Enterprising students win awards for new businesses
Sorcha Bemand, who graduated in BA (Hons) Events Management in 2011, and Louis Speight, who will graduate in BA (Hons) Sport this summer, now have a great start to their careers as entrepreneurs.
The Vice Chancellor's Enterprise Scholarships, of which Leeds Metropolitan Vice Chancellor Professor Susan Price is the founding donor, provide Leeds Metropolitan graduates with £3,000 of funding each, including support through the University's business incubator, QU2; dedicated business advisors and mentors; profiling and networking opportunities; membership of the Leeds Chamber of Commerce; and a city centre business address, for 12 months.
Sorcha Bemand will be using the funding to set up her business, Holistic Horse Products, an online store that will supply holistic and natural products for horses and for smaller pets and their owners that fit with her ethos of 'do no harm'.
She said: "I was inspired by the Enterprise in Practice module on my course, which really got me thinking about setting up a business. There is something unique about our products that makes them stand out above the rest; not only do all the brands we stock actually do what they say on the tub, but they are completely natural and not only safe for sensitive horses but safe for owners too. We'll have links on our website so that clients can browse related holistic equine management advice, services and recommended therapies. I feel that I have a great idea, targeting an ever growing niche market, which just needs some assistance to get off the ground and trading.
"The scholarship will really make a difference to my enterprise's success. It means that I can buy in some initial stock, as a lot of my products have to be ordered from the US, as well as building my website and marketing in equine publications and on TV to get the store into the public eye. It will also enable us to attend horse shows over the summer to demonstrate and sell our products."
Sorcha added: "I am extremely passionate about my business and about horse health and welfare. We would like to give something back by making a donation to an equine charity each month when we are turning a profit."
Wheelchair racer Louis Speight is used to overcoming obstacles to achieve his goals and the 21-year-old student is aiming to compete at the Paralympic Games in London this summer. Louis will use the scholarship to develop his planned business, Premier Disability Services, which will offer bespoke disability awareness and access planning for businesses and organisations. He is currently running pilot workshops and building a portfolio of services for marketing purposes.
Louis has quadriplegia cerebral palsy as well as other impairments he has had since birth. As a result he is acutely aware of the challenges facing disabled people on a daily basis. Because of legislation such as the Disability Discrimination Act (1997) and the Equality Act (2010), disability awareness is a legal requirement for all organisations. The difference with Louis's business compared with its competitors is that it offers tailored packages designed for an organisation's individual needs.
Louis commented: "Obviously when starting any business the initial six months to a year are always going to be hard. This scholarship will ensure a professional marking strategy and that I am able to devote enough time and energy to making this business a true success and succeed in my goal of improving standards within the field of disability awareness training."
"Mohammed Ali is my sporting hero," Louis added. "Ali faced a lot of prejudice and obstacles which he had to overcome, yet still went on to be recognised as one of the greatest sportsmen of all time. In my own life, I've had to overcome a lot of barriers and love the tenacity and single-mindedness Ali showed in pursuing his goal."
The first round of Enterprise Scholarship attracted 28 bids from students; following shortlisting, seven finalists were considered by a panel, chaired by the Vice Chancellor and successful entrepreneurs.
Professor Susan Price commented: "Our students are the professionals of the future, making important and valued contributions to society. In these tough economic times with high levels of job uncertainty, research is finding that more of our students and graduates are considering starting their own business; and leading economists are reporting that the best way for us to stimulate our economy is to encourage small business growth to increase job creation. Being housed in our business incubator increases companies' chances of trading after year one from 50% to 95%."