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Entrepreneurs win cash investment and professional support at the inaugural Making Business Happen Awards

The graduate entrepreneurs behind adventure travel website Much Better Adventures and biotech software start-up TrakCel were celebrating last night (Thursday 16th April) as the inaugural winners of the Making Business Happen Awards, after beating off competition from businesses across the UK.

The two business winners of the £12,500 first prize were joined by 20-year old FE college student Edward Shorney who won the Aspiring Entrepreneur category for his web-based business Go Rookie: The Apprenticeship Finder. The USW Challenge Award, the one category open only to students of the University of South Wales, was won by MBA student Evan Tamblyn for his app StartWrite, which helps university students to manage their projects and coursework.

Devised and organised by The University of South Wales, the Making Business Happen Awards were set up to recognise graduates of UK universities who have gone on to start their own successful and growing businesses using the skills and knowledge gained whilst studying. A special award for Aspiring Entrepreneurs recognises students from schools and colleges across the UK who have demonstrated a commitment to researching and developing an effective or innovative business idea.

Professor Julie Lydon OBE, Vice-Chancellor of the University of South Wales, said:

“We have been amazed by the number and quality of entries received for the Awards. Our finalists represent some truly extraordinary and innovative ideas, developed by passionate people from across the UK. Attributes which both exemplify the Making Business Happen Awards and the ethos of the University of South Wales.”

“My congratulations go, not just to the winners, but to all those excellent companies and individuals, who left our judges with such difficult choices to make. I wish them all the best for the future and look forward to seeing how they develop.”

Much Better Adventures was set up by university graduates Sam Bruce, Alex Narrowcott and Guy Bowden and started trading in 2010. In year one the three adventure travel enthusiasts ‘bootstrapped’ the business from an old ski chalet in the Alps but by the end of their first full season, more than 24,000 people had used the website to ‘bid’ for a chalet-based ski holiday. Three years on, with offices in Bristol and London, the team has generated more than £6m in adventure holiday sales and is currently looking into ways to expand the business.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Much Better Adventures co-founder Sam Bruce said;

“It has been a fantastic experience and this award is going to allow us to create another job in our business, which really sums up what it is all about. From a personal perspective, I came out of university and started the business straight away so to anyone in the room who is thinking about doing the same thing, I’d say just do it. It’s definitely not the easy route but it is massively rewarding.”

The idea for TrakCel was born from academic research into a software platform for the construction industry but, when founder Akshay Peer joined forces with pharmacology expert Matthew Lakelin, an exciting business was conceived. The pair set up an office in Cardiff Bay and enlisted the support of an experienced board of directors and developed a configurable software platform that effectively codes and tracks tissue and cell samples used in regenerative medicine that has attracted interest from some of the biggest names in the pharma sector.

“We were really pleased to be shortlisted alongside some fantastic businesses so it’s a huge shock to have won this award,” said TrakCel co-founder Matthew Lakelin.

“There is such a great team behind TrakCel, working hard to push forward our technology. Working in an area like cell therapy is such a privilege as ultimately you know that what you’re doing has the potential to help thousands of people all over the world.”

Engineering student Edward Shorney, who studies at Bridgend College in south Wales, developed the idea for GoRookie: The Apprenticeship Finder as a solution to what he saw as the complex and time consuming process of applying for an apprenticeship. Edward went on to develop a website that allows students to select and submit applications for the most suitable apprenticeships, while offering companies a user-friendly solution to assess applications from hopeful apprentices and make suitable appointments.

University of South Wales MBA student Evan Tamblyn developed the idea for StartWrite as a solution to the simple proposition that “students lose focus!”. After conducting research into the way in which university students approach coursework and assignments, work started on developing an app that takes inputted information and provides a realtime “to do list”, including reminders, timely advice and motivational messages. The app also encourages direct engagement from university staff who are able to send on relevant information and provide assistance to students exactly when they need it, rather than relying on global emails. The product is currently being marketed in the UK and Canada.

The Making Business Happen Awards are organised by the University of South Wales as part of its tradition of encouraging and supporting entrepreneurial talent.

To find out more and to view the full list of shortlisted entries, visit: www.uswbusinessawards.co.uk.


 

Graduate Start-Up Award

Open to UK businesses that have been in operation for less than three years.

 

WINNER

TrakCel Ltd

Entrant(s): Akshay Peer / Matthew Lakelin

Location: Cardiff, Wales

Notes: A pharmacologist joining forces with an electronic engineer to develop a configurable technology platform to manage and track biological samples used in regenerative medicine. The firm is taking a technology developed for the construction industry and applying it to one of the fastest growing areas of the healthcare industry.

 

RUNNER UP

The Other Room

Entrant(s): Bizzy Day / Kate Wasserberg

Location: Cardiff, Wales

Notes: Cardiff’s first ‘pub theatre’ was founded in 2014 as a charity with a mission to run a year-round programme commissioning, producing and curating plays. Now, with a commercial agreement in place with a popular venue, two plays commissioned and plans for a major student drama festival well underway, the first season at The Other Room will soon be underway.

 


 

SME Business Growth Award

Open to medium-sized businesses, founded by UK graduates, that have been in operation for a minimum of three years

 

WINNER

Much Better Adventures

Entrant(s): Samuel Thomas Bruce, Alex Narracott, Guy Bowden

Location: Stokes Croft, Bristol

Notes: A tailor-made holiday company specialising in skiing and adventure travel, the team at Much Better Adventures handled 24,000 enquiries in their first year of trading. Using technology to match each party to their perfect holiday destination, Much Better Adventures has generated £6m in adventure holiday sales, serving 6000 high-value adventure travellers.

 

RUNNER UP

Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company

Entrant(s): Jonathan Vaughan Williams, Francesca Barkinel, Amy Gwyther, Danuta Jedrys

Location: Pembroke Dock, Wales

Notes: Inspired by the food and the beach lifestyle of Pembrokeshire in south Wales, Jonathan Williams left his office job in Swindon to embark on a journey to create imaginative food and make people happy. Now he and his team run a successful street-food business as well as creating an expanding ‘beach food deli’ range for the retail industry.

 


 

Aspiring Entrepreneurs Award 

Open to school and college students across the UK

 

WINNER

GoRookie: The Apprenticeship Finder

Entrant(s): Edward Shorney

School/College: Bridgend College

Notes: Online portal that connects employers with the best new talent in their industry. GoRookie streamlines the apprenticeship application process for students, while providing recruiting businesses with a realtime list of top prospects, delivering significant cost and time savings.

 

RUNNER UP

Barmy

Entrant(s): Eve Lodge

School/College: Shelley College, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

Notes: Provider of bespoke, hand-made bunting to businesses, event organisers and private individuals. Operates a successful e-commerce website that allows customers to place personalised orders and the business has plans to diversify into other party product ranges.

 

RUNNER UP

iStudent

Entrant(s): Emma Young, Nia Price

School/College: Cowbridge Comprehensive School, Vale of Glamorgan, South Wales

Notes: A new Smartphone App that delivers tailored learning resources, homework diaries and timetables, past exam papers and achievement records directly from schools to students. Schools can also use iStudent to enhance communication with parents manage orders for school uniform and other equipment.

 

RUNNER UP

Plant notes

Entrant(s): Gabriel Barnes, Jake Malley, Alex Osborne, Harry Foreman

School/College: Frome College, Somerset

Notes: A complete hardware and software system that allows growers to monitor and manage environmental conditions to improve crop quality and reduce waste. The affordable and customisable system can be used by nurseries, horticulturalists and amateur gardeners.

 


 

USW Entrepreneurs Challenge

Open to current University of South Wales students or students of partner colleges.

 

WINNER

StartWrite

Entrant(s): Evan Tamblyn, Josiah Shelley

Degree studied: MBA Marketing

Notes: Smartphone app to help students manage multiple assignment projects and universities to enhance the communication with their students.

 

SECOND PLACE

Digital Forensics Consultancy

Entrant(s): James Moos

Degree studied: MComp Computer Forensics

Notes: Consultancy providing vehicle forensics services to police forces, defence and intelligence agencies and private law firms.

 

THIRD PLACE

ON LX Ltd

Entrant(s): Matt Didon, James Walton

Degree studied: BSc Lighting Design & Technology

Notes: Technology-led audio-visual services business offering a range of services, including cost effective solutions for smaller businesses and charities.

 


 

About the judging process

Teams of five judges were asked to review all submissions in their appointed category and rate each entrant on components of their business plan entry and an investment analysis. Scores were then standardised and ranked to create a shortlist of 2015 entries. The top 15 student entries were invited to attend pitch days at the University of South Wales on 12th and 13th February, while the eight finalists in the Graduate Start-up and SME Business Growth categories will take part in filmed interviews on location. The final winners and runners-up prizes were annunced at the Making Business Happen Celebration Event on Thursday 16th April 2015.

 

About the University of South Wales

The University was created in April 2013 as a result of a merger between the University of Glamorgan and the University of Wales, Newport. The institution is among the top 10 campus-based universities in the UK with more than 30,000 students, and offers over 600 programmes of study across five campuses in Newport, Cardiff and the Valleys. www.southwales.ac.uk

 

Both Glamorgan and Newport have long had impressive links with industry, both in the UK and overseas; and worked closely with major employers such as British Airways, Microsoft, BBC, Sony and others to help ensure that courses meet the demands of the modern workplace. This industry focus has contributed to a strong record of employability, with 94.8%* of graduates finding employment or engaging in further study six months after course completion.

 

*Source: HEFCW Performance Indicator 2012/13 (HESA)