Of the eleven social entrepreneurs who participated in the recent Optus Future Makers Pitch Day, only five were awarded a $50k grant. Melbourne’s Marina Paronetto was one of those few, having impressed the judging panel with her digital innovation Biz: a peer-to-peer mobile app designed to equip teenage girls with the skills and confidence to succeed in business.
In addition to being an innovation specialist with PwC, Paronetto is the founder of PowerhouseHQ and a founding member of Startup Victoria’s Female Founders committee. She spoke to Dynamic Business about Biz and how the $50,000 Optus Future Maker’s grant will help her turn her idea into a reality.
A ‘learn by doing’ opportunity
“Biz is a marketplace platform that will allow teenage girls, aged 13 to 17 years old, to establish a digital store where they can earn money by making products and services available to a trusted community. While marketplace platforms already exist, they don’t consider the challenges faced by teenage girls with business aspirations. Whether it’s starting their first jobs or performing tasks for their friends and family, teenage girls are looking for opportunities to earn money early on.
“Biz represents an invaluable ‘learn by doing’ opportunity. Initially, girls might use the platform to offer simple services such as babysitting, dog walking and car washing. As they become more confident over time, the nature of the products and services they offer might evolve.”
Nailing the user experience
“We’re currently prototyping the minimum viable product (MVP). We’re trying to create a very simple user experience but the app will evolve over time. For example, users will be able to track product performance including sales through backend administration, and we’re exploring the ability for users to nominate a trusted mentor, such as a parent, older sibling or teacher, to have oversight of their account for security purposes. Considering that not all teenage girls have bank accounts or cards, we’re also looking at ways to make the payment process as simple as receiving cash in hand.
“We’re collaborating with Mentone Girls Grammar School on refining the prototype before we build it. We’re talking with the girls about what the app could do and how it could empower them. We really want to create a meaningful experience and validate it before we build. The next step is closed beta testing, which we’re launching in October. You can register to participate at www.thebizapp.co.”
Two key distribution channels
“We’re focusing on two distribution channels: parents and schools. We will initially market Biz to parents, so they can then encourage their children to give it ago. We will also raise awareness of Biz by working with schools to deliver business workshops. The aim of these workshops will be to promote the use of Biz, equip girls with business skills, including a knowledge of key terms and concepts, inspire them to start their own business and provide them with a safe environment to test an idea. We want the girls to have fun and to share their shop with friends and family.”
Optus Future Makers
“The Optus Future Makers program has been a key support to our journey. The $50,000 grant will allow us to take the prototype and turn it into a product, which can be launched to market. The funding will also provide us with more opportunities to engage with schools by increasing the number of workshops we can offer.
“The program itself was great. It was fantastic spending time with the other participants. We learnt from one another and it was positive environment. For me, there were three main takeaway experiences. Firstly, we met with investors, who gave us a broader understanding of we approach investment. Secondly, there were some great speakers who discussed the challenges faced by vulnerable youth. This helped create empathy with, and a deeper understanding of, our target audience. Thirdly, the program helped me to refine my pitch. I began the program with a very different way to articulate what Biz, even though the product has remained the same, aside from tweaks as I progressed.”