaghCreative Sensory Spaces

Ebony RanclaudStatform

Lisa WinnIhydrate

Jessica DaySpotto Books

Kristy FloresSHEWINS

Elizabeth McLaughlinLegalEase

Pru KillickThe HR Equation

Rachel FlickinteliPRACTICE