Students secure funding to set up their own businesses

Posted on 15th August 2016

Entrepreneurial students and graduates from the University of Chester have been successful in securing start-up funding, courtesy of Santander Universities UK, to set up in business, after taking part in an Accelerate event.

Murray King celebrates his success, with Jill Reece, Santander and Dr Kate Daubney, Director of Careers and Employability at the University.
Murray King celebrates his success, with Jill Reece, Santander and Dr Kate Daubney, Director of Careers and Employability at the University.

‘Accelerate’ forms part of the University’s ‘Venture Programme,’ which aims to support budding entrepreneurs. The Venture Programme at the University of Chester is part of the consortium-led ‘Cheshire and Warrington Business Growth Programme’ Project which, supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), equips students and graduates with the skills and knowledge to start up a business and develop their entrepreneurial capacity under three themes. Venture gives students the opportunity to ‘Create’ a business idea and ‘Collaborate’ with business professionals to ‘Accelerate’ it into reality.

The ‘Accelerate’ initiative launched in late 2015, offering 16 weekly workshops over the course of the academic year.

The University’s Venture Programme has also been shortlisted this year for the Entrepreneurship Award at the AGCAS (Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services) Awards for Excellence, which attracts entrants from higher education institutions across the UK.

Kirsty Badrock, the University’s Entrepreneurship Co-ordinator, who runs the Venture Programme, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that the Venture Programme has been nominated for this prestigious award and has been recognised for its innovative approach to entrepreneurship education. The Programme encourages students to consider new venture creation and self-employment as valid graduate career paths. This is particularly important in the University of Chester context, where many students choose courses which naturally lend themselves to this career path.”

The Programme was recognised by the awards as it remains dynamic and enterprising in its approach to ensure students and graduates have the skills and acumen to be entrepreneurial in an increasingly competitive marketplace. The Venture Programme is firmly embedded within the broader entrepreneurial strategy of the University, acting as a ‘pipeline’ to the institution’s business support and business growth initiatives, while contributing more widely to the development of the student body. Venture creates, supports and develops the next generation of entrepreneurs. 

Accessible to students from all disciplines and levels of study, Venture consists of a unique blend of content from entrepreneurs, industry partners, professional services and mentors to support individuals.

Accelerate is designed to equip students and graduates with the necessary tools to start their business and the programme has welcomed a mix of business owners, mentors, business and industry experts, to help prepare participants for start-up:

•           Mike Scott, of Mike Scott Associates, helped the entrepreneurs to ‘Establish their uniqueness’ and identify their ‘unique selling point’.

•           Hems de Winter, CEO of deWinter PR & Marketing, advised on the development of a marketing plan and marketing strategy for new businesses.

•           Sarah Bailey from NatWest explained the importance of relationship management in business when working with partners, clients and suppliers.She also led a Business Planning Clinic on what investors look for in a Business Plan, how to structure a business plan and the concept of risk.

  • Henry Sidsaph, PhD Researcher at the University, explored the importance of sustainability in business.

•           John Farrell, of Ellis & Co., led a workshop covering tax, bookkeeping and accounts.

•           Chris Sharkey, from Santander, coached the students through the importance of excellent customer service and finance and funding for business.

•           Robin Gill, from Storrar Cowdry, presented the ‘Top Ten Mistakes Start-ups Make’ from a legal perspective.        

•           Adam Hughes, Informatics Centre Manager at the University gave advice on how to design a website, and influence Google rankings.

•           Mary Murtagh, of Mary Murtagh Media, told students how they can write a ‘killer’ press release and boost their business with zero marketing budget.

•           Kate Cruse, of Forresters, answered the question ‘What’s in a Name?’ covering the importance of trademarks.

•           Andrew Greenyer, of Raise the Roof Marketing, listed the ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ of using social media for business.

•           Mike Skinner, of Xenos, presented his ‘Guide to Angels,’ detailing what investors are looking for in business start-ups. The former Business Development Manager at the University also examined what entrepreneurs would have to focus on during their first year in business.

  • Ed Barnes, of DTM Legal, covered all aspects of intellectual property and protecting a business.

•           Sheila Large, of Synchronicity, worked intensively with participants to prepare them to pitch their idea.

•           Sara Pomfret, of Sara Pomfret Business Solutions, offered tips for effective networking, and introduced the concept of the ‘Elevator’ pitch.

•           Dean Paton, of Big Heritage, held an audience with the group to offer insight into the realities of business, and share the experience of his ‘First Year in Business’.

•           Lynne Robertson, of Santander Corporate & Commercial discussed her top 10 tips on starting up in business.      

•           Jean Gorman, RIC Incubation Manager, led a session on pitching for investment.

•           Lisa King, Senior Lecturer in the University’s Faculty of Health and Social Care, tackled how to handle pre-pitching nerves and suggested relaxation techniques which could be employed beforehand.

The ‘Pitch 2016’ event encouraged applicants to put their new-found Venture knowledge to the test. They were asked to submit a 500 word business summary in advance and to create a 60 second video pitch. The submissions were judged internally, to provide a shortlist of nine businesses.

During the final day, shortlisted participants were invited to bid for start-up funding and a number of business support prizes.

Judged by John Farrell, Ellis & Co.; Emma Woollard, The Language Guys; Jill Reece, Santander and Dr Kate Daubney, Careers and Employability, participants were asked to deliver a five minute pitch, outlining their business idea and model. Following nine pitches, five businesses were successful in receiving cash-funding, courtesy of Santander.

•           Eli Mitchell, a final year Business Studies student, was awarded £1,200 for his business ‘LoveChester’. LoveChester will create a portfolio of discounts for students specifically within independent and local businesses.

•           Andrew Butler and Kevin Johnson, both final year Computer Science students, were awarded £1,200 for ‘ELiPTech 360’, a web agency specialising in 360 degree virtual tours, to improve the online presence of businesses.

•           Cindrella Chikombe, a final year Adult Nursing student, was awarded £1,000 for her company ‘CiNa Foods’, an authentic spiced meat company which will specialise in the production of South African sausages, burgers, minced meat and meatballs.

•           Murray King, a second year International Business student, was awarded £1,000 to develop his idea for ‘Resolade’, a low calorie exothermic drink. Resolade’s main vision is to use a percentage of its profits to provide hats, coats, gloves, shelter and heat to the people across the world who need them most.

•           James Duckett, who has just completed his PGCE Secondary in Computer Science, was awarded £600 for the ‘Memmori’ app. This will allow users the opportunity to build their own digital legacy by memorising personal journal entries, photos, videos and links to existing social media content, to ‘change the way we remember our loved ones’.

The judges also awarded six places on a ‘How to do your own PR’ workshop, an iPad, three start-up websites, a total of £500 in Careers & Employability enterprise grants, a full day one-to-one social media diagnostic, tax support for a year, a web content package and a number of one-to-one intensive business coaching sessions. In addition, the ‘pitchers’ were all offered a professional logo design, payment of their incorporation fee and a ‘Business Hacks’ book.

Shortlisted finalists are invited over the summer to join the new ‘Venture Plus’ programme, which will continue to support our students and graduates to progress their ideas, and is open to all those who were shortlisted for Pitch 2016.

Kirsty Badrock added: “Accelerate showcased a tremendous amount of entrepreneurial spirit. The dedication and enthusiasm of those who took part was evident, and the innovative business ideas sparked real interest with the judges who saw potential in everyone. We are incredibly grateful to all of our partners, who have contributed to this comprehensive programme of support.”