September 13, 2018 Events, Neis


The wait is over! We are very excited to announce the finalists in the 2018 NEIS Awards. Judging is underway to determine the winner for each category, to be announced at the 2018 NEIS Awards Dinner to be held at Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach, NSW on Monday 8th October 2018. Follow us on Facebook for updates.

Congratulations to the following finalists, selected from over 30 nominations received from NNA members.


To be eligible for this award, businesses must have been in operation for less than two years, from the date the nomination is received.

Name: Emily Bitkow.
Business: VIVRA. 
Nominating NNA Member: Sarina Russo.

Emily Bitkow saw it was the right time for the reinvention of the 80s fashion staple, the bumbag. Her unique update, the VIVRA, features the use of heavy-duty magnets to attach a pouch to the wearer’s clothes, instead of traditional belts or straps. The brand has experienced rapid expansion, assisted by skillful use of social media. VIVRA pouches are sold Internationally through selected stockists, and from their online store.

Name: Maryjane Gibbs.
Business: Waxiwraps™.
Nominating NNA Member: Business Foundations.

A passion for educating people on the need to reduce plastic waste inspired Mary Jane Gibbs to create Waxiwraps; a premium quality, reusable, washable, eco-friendly beeswax fabric food wrap. This appealing alternative to single-use plastic has created employment for another three people and now sees Waxiwraps available in over 30 stockists.

Name: Gemma Holmes.
Business: Gemma Vendetta Cosmetics. 
Nominating NNA Member: Holmesglen.

Gemma Holmes knew the limited availability of products free from harsh chemicals and animal testing. These often looked for and seldom found features are a defining strength of Gemma Vendetta Cosmetics. The range is chemically safe, 100% certified vegan and cruelty-free. These mineral cosmetic products are now found in over 40 stockists.

Name: Anastasia Jacobs.
Business: MAJ Total Quality Improvement Services. 
Nominating NNA Member: Gramets – Box Hill Institute.

MAJ Total Quality Improvement Services is the new business of Anastasia Jacobs. Consulting to export manufacturers, retailers and market stalls within the food industry, MAJ Total Quality Improvement Services clients achieve high-quality assurance standards through Anastasia’s diligent work and clear communication. The business consults to many clients, from small retailers to large manufacturers.



This award recognises that NEIS often changes lives forever. To be eligible for this award, the business must be able to show that undertaking the NEIS program has turned their life around – be it financially, mentally and/or emotionally, have completed their year of NEIS assistance and be off Centrelink benefits.

Name: Luke Davenport.
Business: Acid Interactive. 
Nominating NNA Member: BRACE.

Luke Davenport’s regional location made it difficult for him to access support to improve his opportunities. After unsuccessfully applying for jobs in his industry, Luke signed up as a NEIS eLearning participant, then started his own business, Acid Interactive. His passion is game development; from design, art and sound, to visual effects. Luke is conscious to remain flexible and open, to help clients with projects as varied as producing artwork, or solving tricky coding for prototypes.

Name: Daniel Hastings.
Business: Coast Garden Solutions. 
Nominating NNA Member: Konekt Employment. 

Daniel Hastings overcame severe anxiety to start Coast Garden Solutions. A lifelong passion for gardening, along with NEIS training and mentoring, has given Daniel the confidence to build his garden design and maintenance business. From planning and design through to reinvigorating the overgrown, Daniel’s knowledge is displayed through Coast Garden Solutions Facebook and blog posts. Daniel provides work experience for local students and is looking forward to putting on his first staff member.

Name: Elina Haule.
Business: Elinas Cleaning Services.
Nominating NNA Member: My Pathway. 

Elina was unable to secure employment and wanted to be self-sufficient. With the support of NEIS she was able to start Elina’s Cleaning Services. From catching the bus to client’s houses, to eventually purchasing her own vehicle, Elina’s business has gone from strength to strength. She has identified the features clients want in a single person cleaning service and promoted her business to those needs. A healthy pricing structure has been maintained because of the diligent and enthusiastic service she provides.

Name: Danny Lam.
Business: Deluxe Interiors Oz. 
Nominating NNA Member: Gramets – Kangan Institute.

Danny found it difficult to secure a position in his trade. With three children to support, he commenced NEIS training in order to build the confidence to start his own business. Deluxe Interiors Oz started in a garage, and within 12 months had secured enough regular contracts to move to a factory setting. Attention to detail is the key to Danny’s success. Cabinetry designs for residential and commercial projects are custom-cut and edged with precision in-house. The business has now employed a designer and two factory/installation assistants.



To be eligible for this award, the person must be an employee of a NEIS provider and actively involved in the conduct of NEIS.

Name: Derek Bond.
NEIS provider: BRACE. 
Derek Bond works with Brace Education and Training to provide the best in NEIS training.

Derek has been known to do a 550 km round trip to mentor one person because he gets so much enjoyment from helping people. His classrooms are invariably ‘go to’ places for current participants. He is adept at uniting a new group of previously lone participants into a vibrant community that continue to support each other well past the classroom stage of their business.
“Derek continues to support my business with encouragement and enthusiasm. His friendly approachable manner is infectious and I value his ongoing input with my business venture.”

Name: Natasha Brown.
NEIS provider: My Pathway. 
Natasha Brown works with Training Connections Australia to provide the best in NEIS training.

Natasha focuses on what she describes as individual transformation with her clients. Skills development and confidence are central. Natasha is mindful to adapt the delivery of information to the skills of clients and the stage of the journey they are up to. The range of guest speakers engaged helps to reinforce the program as Natasha motivates, establishes accountability and creates a culture of progress.
“Natasha’s supporting ideas have made my business a raging success. They have helped not just with moral support and keeping me motivated but also business and marketing ideas I wouldn’t have come up with otherwise”

Name: Leigh Spiden.
NEIS provider: Gramets – Kangan Institute. 
Leigh Spiden works with GRAMETS – Kangan Institute to provide the best in NEIS training.

For over 15 years Leigh has been the first point of contact for all enquiries, both by phone or through the door. Leigh has a comprehensive understanding of the NEIS program and of the criteria necessary for intending start-up businesses to present in order to be processed for entry to NEIS. Over 3000 clients have received complete and undivided personal attention. Some clients with challenges or personal issues will find Leigh is always willing to ‘hear their story’, then gently re-direct them to where they need to focus, to most successfully complete their NEIS training.

For information on FREE small business training with the NEIS program, use the postcode search tool to find your nearest NEIS provider.

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