Ambitions accelerated…

Posted on 15th July 2013

Entrepreneurial students, and graduates from the University of Chester and beyond, have been successful in securing funding to set up in business, after successfully taking part in an Accelerate event.

All of the graduates who attended the Pitching Evening, alongside the Accelerate team and judges: Paul Allen, Thomas Rebel and Carol Vella.
All of the graduates who attended the Pitching Evening, alongside the Accelerate team and judges: Paul Allen, Thomas Rebel and Carol Vella.
Accelerate showcased a tremendous amount of entrepreneurial spirit.
Kirsty Badrock

Held at the Riverside Innovation Centre (RIC), all the entrepreneurs attended the two day, intensive programme, designed to equip them with the necessary tools to start their business. Part-funded and supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Riverside Innovation Centre is the University of Chester’s innovation-focused business start-up support facility.

An eclectic mix of business owners, mentors, business and industry experts convened at the RIC to help support those at the start of their journey.

  • Saul Peake, founder of and pitching expert Sheila Large worked with the entrepreneurs to develop the perfect pitch
  • James Caza, former University student and multiple business owner, mentored the participants
  • Claire Blanchard, Head of Marketing, Tourism and Events, helped the entrepreneurs develop their market research plan and marketing strategy
  • A representative from Blue Orchid, an accredited provider of business support and consultancy, was on hand to discuss further opportunities for funding
  • Andrew Greenyer of Raise the Roof Marketing led a social media masterclass
  • Norman Denton Associates Ltd offered tips for effective networking
  • Award winning journalist Mary Murtagh uncovered how to use the media to boost business.

The budding entrepreneurs were offered the opportunity to take one-to-one appointments with business experts from the RIC’s Associates Network, including advice on legal issues from Aaron & Partners and Business Banking from Santander.

Additionally, RIC staff worked with the participants over the course of 48 hours by setting up business websites and social media campaigns, advising on start-up costs, helping the entrepreneurs to ‘establish their uniqueness’ and controversially explaining why ‘The Customer is Always Wrong’ during workshops.

Participants were invited to pitch for a business support package and/or space to develop their business idea in an Acceleration Unit at the Riverside Innovation Centre. Judged by Paul Allen, Santander; Thomas Rebel, Bank of America; Carol Vella; Cheshire West and Chester Council, and RIC representatives, participants were asked to deliver a 10 minute pitch outlining their business idea and model. Following 18 pitches, six businesses were successful in receiving funding and/or office space.

  • Caroline Jones, a Creative Writing graduate, was awarded £1,000 and Acceleration Space for her business ‘MISO Magazine’. This is a bi-annual reputable literary magazine established to encourage new writers at a crucial point in their career. MISO is open for poetry and short-short story submissions from those currently studying creative writing and/or recent creative writing graduates (three years following). The magazine will provide a platform for writers to publish their work that bridges the gap between their own University’s creative writing magazine and ‘big name’ literary journals.
  • Nick Hilton, a final year University of Chester Business and Geography student and Jack McElhinney, a final year Climate Change student from Manchester Metropolitan University were awarded £1,500 and Acceleration Space for SnapStudies. This is an educational online service which offers a learning experience which is tailored to the course the student is on. By catering to the full range of learning styles SnapStudies will allow students to learn what they need in a way which is comfortable to them, is accessible, and is engaging, built from the perspective both of students and educational institutions.
  • Luke Dickinson, a  Contemporary Applied Arts (Furniture Craft) graduate from the University of Cumbria, was awarded £500 to support his business ‘W.SHOP’, a furniture making company which builds fine, bespoke pieces for any customer on request, with expansion plans to mass market at craft fair shows.
  • Emma Foden, a student from West Cheshire College, was awarded £1,000 and Acceleration Space for ICE Academy. This is an independent training school set up to work alongside National Governing Bodies of sport to help their young talented performers to excel at sport while achieving a vocational education. ICE Academy will inspire, challenge and educate (ICE) talented 16 to 19 year olds. It will also allow more talented young people to excel at sport while learning a vocation that complements their core interests and fits around their training and competition commitments.
  • Heather Smith, a Textile Design graduate from the Hereford College of Arts was awarded £1,000 and Acceleration Space for ‘Heather Smith Textiles’ (temporary name). The clothing business will design and make fair trade, organic and carbon neutral pieces as part of a collection, which aims to be create both fashion forward and long lasting items.
  • Catherine Richardson of The Literacy Company was offered Acceleration Space within the RIC to develop her business, which seeks to deliver outstanding professional development for schools and educational establishments. This start-up company comprises two directors who have a combined experience of 47 years in this field.

All of the entrepreneurs who were awarded funding, along with those who were not successful, have been offered on-going, bespoke support from the Riverside Innovation Centre.

Kirsty Badrock, Innovation and Enterprise Co-ordinator, said: “Accelerate showcased a tremendous amount of entrepreneurial spirit. The dedication and enthusiasm of those who took part was overwhelming; the innovative business ideas sparked real interest from the judging panel who saw potential in every one. The RIC is looking forward to working with all of the entrepreneurs on the next stage of their journey.”