But in her former career as a school teacher, Nicole felt something was amiss in traditional classroom settings.
“I wondered whether we could bring the real world into those learning experiences so young people could see the relevance for what they were studying, and empower them to make the change that they wanted to see in the world,” Nicole says.
That’s what prompted Nicole to start Future Anything, the Lord Mayor’s Business Award-winning company empowering youth entrepreneurship in schools.
Future Anything has grown from 100 students participating at a single school to having more than 5000 kids across Australia and the world engaged in its school-based entrepreneurship programs.
Nicole, who leads Future Anything as its CEO, says from the beginning it was about providing a pathway for kids to solve real problems by applying their knowledge and unique perspective.
“We started testing with a few schools that we knew were looking to bring innovative pedagogies and emerging curriculum into the classroom,” she says.
“We know that the average 12-year-old today is going to have 17 different jobs over five different careers. So the question of, ‘What do you wanna be when you grow up?’ is a really redundant question to ask young people.
“The question needs to be, ‘What would you like to be next?’ ”
Future Anything’s programs support educators and teachers to deliver entrepreneurial learning experiences that fit the Australian Curriculum and also connect students to problems they face in the real world.
The business provides coaching and support to schools to organise and deliver the programs, and all students have the opportunity to apply for YouthX - an accelerator program that can give students funding and support to launch their idea commercially.
“It culminates in this national grand final where the best young people from around the country get to pitch against each other for funding and support to launch their businesses out of the classroom and into the real world,” Nicole says.
“Something happens once those students take those six steps on to the stage and deliver that pitch to the crowd of 300 people and 2000 online. They walk off that stage an entirely different person. That moment changes them. They've done something they didn't think they could do and the very perception of their potential is changed.
“Suddenly, their future could be anything.”
Future Anything won the Outstanding Micro-business Award at the 2021 Lord Mayor's Business Awards (LMBAs), and Nicole says being a part of the whole application process was an energising experience.
“It was a genuine shock and a thrill just to get called up for an interview,” Nicole says. “When I walked out of that panel, I thought that was a really great time and a really great experience.
“On the night when they called out Future Anything, it took me a few seconds to register that that was my business up on the big screen. And then it registered that the entire table I was sitting at was staring at me saying, go, you need to get up. It was awesome.”
Nicole says winning an LMBA has helped the business find the confidence to grow as a brand, and expand its offering for young people.
“It's given us the confidence to put our brand out there for bigger opportunities,” she says.
“It's also given us the confidence to look at how we can do our work bigger and better. So we've recently been working with a number of international schools to pilot our program in that space. And next year we're looking to open up that international program to schools in South Africa, the UK, the US, and also South East Asia.
“So I would encourage everyone to put their business out there because they could be like us and get that joyful surprise on the night of winning.”
Celebrating its 18th year, the Lord Mayor’s Business Awards acknowledge and celebrate the outstanding achievements of local businesses who have inspired, innovated and excelled in the preceding 12 months.
All Brisbane businesses are encouraged to apply as there are 11 diverse categories including Product Innovation, High-growth Business, Outstanding Micro and Small Business, Social Enterprise and Environmental Sustainability.
Being recognised as an LMBA finalist or winner provides a unique opportunity that extends far beyond the winning moment. It accelerates business growth, forges all-important connections and raises the profiles of the businesses to achieve great success. Winners join a high-calibre group of LMBA alumni including Swiftx, Tritium and Frankie 4 Footwear that have gone on to shape Brisbane’s business community.