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Awesome Newcastle reaches $85,000 milestone

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Its philosophy has always been to quietly support grassroots initiatives that have a positive impact on the Newcastle community, without attracting hype or needing a public pat on the back. 

But, when such a small number of people can deliver $85,000 worth of support to individuals and groups doing great things to help others, surely, it’s worth recognising. 

Awesome Newcastle is the name of the group, a local chapter of the global grant-making organisation Awesome Foundation. 

Earlier this month it surpassed $85,000 in no-obligation cash grants awarded to grassroots ventures in the Newcastle region.  

Established in the Hunter in 2015, the Awesome Newcastle chapter hosts a monthly pitch night where three applicants have three minutes to present their idea.

The board then deliberates with the ultimate winner awarded $1000, which is personally funded by local business people committed to seeing others thrive with their novel ideas.  

Foundation board member Andy Howard said Awesome Newcastle’s mission was to support grassroots projects that have a positive impact on the local community. 

“We’re super proud of reaching this funding milestone and the awesome initiatives we’ve supported over the past nine years,” he explained.  

“We know $1000 isn’t a huge amount of money, but it often starts the momentum finalists are looking for.

“We’ve been told by past winners that it’s the belief in their idea that has meant the most. That’s a really awesome outcome.” 

Previous grant winners have gone on to establish successful businesses including Newcastle Afoot, OneWave, Feedback Organic, Secret Book Stuff, Surfing the Spectrum, Frontline Yoga, Survival Candles, Newy Rides, Kid Biz Academy, Soul Cafe, Hunter Homeless Connect and Urban Botanica. 

Previous grant recipient Splash of Colour founder Ennia Jones says the support “changed her life”. 

She founded a holistic learn to swim program for people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. 
 
“Last year we helped 65 women and this term alone we’ve got 75 and next term we’re looking at 110,” she says.

“We’re branching out to the Central Coast as well, and we’ve trialed our first men’s swim program; that started in March.  

“All our students are from multicultural backgrounds with eight or nine different countries represented on average.  

“Winning the $1000 cash spurred me on. I could see that the board members really believed in me. I said to the gentleman who passed me the money, ‘I won’t let you down.’ and I meant it. It’s people’s hard-earned money they’re handing you. It’s completely changed my outlook on people’s generosity.” 
 
Monty Sharma’s Urban Botanica won a $1000 grant in November 2021, after founding her environmental education business in 2018.

The funds, she says, helped her increase her course and attendee numbers from 30 or 40 to 315.

“I think Awesome Newcastle was really good from the perspective of the board, who are all entrepreneurial and community-based,” she says.

“That pitch was my second pitch, the first time I pitched and didn’t win.

“When I came back the second time I had more clarity around what I wanted to do and what I wanted to create.

“The money helped but the greatest value I found from Awesome Newcastle was sitting down with my journal and asking myself ‘what are the things I need to do?’

“It’s a shark tank, you gotta know your stuff and you only have a limited amount of time!”   

Awesome Newcastle is always looking for new applicants to put forward their ideas.

More information can be found on their website. 

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