LAUNCH: Ben Towers, one of the UK’s most successful young entrepreneurs, is guest speaker at the Young Start-up Talent Solent 2016 at Portsmouth Technopole on January 26. Ben is pictured centre with initiative founders and successful entrepreneurs Lorraine Nugent and Matt Turner. Oxford Innovation, an UKSPA member which runs Portsmouth Technopole, Ocean Village Innovation Centre in Southampton and Fareham Innovation Centre, is principal sponsor. The initiative covers Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Ben was listed No.1 in The Times Magazine's Superteen Power List last month (December), named as one of Virgin's Top 5 young entrepreneurs for last year and mentioned by Richard Branson as "one of the most exciting entrepreneurs". Ben was also interviewed on TV's BBC Breakfast and ITV Meridian earlier this month (January).
They are known as 'rawtrepreneurs' - fired-up youngsters with a cracking commercial idea that could generate jobs and make them wealthy.
Now, in the first awards of its kind in the Solent region, they have a chance to take the first step in the thrilling journey from concept to success.
Young Start-up Talent Solent 2016 is an initiative aimed at encouraging and inspiring 16 to 25-year-olds in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to start their first business.
The process will provide a chance for aspiring entrepreneurs to put their ideas into practice, with the opportunity to work alongside business professionals to develop their skills.
Free to enter as an individual or as a team, there is a chance to win a prize fund worth £50,000 worth of products and services being donated by local businesses to help get the venture off the ground in the crucial first year.
Britain's leading operator of innovation centres, Oxford Innovation, which has a culture of supporting entrepreneurs in Hampshire, has been announced as principal sponsor for the Solent area.
The company, an UKSPA member, runs Ocean Village Innovation Centre in Southampton, Fareham Innovation Centre and Portsmouth Technopole, where scores of start-ups and early-stage firms are helped on site through a range of services and mentoring programmes.
Aspiring entrepreneurs will be shortlisted to five. After a series of workshops and mentoring they will then pitch their plans to a Dragons' Den-style panel of business professionals.
Founded six years ago jointly by Lorraine Nugent of public relations consultancy Media Word Waves and Matt Turner of design and marketing agency Creative Pod, the initiative is already a firm fixture in five other areas - The Gatwick Diamond and the regions of Brighton, Croydon, West Kent and East Kent - and is launching in Chichester on February 2.
Oxford Innovation, which looks after 20 centres on behalf of property freeholders, is the latest company to sponsor Young Start-up Talent.
There are more than 85 other high-profile sponsors and supporters across the South East area, including Gatwick Airport, NatWest, Thales and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.
Ben Towers, 17, one of the UK’s most successful young entrepreneurs, who has his own digital media agency and was recently listed as No.1 in The Times Magazine's Superteen Power List, launches Young Start-up Talent Solent 2016 on Tuesday, January 26, at Portsmouth Technopole, just off the M275 gateway to the city centre.
Stephen Brownlie, Oxford Innovation's regional manager for the South, said: "Britain now has a record 5.4 million businesses, many of which were created by what we call 'rawtrepreneurs ' - fired-up youngsters with a cracking commercial idea who have an infectious passion for their new service, product or process."
Ben said: "Turning a great idea into hard cash is never easy, particularly if the venture doesn't benefit from mentoring, guidance, handholding and a wisdom sometimes borne out of adversity. Young Start-up Talent Solent's prize fund of more than £50,000 worth of products and services will give the winner a decent chance of lifting their project off the ground."
Richard May, Incubation Director at Oxford Innovation locally and mentoring co-ordinator, is lining up local professionals to nurture the winner's venture.
He said: "Oxford Innovation has developed a supportive enterprise ecosystem at our centres here in Hampshire, helping start-ups and early-stage firms on what can be a perilous journey. It is in this context that we're proud to be the principal sponsor of Young Start-up Talent Solent.”
Lorraine said: "The Solent region is home to 50,000 businesses and, based on the thriving innovation centres run by Oxford Innovation, the entrepreneurial spirit is stronger than ever. The competition is very much about this inspirational ethos and we are very much looking forward to meeting the young entrepreneurs in the area."
Matt said: "Young Start-up Talent is a community-based project and is the first of its kind for the Solent. Its aims are to help 16 to 25-year-olds with an entrepreneurial flair for business and make their dreams a reality. The initiative promotes innovation, entrepreneurship, leadership and talent development - building blocks for a successful business owner."
Details of the initiative, including the date when the winner is announced, are to be unveiled at the Portsmouth Technopole launch.
Ocean Village Innovation Centre, privately owned, has 91% occupancy and 67 serviced offices, with 37 companies on site and 32 virtual office customers. Business South is headquartered here.
Newly-built Fareham Innovation Centre, owned by Fareham Borough Council, has 16 businesses on site. There are 15 light-manufacturing workshops and 24 offices, with occupancy at 80%. More than 80 people are based there.
Portsmouth Technopole, with 89% occupancy on 20,000 sq ft over five floors and owned by the University of Portsmouth, has 37 registered firms, with nearly 200 people employed between them.
All three centres have drop-in facilities, such as meeting rooms, which are used regularly by local businesses.