LaunchMe boosting Gippsland businesses

Cherie Draper, Karen Fleischer, Gunjan Pagare, Fleur Hawke and Neil Smith.Photo: Tom Parry

Budding entrepreneurs across Gippsland are benefiting from a government-funded business coaching program.

LaunchMe is an initiative facilitated by Good Shepherd, pairing new and aspiring business owners with dedicated coaches to assist in realising their potential.

National Programs manager of Micro-Enterprise at Good Shepherd Gunjan Pagare said that the LaunchMe program is deeply connected to the organisation’s mission.

“Good Shepherd’s mission is to support women, girls and families, and help them become safe, confident and empowered,” Mr Pagare said.

“By providing them the support and the confidence to start a new business, they gain financial independence and build more financial resilience.”

One of the coaches involved with the LaunchMe program is Neil Smith, who has a keen interest in enterprise development and spoke keenly about his involvement.

“I’ve long lived in small communities, and I’m really passionate about small towns,” he said.

“I think they’re a really important part of the Australian landscape, and I think this program is really important for those small communities.

“On top of that, I get to meet some amazing people, and hear all sorts of stories and play a small part in helping some people create something that they’ve been trying to do.

“It is an extraordinarily rewarding and humble place to be in.”

Another of the coaches is Cherie Draper, who currently works with 18 different participants in the East Gippsland region.

“I was a business coach before LaunchMe came along in our region, supporting businesses, and this was an opportunity to work with people who really needed the support, who couldn’t afford to do so otherwise,” Ms Draper said.

One of the participants in the LaunchMe program is Karen Fleischer, who is being coached by Ms Draper.

Through her involvement in the program, Ms Fleischer has been able to develop a brand-new business with a focus on event management, projects and stories.

LaunchMe has also given her the confidence to dream big.

“My dreams and ambitions are to develop literacy programs which overarch with the education department’s nought to eight early years’ framework, but (also) encourage people to know about good Australian books, support Australian authors and illustrators, and borrow books from libraries,” Ms Fleischer said.

Another of the participants is Fleur Hawke, who has Mr Smith as her coach.

Through Mr Smith’s mentorship and wisdom, Ms Hawke was able to create her own celebrancy business after becoming a qualified celebrant.

“It’s been really great for my confidence, and also just in knowing what to do, like registering the business name, getting the ABN – all the little things,” Ms Hawke said.

Funded with the support of the State and Federal governments, the LaunchMe program was initially created in the wake of the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires to assist self-employed individuals in rebuilding their small business.

Since then, LaunchMe has expanded to help anybody who is hoping to, or has recently launched, their own business.

As part of the initiative, participants receive up to six months of personalised business coaching and have the option of $1000 in financial assistance.

Good Shepherd are currently seeking more participants to become involved in the LaunchMe program.

Applying for and participating in the program is free.

For more information about LaunchMe and to apply, visit