Where are they now? Part II: Rita Nehme

Where are they now? Part II: Rita Nehme

Rita Nehme was a participant from FYA’s 2016 Young Social Pioneers (YSP) cohort. She is the co-Founder and CEO of health promotion charity, Steer North, which aims to inspire healthy living and local community engagement through cycle touring. These programs raise money for medical research, education and patient care.

While working simultaneously as a YLab associate, Rita caught us up on what she’s been doing since the program…

In 2015, I decided to join my passion for community engagement and health equity, with my love for cycling and adventure, to start a social venture called Steer North. Steer North is a health promotion charity that aims to inspire and empower people to lead healthy, active, and creative lives. Our health promotion programs are delivered to local communities across the country through epic cycling journeys, while our funds support critical medical research education and patient care.

Through Steer North, I was exposed to the social entrepreneurship space and community, and learned more about the FYA. This led to the discovery of YSP, which I ended up applying for and joining the 2016 cohort!

When I took part in YSP, we had already built Steer North’s core team and had registered it as a not-for-profit organisation. We were in the planning phase of our first big event, a 4000 km ride from Melbourne to Cairns, the longest annual charity bike ride in the southern hemisphere. It was perfect timing to join YSP both for Steer North and for my own development. It complimented the skills I was learning by starting a social venture, expanded my network, and contributed to my growth as an individual.

One of the biggest takeaways from YSP was the community of passionate and likeminded people that I became a part of. It’s not every day you find yourself in a room with 59 other young people sharing ideas, learning from each other and building meaningful connections. Some of my closest friends are people I have met through the program.

Since completing YSP, Steer North has continued to evolve. We successfully completed our 4000 km Melbourne to Cairns ride, and we established a variety of new activities and rides that are more accessible to more people, such as our signature Melbourne to Sydney cycling journey.

To date, we’ve had 40 young people participate in our programs and rides. We have also engaged with 45 local communities and raised over $160,000 to support medical research and patient care initiatives.

We’re still experimenting with different models and activities and we still have so much to learn and so many things to figure out. Currently, we’re looking at developing new processes, as well as products and services that will make Steer North more scalable and sustainable.

Through YSP, connecting with the social impact space, and developing strong ties with FYA, I have developed a big passion for social entrepreneurship in general and enterprise education. I joined YLab as an associate and had the opportunity to work on multiple projects related to business development, co-design and project management.

More recently, I joined the FYA team, and have been project managing Innovation Nation, one of their accelerator programs that aims to support young people defining and addressing social, economic, and environmental challenges facing their communities through innovative solutions.

Over the past two years I’ve learnt how to have a healthier emotional connection and relationship with my initiative. As entrepreneurs, we tend to be very passionate about our project, we get very attached to it and place a lot of emphasis on the venture being part of our identity. We start deriving most of our value, success and failure from it; overthinking and stressing about the tiniest things. If something in our project fails, it means that we, as people, feel like we’ve failed. This can cause a vicious cycle of unnecessary negative pressure, high levels of burning out, and bad outcomes.

Knowing this, I’ve come to understand that we are valuable because of who we are. The fact that we are giving something a shot is amazing itself. My advice: you just have to go for things, do your best, and keep moving forward.

Each year, FYA works alongside young Australians from across each state and territory, backing their ideas for social change through initiatives like incubator program, Young Social Pioneers (YSP). With an alumni of over 200, YSP is Australia’s first, and only, national youth entrepreneurship incubator designed exclusively for young people leading initiatives that respond to society’s most pressing challenges.

With our ‘where are they now?’ series, we catch up with a few of our alumni to see what waves they’ve been creating and ground they’ve been shaking.