Irene Breen, a current MBA student at Queen’s University Belfast and a BSc Architecture (2002) graduate, has seen off competition from over 2,000 entries from across the UK to win the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Award for her fledgling business ‘BellaMoon’.
Ms Breen was in London last month to collect the prize which includes £20,000 of equity-free seed funding, mentoring from one of the judges at the national final, support from Talent Cupboard and a fully funded intern.
Launched in 2011, the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards have grown to be the UK’s largest student and graduate business pitching competition offering important support to budding entrepreneurs. So far, more than £260,000 has been awarded to graduate start-ups and small businesses through the initiative.
Irene’s winning business BellaMoon, was in the ‘Pre-revenue’ category, defined as a ‘business focusing on ideation, discovery and business validation with minimal sales generated if any’. BellaMoon is currently going through user testing at University of Durham Infant Sleep lab. It is a unique multi-functional baby breast-feeding and co-sleeping bed, pregnancy pillow and baby dock, which Irene is planning to bring to market.
Speaking at the special presentation event, which hosted students from universities and colleges across the country, Nathan Bostock, Santander UK’s CEO, stressed the importance of supporting higher education. He said: “At Santander we recognise the importance of encouraging young entrepreneurs, particularly amongst university students, and we are committed to supporting them every step of the way. We were impressed with the talent, determination and creative thinking showcased today.
To get to the grand final Irene had first to submit a business model canvas and a short video to get shortlisted to the top 30 regional finalists. She then had to travel to Northumbria University to compete against 10 others for a top 2 place in the region before taking part in the London national final where she faced stiff competition from the top 6 (the best 2 out of the three Santander UK regions) challengers. The judging criteria included business mission, purpose and overview, an understanding of potential customers, identification and mitigation of risks and growth strategy.
Are you an active academic who recognises your students’ potential or a student on the island of Ireland and inspired by Irene’s story? A competition of similar action The 2018 Ireland Student Entrepreneur Awards is now open! There is an opportunity any student studying at a Higher Education Institute on the island of Ireland to turn a great idea into a winning project, cash and even a business with over €30,000 in prizes including an overall winner prize of €10,000! Similar to Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards, the competition has three stages: Creating the video and submission of the entry, Proposal of a business plan and Final Judging. Visit the website for more information and registration.
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