Bounsa co-founders Sophie Stanley and Rachel Smith have won Soda’s RISE UP 2023 competition, taking home $10,000 cash to boost their micro-mentoring platform where learners can bounce ideas off experts.

Bounsa is a learning and development marketplace where employees can bounce challenges and ideas off experts, creating on-demand access to experienced mentors in the tech sector for a new generation of learners.

What started out as frustration shared between colleagues, neighbours and friends – Sophie and Rachel – about how to bounce ideas and challenges off experts, soon grew into a bigger vision to transform workplace professional development.

“Our goal for Bounsa is to create an era defining, global professional development brand while lifting people’s capability and incomes everywhere,” says Bounsa co-founder Rachel Smith.

“Winning RISE UP and being recognised for our mahi by our peers and colleagues is so incredibly encouraging. The RISE UP programme helped us connect to other founders. We love working with other founders who are in the trenches and connecting with people who challenge us to think big,” she adds.

Bounsa intend to use the $10,000 prize money to invest into product development and build new features into the product to deliver more value to users. With its online marketplace launching last week, the timing couldn’t be better for these young female founders.

A judging panel of successful entrepreneurs and business owners including Kristen Lunman, Jenny Rudd, Clare Bradley, James Corbett and Jonathon Good selected Bounsa as the winning business.

Soda CEO, Erin Wansbrough says: “Our judges had a tough decision selecting a winner! All five finalists are talented, gutsy and determined business owners who are already succeeding on many levels and have an exciting journey ahead of them. Soda is proud to support these incredible wahine as they continue to grow and tackle the challenges that entrepreneurship brings.”

“Sadly, the fact is that they will face more challenges as a female entrepreneur. Only 21 percent of New Zealand startups are female-led, yet startups with at least one female founder outperform all-male founder teams by 63 per cent. Female-owned ventures generate 78 cents in revenue compared to male-owned ventures which generate 31 cents, yet female-led startups in New Zealand receive less funding than male-led startups.”

“I hope that through initiatives such as RISE UP we can break down the bias and inequalities that exist within New Zealand’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and enable more women to succeed.”

Nelson based start-up Mother Trucking, co-founded by Kitti Bradley, was the audience favourite, winning the People's Choice award, sponsored by Blunt Umbrellas. Mother Trucking is a dispatch management system that enables SMEs in the trucking industry to manage the day-to-day running of their business.

Other finalists were: Norish founder Gina Urlich, Vester founder Candace Kisner and Well Now co-founders Melanie Lynn and Niamh Buchanan.

RISE UP is proudly supported by platinum sponsor Callaghan Innovation and gold sponsor Craigs Investment Partners.