Design-conscious pet products, personalised exercise programmes to help heart patients recover and a skills boosting programme for young people in South Africa are amongst the business ventures recognised atThink BIG, Loughborough University’s annual celebration of student and graduate enterprise.
An audience of over 130 gathered to celebrate a wealth of innovative projects developed by the University’s students and recent graduates. Julie Holland, Director of the University’s Glendonbrook Centre for Enterprise Education presented a £15k prize fund to help turn these promising ideas into sustainable businesses.
The guest of honour was Chris Wickson, Management Sciences Graduate and founder ofRMP Enterprise, the go-to brand for organisations wanting to engage with young people at the start of their career. Chris’ enterprise story began at Loughborough, when he and fellow graduates won the University’s business plan competition to launchRateMyPlacement.co.uk, which today is visited by over 200,000 students per month, has over 20,000 student reviews and hundreds of corporate clients including global brands from adidas to Zurich. With a turnover approaching £2M, RMP employs 30 people, and in 2013, Chris and the team launched a new spin-off venture called Akkroo, which is a data capture software solution.
The winners of the Think BIG business plan competition included
Ben Kelly (Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences) who won the Consultancy / Service Award for Kelly Medical, which will provide bespoke exercise rehabilitation packages for those living with and recovering from chronic diseases.
Lydia MacCormack (Retail, Marketing and Management) led a team that won the Creative Award for The Bumpkin Company which produce doughnut-shaped cushions for children to sit on that stack away neatly on to a pole.
Rob Clifton (Civil Engineering) won the E-commerce and Retail Award for Clothes Comparison, a website that allows shoppers to search for similar items from a range of labels all on a single website.
Susan Shelley (Design) won the Manufacturing and Technology Award, sponsored by theSir Thomas White Charity for Noux, a high-end design house producing innovative pet products and accessories, including a self-maintaining fishtank.
Matt Pradhan (Retail, Marketing and Management) lead a team that won the Social Enterprise Award for South Africa Challenge, which provides experimental learning programmes for young people in South Africa, helping them to develop a range of leadership and team skills by tackling real-world business and social problems.
Glendonbook Prizes were awarded to Graeme Rodger, Jamie Jones, Rohan Thompson and Jack Sterland for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Planning with their company Virtual Technologies Ltd. Glendonbrook’s other prize for Business Planning for New Ventures was awarded to Lucy Gilbert, Charlotte Martin, Christopher Oliver-Byrne, Katie Rooke and Hai Hung Tran for Whoof. Multiple award-winning artist and sculptor Ian Tricker, who is being supported by The Studio (the University’s graduate commercialisation hub), won the Studio Award.
The Awards concluded with the results of a Schools Competition, judged by Architectural Engineering and Design Management graduate Raffaelle Russo who has launched two successful Loughborough businesses Loc8me and Peter (and that’s enough) Pizzeria. A team from Rawlins School, Quorn won first prize with their idea for a new local eatery concept: Not Just a Salad Bar.
The University’s Pro Vice Chancellor for Enterprise Professor Steve Rothberg said: “Think BIG! Night is a great opportunity to celebrate the outstanding achievements of our enterprising students and graduates. Congratulations to all our finalists.’’
Details of all the competition results, together with films of the finalists and photography from the Awards are available at www.lboro.ac.uk/think-big