Over the coming weeks we’ll be sharing profiles of the lovely humans who mentor the students in the Upstart Challenge program. It’s a chance to get to know the person behind the face and find out why they got involved! First of the block is Dannielle James, Director of Pipe Pro Directional Drilling

1.Tell us about your own entrepreneurial/business background? When and why did you start?

I am currently the joint owner of Ballarat based civil construction company, Pipe Pro Directional Drilling. Our primary service is to install underground pipelines using specialised drilling equipment which results in minimal impact and disturbance to the above ground environment. After school, I completed a degree Psychology and went on to become a secondary school Psychology teacher. In 2008 I decided to take a break from teaching and moved to Western Australia with my husband and take a Fly In Fly Out position in the Iron Ore mines of the Pilbara for a company working with directional drillers. I spent my time in the mines learning all I could about the industry and specialising in OH&S. After a few years we returned to Victoria to be closer to family and in 2013 we made the decision to start up our own business. We started with myself, my husband Jason and one other employee completing small jobs around Ballarat. Since then we have grown to employee 12 people and have a fleet of machinery that allow us to run three full time crews across all of Victoria.

2. What level of education have you completed? If tertiary, what did you study?

I completed Year 12 at Loreto in 1999 and went on to study a Bachelor of Psychology at the University of Ballarat. On completion I moved to Melbourne and studied Secondary School teaching at RMIT.

3. Who is your biggest role model and why?

I don’t think I really have a specific role model as such but I am inspired by women who have had the courage and determination to start up their own businesses. It takes a lot of hard work, determination and confidence in yourself and your idea to turn a business dream into a reality so anyone who has taken that leap of faith is a role model to me.

4. What’s important to you about being a mentor in the Upstart Challenge?

I really love how the Upstart Challenge is encouraging students to ‘think outside the box’ and give them the opportunity to learn and create ideas outside of the traditional classroom subjects. Coming from a teaching background it’s great to have the opportunity to blend my teaching experience and business skills to mentor young people develop and expand on their entrepreneurial ideas.

5. If you could go back and give your 15 year old self one line of advice, what would it be?

To have confidence in yourself and not compare yourself to other people. I think when I was younger I thought I had to have my whole life and career planned out because everyone I knew seemed to know exactly what they wanted to do. But I’ve found that as you get older you learn so much and your life and journey will take many different paths as you grow and that’s something to be embraced not feared. It’s ok if you’re not sure what you want to do with your life when you finish secondary school because the person you will be in 10 years’ time will probably be very different to the person you are today.


Thank you Dannielle for your response, the young entrepreneurs of the future are very lucky to have you involved with the program! Make sure to checkout Pipe Pro Directional Drilling!