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24 June 2008 PR 08/89

Student entrepreneurs reveal winning business ideas

Three enterprising students have been awarded cash prizes to develop their innovative business ideas, after winning a student business plan competition.

The annual competition organised by Loughborough University’s Enterprise Office aims to encourage and support students in the area of small business planning. Now in its seventh year, the competition attracted 38 entries, from which the most commercially-promising and innovative business ideas were selected. The winners were announced at a special awards night at the Henry Ford College, Loughborough University.

Jonathan Lynn, a second year undergraduate at Loughborough University School of Art and Design, scooped this year’s first prize of £1500. His business idea is to create an internet-based company to give students from all art and design institutions across the UK exclusively, an easy and accessible way to sell their artwork. In turn, this will provide good quality, original and affordable pieces of art for consumers in the art market, and perhaps an investment into some of the UK’s next best things in the art world.

Tom Crick, a Design and Technology PhD research student, received the second prize of £1000 for his business idea to provide engaging training courses for sports coaches, to help them adopt the strategies and behaviours of the world’s best coaches to achieve excellent results.

The third prize of £500 was awarded to Steve Small, a final year Sport Science and Management student. In 2007, Steve spotted a business opportunity and opened a vibrant and exciting retail outlet at Loughborough Students’ Union called ‘The Shake Shack’, selling healthy fruit smoothies and milkshakes to students, staff and visitors to the university.

“All of the finalists developed plans that show real potential for a successful new enterprise that may ultimately aid regional wealth creation,” says Marina Pickles, Student Enterprise Manager at Loughborough University.

Gill Cooke Personnel Ltd, one of the largest single branch recruitment agencies in the East Midlands, generously sponsored an additional prize of £1000. This was awarded to Jonathan Lynn for his Art Students Network business idea.

“We at Gill Cooke Personnel are very proud of our association with Loughborough University and have always been really interested in the Student Business Plan Competition,” says Caroline Nash, General Manager at Gill Cooke Personnel Ltd. “All the finalists put forward great ideas but we selected Jonathan Lynn as a worthy winner of the first Gill Cooke Award, in the hope that he can use it to help him develop The Art Students Network. We believe his idea has broad commercial appeal, backed by the intellectual kudos of support from the creative student institutions.  In addition, the funding earned by the students for the sale of their art, will encourage and inspire these young talents to continue their own professional and personal development.”    
Caroline continues, “As a Loughborough company with a real commercial interest in what goes on in the local business community, we felt this competition was a worthy showcase for additional support.  Who knows, these young entrepreneurs could be employing their own work-force in due course, and then they may require our services!”

Deputy Mayor of Charnwood Councillor Joe Torney and Deputy Mayoress Councillor Debbie Green joined representatives from local businesses and regional development organisations at the awards night celebrations, demonstrating continued local support for student enterprise and innovation. The evening featured an inspiring talk by guest speaker Mike Southon, co-author of several best-selling business books including The Beermat Entrepreneur and Sales on a Beermat. Mike spoke about how he successfully built and sold his own company in the 1980s and has since worked on seventeen different start-up companies.

Last year’s competition winners, RateMyPlacement, also returned to share their story of how the business has developed over the past year. The business provides an online forum for students completing a placement year as part of their degree course to leave a review about their experience for the benefit of future students about to embark on a work placement. The growing company has already signed contracts with some of the leading graduate employers in the UK, including PricewaterhouseCoopers, Accenture, Microsoft and 3M.

“This competition helps to raise the profile of innovation and increases the incentive for enterprise amongst our students,” says Dr Kathryn Walsh, Acting Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise at Loughborough University. “We’re delighted to celebrate the students’ achievements and reward them with cash prizes to support the development of these excellent business ideas.”


For further information please contact:

Notes for editors:

  1. The competition was open to all Loughborough University students (undergraduates and postgraduates) and those who graduated from Loughborough University in 2007.
  2. High resolution images of the winning students are available from Gemma Waller, G.L.Waller@lboro.ac.uk
  3. The competition was sponsored by Gill Cooke Personnel Ltd and Loughborough University Enterprise Office.
  4. The Awards Night was sponsored by Henry Ford College.Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry and unrivalled sporting achievement.

    It is a member of the esteemed 1994 Group – a set of internationally recognised, research intensive universities – and has a reputation for the relevance of its work. Its degree programmes are highly regarded by professional institutions and businesses, and its graduates are consistently targeted by the UK’s top recruiters.

    Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

    In the 2007 National Student Survey, the University was voted fourth in the UK, with 23 out of 29 of Loughborough’s subject areas being ranked in the top ten for overall satisfaction. Loughborough is also ranked in the top fifteen of UK universities in national league tables. It was named winner of the 2006 and 2007 Times Higher award for the UK’s Best Student Experience and winner of the 2007 award for Outstanding Support for Overseas Students. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes – an achievement bettered by no other university.

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