Meet the founders

Jen Perks
Jen PerksCo-Founder & Director
Heather Kelly
Heather KellyCo-Founder & Director

The Upstart Journey

Before becoming an independent Not For Profit and charity, the Upstart journey began in 2012 as a concept created by Geelong’s St Joseph’s College Foundation in response to the region’s transforming industrial economic heritage and the need to better prepare young people for the changing employment landscape.

What is the Upstart Challenge?

Our flagship program. The Upstart Challenge is entrepreneurial ideas challenge, startup accelerator and mentoring program for secondary school students. It aims to build an essential life and employability skills to better equip students for the jobs of the future.

A period of growth

With the support of the St. Joseph’s College Foundation and growing from strength to strength, Upstart evolved to becoming an independent not for profit organisation and registered charity. This was achieved through the additional support of the Victorian State Government, Industry Sponsors, the Education Sector, and continued financial sponsorship from the St Joseph’s College Foundation.

Upstart today… and tomorrow

With the increasing unpredictability of today’s global landscape, our mission to educate, inspire and foster innovation in the changemakers of today and tomorrow is more relevant than ever before.

As our flagship program Upstart Challenge continues to go from strength to strength in regional Victoria, in 2021 we expanded our reach with the introduction of our first ever national program – Upstart Express! Delivered during National Science Week, Upstart Express provides the framework, resources and direct industry connection for teachers all around Australia to build their students’ confidence and skillset in problem-solving through creativity.

When we pause and reflect on how far we’ve come, we’re immensely proud of how Upstart has grown from an early pioneering start to become a national leader in entrepreneurial education. We’re continually inspired by the young people and educators that engage with our programs, and our commitment to building their resilience, agility and capacity to make a meaningful difference to the world has never been stronger.

Upstart Impact

students have developed entrepreneurial skills
people joined our workshops and event network
Industry mentors and partners



Our flagship entrepreneurial ideas challenge and mentoring program for secondary school students. This program encourages and inspires all students to have a go, discover their inner changemaker and win some cash.


An innovative range of programs and resources for education professionals, teaching staff and youth leaders, to take entrepreneurship into the classroom and beyond. Take the first step on your journey by clicking here.


A range of fun and immersive indoor and outdoor action packed entrepreneurial and leadership bootcamps suitable for changemakers of all ages.


A two day hands on intensive for getting your business started. Learn invaluable skills and connect with experienced mentors. Find or develop your idea and launch your business.

“The Upstart team are passionate, driven and true collaborators. They pull together a unique and diverse network of industry leaders, educators, young people and the community; all connected by the common drive to shape the future for the benefit of everyone. And I’m delighted to be part of this team.”

Jason Clarke, Mindworker