The Centre for Student Entrepreneurship at Cardiff Metropolitan University is supporting seven new start-up businesses through a £7,000 prize fund. This follows the Countdown to Launch programme which was held from June 8th to 12th at Cardiff School of Management, Llandaff. With the support of the Welsh Government, the five-day course was designed for students and graduates with a passion for entrepreneurship who are looking to make their idea a reality. Santander Universities provided the £7,000 prize fund. To further support their students' entrepreneurial activity, the University is investing in a new incubation space, available from September 2015.
During Countdown to Launch, budding entrepreneurs took part in a number of interactive workshops covering everything from finance and law, to marketing and pitching. Workshops were delivered by the expert team at the Centre for Student Entrepreneurship and selected industry professionals, including the Intellectual Property Office and Capital Law.
The event began with a motivational talk from Ann Cotton, founder and president of Camfed, an international non-profit organisation which tackles poverty and inequality in sub-Saharan Africa. Ann shared her inspirational story of setting up the charity after witnessing first-hand the inequality regarding female education in the area. Ann's talk focussed on the importance of persevering with the idea that the entrepreneur is passionate about, even in the face of adversity or criticism.
The course also included a drama workshop aimed at instilling confidence and developing attendees' pitching skills. The workshop was delivered by trained actors Katy Owen and François Pandolfo, owners of the theatre company, Difficult Stage. Attendees also benefitted from one-to-one mentoring from the staff at the Centre for Student Entrepreneurship throughout the week which included support in identifying their skills and personal qualities in relation to entrepreneurship.
On the final day the students and graduates were given the opportunity to pitch to a panel for investment into their business. The panel consisted of James Watson, Local Business Manager for Santander; Ann Swift, Youth Entrepreneurship Manager at Welsh Government; contemporary jewellery designer Karen Dell'Armi; and Lee Sharma, founder of social enterprise, Simply Do Startup.
Of the 15 students and graduates that took part in Countdown to Launch, seven were awarded funding to help start or further develop their business. The individuals supported were: Megan Bearpark, founder of Complementary Therapies business, Total Equilibrium; Kathryn Roberts, who is setting up an online educational resource for parents of primary school children; Oliver Norcott, who is setting up an agency offering design and photography services to creatives; Giorgia Jayne, who is establishing a website to enable peer-to-peer hiring of sports equipment; Jonathan Rogers, who is creating a PR agency for sports professionals; Jackson Turmel, who is setting up a health and safety consultancy; and Sarah Jenkins, who makes and designs her own unique furniture.
The winners will receive a prize bespoke to their business, which could include funding and office space in the new incubator at Cardiff Met. The prize winners will also receive ongoing mentoring and support from the Centre for Student Entrepreneurship as they grow and develop their businesses.
Final year Complementary Healthcare student Megan Bearpark, one of the seven winners at this year's Countdown to Launch commented:
"I have really enjoyed Countdown to Launch. It has provided knowledge and understanding of running a business. I was also able to network with a number of different professionals and peers. The money, office space and professional support I have been awarded is going to play an integral part in me growing my business. I am really looking forward to the future."
Those who were not successful in obtaining funding can still benefit from the Centre's one-to-one support and the wide range of events and activities that are offered to students and graduates. Final year Product Design student Ben Owen-Robinson commented: "It was an invaluable week, not just for the lessons we learned in the sessions, but for the connections we made within the group."
Natasha Hashimi, Entrepreneurship Manager at Cardiff Metropolitan University commented:
'This year we engaged students from all five of Cardiff Met's academic schools in Countdown to Launch; we are very pleased to be working with such a diverse group of entrepreneurs to help them grow and develop their business. Our new incubator is an exciting investment that demonstrates the university's commitment to entrepreneurship education and will further enhance our offering to budding entrepreneurs. We look forward to developing the Incubator over the coming months and continuing to offer our specialist services to students.'
Notes for editors:
The Centre for Student Entrepreneurship is a dedicated department at Cardiff Metropolitan University which was set up to help develop entrepreneurial skills in students and graduates. The Centre is part-funded by the Welsh Government under the Youth Entrepreneurship Strategy. Countdown to Launch was sponsored by Welsh Government and Santander Universities.