Student tackles homelessness in Sydney School of Entrepreneurship pilot program

YOUNG MINDS: Western Sydney University undergraduates Rose Lewis and Talifaia Oloapu were among 40 students selected for the first course at the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship. Picture: Supplied

YOUNG MINDS: Western Sydney University undergraduates Rose Lewis and Talifaia Oloapu were among 40 students selected for the first course at the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship. Picture: Supplied

From Steve Jobs to Oprah Winfrey, the term ‘entrepreneur’ is usually attached to people who’ve risked it all and made a fortune.

For Talifaia Oloapu though, it’s more about what she can give than what she might earn.

The Blacktown student was one of 40 people from around the state selected to complete the pilot course at Sydney School of Entrepreneurship (SSE).

The idea she pitched was to alleviate homelessness with sustainable accommodation made from recycled waste.

Ms Oloapu, 19, said her background and cultural upbringing instilled in her the importance of giving to others.

“I don’t like walking past people on the street, I think it’s a social problem that should be fixed,” she said.

“It’s great there are charities out there already helping them but people shouldn’t have to sleep on the streets. They should have a place with privacy, where they’re safe and comfortable. Because a lot of issues do ensue from being homeless.”

A Nagle College alumnus, Ms Oloapu is currently studying a bachelor of business management at Western Sydney University.

She jumped at the opportunity to be part of SSE’s first unit, The Navigator, which saw the students build their own map of the ‘entrepreneurial ecosystem’.

They also had a chance to speak to the founders of start-up incubators including BlueChilli and H-G Ventures.

“It was a really good experience just getting out there and getting to know what was around you, and how you could really utilise the resources around you,” Ms Oloapu said.

After taking on feedback and adjusting her model, the undergraduate is now hoping to pitch her homelessness solution to investors within the next two years.

She’s also working on another project; a platform for Australian tertiary students to share ideas and collaborate online.

Ms Oloapu encouraged other young people to seek and out embrace similar opportunities.

“Be confident, don’t be afraid, be ambitious. Stay hungry, stay motivated and do something you’re happy with,” she said.

SSE chief executive Nick Kaye said the first cohort attracted students from the state’s 11 universities as well as TAFE NSW.

“It’s been inspirational to see such diverse and talented students from right across the state,” he said.

“Our students represent a variety of disciplines including medicine, botany, engineering, design, law and technology to name a few. With a thirst to learn and support one another, they have been a true reflection of SSE and our value in cross-disciplinary learning.”

The plan is for the school to eventually take on at least 1000 students a year, who will do workshops, hackathons, boot camps and networking events while completing their university or TAFE study.

The not-for-profit partnership was founded with investment from the NSW government.