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Our Entrepreneurs

Case Study: Yannan Li, Misu Desserts

We hear from Warwick graduate, Yannan Li, who set up her own business in 2016.

Yannan Li

What is Misu Desserts?

We bring more innovative and exciting desserts to the UK market, for example, our current best-selling products include Matcha tiramisu, Salted Caramel and Cacao nibs tiramisu and Rose bud latte.

Innovation is the core of the business, so there will be
many more products to come.

How did the idea come about?

A combination of frustration and passion brought this idea to life. I’m
always a dessert-enthusiast, I was trained at Le Corden Bleu in 2014
and I love how desserts can bring happiness to people and social
occasions. However, have travelled and tried desserts in many
countries, I felt frustrated that the flavour combinations of British
desserts are not exciting enough. It is improving but many people still
seek for more novelty flavour combinations. I want to be one of the
few that leads the change.

What has been your proudest moment since starting Misu?

I have just completed my first year on the Tier 1 Graduate
Entrepreneur Scheme, and I’m still amazed with the journey we have
experienced so far! I’m proud that we were able to carry out the
plan, even though sometimes it was very demanding physically and
mentally. The greatest achievements include securing investors and
mentors from some top food companies, the 2-week pop up inside
the Bullring Birmingham and launching with Deliveroo Birmingham in
early 2018.

What challenges have you faced?

The biggest challenge I have faced so far was to find the right
distribution channel for our product. It took us a year of trial and
error to understand our product and market fit.

And how did you overcome these?

Our team tried various ways to sell, including online orders, catering
events, wholesale to coffee shops, food markets and retail shopping
malls. All distribution channels have their own pros and cons. It was
not easy to try many channels in such a short period of time. But I
believe it was necessary, to use the least resources and get as much
customer feedback as possible from different channels, this provides
very useful insights to which distribution channel we should invest
the most in the future.

What advice would you offer to other entrepreneurs who are
starting out?

Be resilient, keep up with the momentum. Be flexible with change. Compete with yourself and learn from others.

www.misudesserts.com

Warwick Graduate Entrepreneur shortlisted for Britain’s biggest small business competition.

Fatteh Haider profileA University of Warwick graduate, Fatteh Haider, has been shortlisted along with 50 other early stage startups at The Pitch UK. "Being considered at the 10th anniversary of the business competition that has helped thousands of small businesses to grow was definitely the confidence boost that I needed” says Fatteh. He was given exclusive access to 1-2-1 coaching and intensive business workshops from business experts before he delivered a 90 second pitch at the competition’s event in Moorgate.

His company, Open Mind Tutors, is an online marketplace that connects private tutors with students. The research behind his business came from the dissertation that he completed as part of the MSc Innovation and Entrepreneurship. According to Fatteh, this venture would not have been possible without the help of his Professors and the Warwick Enterprise Team whose insights were instrumental in the development of the business.

"Open Mind Tutors differentiates itself from existing businesses by incorporating a clear social construct; to eradicate the disparity of available and affordable private tuition. Tuition is made affordable by allowing individual students to join group lessons hosted by tutors on the website." Fatteh says that his vision is to "create a social enterprise that gives incentives to experienced tutors to teach students from economically disadvantages backgrounds for free."

"In the UK, a high number of students drop out of school because of overcrowded classes, subpar teaching and disengagement. Youths in disadvantaged communities are most at risk of missing out," explains Fatteh.

Fatteh believes his company will help these youths to achieve their full potential. View website.

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Project Baala

Project Baala seeks to eliminate this tradeoff between food, education and sanitary products that prevails in India. The ultimate goal is to generate a self-sustainable model where all 88% of the women with no sanitary facilities can be positively impacted.

88% menstruating women in India do not use any sanitary products during their period and use alternatives such as pieces of rag, ash, sand and husk. This results in a drop of 31% in productivity levels of working women and almost 1 in every 4 adolescent girls in the country, quits school due to the lack of any sanitary facilities (Nielson Corporation, 2015). These are not mere statistics for me but growing up in India, I have witnessed these problems first hand whilst volunteering and working in urban and rural slums. It is appalling that something that is taken for granted by most of us affects the education and income of nearly half of India’s female population. In addition to proving as a barrier to higher income and education levels, poor menstrual hygiene rooted in years of unawareness, misinformation and taboos substantially increases the risk of reproductive tract infection amongst these women.

Additionally although sanitary waste disposal is a global problem but it is more distinct in India due to poor solid municipal waste management. An estimated 125kg of sanitary waste is generated by a single woman in her menstruating years (Ecofemme, 2016) and with 12% of women in a population of 1.2 billion using sanitary pads, India is facing a serious problem of non- biodegradable waste.

With this in mind, Project Baala was created to provide a two-fold solution to menstrual problems in India:

  1. Generating awareness about menstrual health and hygiene via workshops in rural areas.
  2. Distribution of 3 reusable sanitary pads for women which can be used up to a year and a half.

This allows to eliminate the recurring costs of buying sanitary pads and the use of unsafe alternatives whilst simultaneously improving the menstrual health practices employed by the women. It also allows to minimize the cost on the environment and reject the myths and taboos associated with menstruation. With generous support from the Lord Rootes Memorial Fund, ~840 women were impacted over the summer of 2016. After that ~1250 more women and girls have been impacted due to the high interest shown by different NGOs and organizations in India to take it up as their CSR initiatives.

Fed up with ticket touts or can no longer go to an event? Ticketpass has the fair fare solution!

Like many of us, Rodrigo Bautista leads a spontaneous life which means he can’t risk purchasing event tickets in advance! And purchasing tickets last-minute is impossible if there are none left or if prices set by ticket touts are too high. Either way, disappointment is near when plans for work and play change!

Rodrigo Bautista and Alex Taylor - tktpass

This Warwick postgrad found he was not the only frustrated would-be event goer! His only available way to find tickets was to constantly check social media like Twitter and Facebook or websites like Viagogo and Stubhub. He'd find that listed tickets were overpriced or the event was too niche to appear!

He asked himself,

Why is it so difficult? How can websites help touts sell tickets at 10 times the original price?”

He understood these organisations were in business so needed to be profitable, but he and managers of music artists feel it’s simply “rampant profiteering”. The Arctic Monkeys, Iron Maiden, Ed Sheeran, Noel Gallagher, Little Mix and Björk are just a few who want to do something about it. Not to mention the 46,000 fans who signed an online petition calling for the UK government to react!

After countless coffees, many lines of code and months of working with event organisers and attendees, Rodrigo is happy to announce the website for Ticketpass is now live. Anyone can easily create and sell tickets for their events on a platform free of touts – and for free! The costs incurred by Ticketpass are covered by a proportional and capped charge for processing card payments on ticket purchases made by event-goers. The Ticketpass webpage for event organisers is https://ticketpass.com/organisers/ and https://ticketpass.co/ is for those looking to buy or sell their no longer wanted tickets.

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Rodrigo is all too aware that 9 in 10 new businesses fail and many factors play a part. So before a line of code was written, he set about proving the concept. Their first minimum viable product (or MVP) started with a bike and a mobile phone. He sold tickets for organisers by sending SMS texts while cycling around in the worst of British weather! The operation was definitely not scalable, but it validated the idea and it got event organisers interested.

Afterwards, Rodrigo considered how to build the service. He knew the journey would be eventful. Since then he has had exciting victories – including Warwick Entrepreneurs’ 2016 Venture: Warwick Startup Cup – and very tough challenges. He bears in mind the possibility of losing a major customer or something going horribly wrong – yet he can’t afford to react emotionally or become down and out. Rodrigo is determined to remain as objective as possible and find ways to keep moving forward.

Rodrigo (rodrigo at ticketpass dot co) is a creative marketer. Rodrigo developed Ticketpass while on a Tier 1 visa endorsed by the University. He has an MSc in Marketing & Strategy from Warwick Business School. To progress Ticketpass, the start-up was awarded assistance from the Student Enterprise Fund supported by the Warwick Enterprise Partnership.

If you’re planning an event, why not give Ticketpass a try!

tcktpass laptop

turnleft, the app is out! Your way to meet new business contacts… anywhere, anytime!

turnleft logo   Oliver Stevens
turnleft helps you to build strong relationships at home and away by connecting you with others before and while you travel

After Oliver Stevens graduated in Computer and Business Studies from the University of Warwick in 2008, he left for life as a financial markets trader in London. Staring at 10 computer screens day-to-day for 7 years with little social interaction inspired his new adventure: turnleft, an app helping professionals find new business connections online so they can meet in person. turnleft is for business leaders, human resource managers, small-to-medium enterprises, entrepreneurs and freelancers looking to recruit or raise their profile by showcasing their skills and ideas. As Richard Branson says…"succeeding in business is all about making connections”.

The Haggerston Times – the online news source for techies, entrepreneurs, start-ups and investors – summarises 2 main benefits of using turnleft:

…firstly, its nearby function enables users of the app to identify and connect with people around them, either locally or during free time when on overseas business trips. Secondly, the app allows users to make better use of their time when they are travelling, by letting fellow users know beforehand where they will be, meaning they can connect and arrange to meet with potential business contacts relevant to their professional needs ahead of time, and perhaps crucially, ahead of any potential business rivals.”

iPhones with turnleftA user of turnleft uploads their LinkedIn profile and browses others’ profiles. Once trip itineraries are entered, turnleft reveals when others will also be there at that time. This is the key to connecting and exchanging messages online so parties can choose whether and how to meet in person. turnleft is an essential enabler of networking, especially when people are on the move.

The small steps along turnleft’s journey towards success have taken longer than its founder and CEO anticipated, with growing patience being key for Oliver:

Timescales are almost arbitrary in this new world I ventured into, and that’s not just about me having to wait for others. The tasks I set myself take two or three times longer than anticipated. Without patience, an entrepreneur would go crazy!"

Oliver Stevens laptopOliver invites past and present staff and students of the University of Warwick to join in and find out for themselves how they can benefit from turnleft,

We’re building a community of founding members, and what better set of candidates than Warwick Alumni across the globe! They get first hand access to the app and are among the first to connect with people around the world who are in our alumni network and beyond. I hope turnleft encourages people to take the step after connecting online, so they connect in person the old fashioned way and further their professional ambitions!”

Your invitation to turnleft awaits you and your iPhone: http://bit.ly/turnleft28 AppStore button
   

turnleft is based in London’s creative TechHub at the Google Campus in Shoreditch. Oliver Stevens: oliver at turnleftapp dot com Google for Entrepreneurs


HealthClic - the doctor’s house call is back!

It might feel like stepping back in time, but the future of doctor consultations at the convenience of patients is almost here… again! Priyanka Chaturvedi, economics graduate from the University of Warwick, updates us on the formation of her new enterprise, HealthClic, and gives her tips on venturing into business.

"HealthClic is for people wanting private GP home visits. Patients browse online for a doctor of their choice and book an appointment at a time and place that suits them,” says Priyanka.

HealthClic offers a modern and now luxury take on a much-loved, but long-lost service.

I struggled to find a GP days before my final year exams – and when I finally did, I was sick in the taxi on the way! There had to be a better way! I decided to give control back to patients.”

Information communication technology, flexible working hours and a growing on-demand economy make house calls possible in the modern age.

“Our mobile-friendly webpage makes access to primary healthcare services easy for the UK’s time poor and ageing population.”

HealthClic promises the highest standards of patient care and screens doctors just as hospitals and clinics do. Part of HealthClic’s quality assurance strategy involves company registration with the Care Quality Commission. Priyanka’s parents are GPs and has also experienced the demands of the healthcare profession from the perspective of the service provider’s family – so she aims to help both patients and doctors. "HealthClic is gathering some of the best private GPs in the UK for this premium service, where each patient member receives a dedicated healthcare representative from HealthClic."

HealthClic logo premium

HealthClic was registered with Companies House late last year. The appointment management software supplied made by 10to8 is ready and waiting to launch HealthClic’s London 7-day service in the coming months.

Register your interest – as a patient or a doctor – in HealthClic’s service by visiting www.healthclic.co.uk.

Priyanka decided during her studies at Warwick that following the well-trodden path of her classmates to the offices of multinational banking and finance corporations was not for her. During the formation of HealthClic, Priyanka has learnt to stay informed and knowledgeable about her industry. She has avoided becoming fixated on a detailed business plan, allowing her to focus on changes in the healthcare sector and to shape her business in response to current events. While establishing HealthClic, Priyanka has also been busy working towards her Postgraduate Diploma in Entrepreneurship at the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge.

“I would definitely encourage students to start a business – if you want your career to be something you love and something that gives you freedom and flexibility in the long term. It’s a good time to take the risk and work extra hard while you don’t have as many responsibilities.”

Priyanka at Warwick Graduation

Priyanka Chaturvedi, Founder of HealthClic, at her University of Warwick graduation

Priyanka’s top tips for venturing into business are:

  1. Just because everyone else is doing something, do not feel obliged that it will suit you too.
  2. Before deciding on a career path, take the time to understand yourself, your passions and what you know and do well.

For more information about HealthClic, please visit www.healthclic.co.uk.

Enactus Warwick reach semi-final in National Competition

Enactus Warwick competed against 34 other Enactus teams from UK universities in the Enactus UK 2016 National Competition in London. This energy-filled event brought together 800 university students, 60 academics, and 400 senior business leaders. The Enactus teams competed for the title of Enactus UK National Champion by showcasing their community outreach projects to business executives serving as judges. The students were evaluated by how they applied business concepts and entrepreneurial approaches to improve the quality of life of those in need. The final round judging panel comprised 70 senior business leaders from blue chip companies including Lord Michael Hasting CBE, Global Head of Corporate Citizenship, KPMG International and Stuart Mitchell, Group Chief Executive SIG plc.

Maria Littley, university adviser for Warwick’s team said,

Enactus Warwick worked hard this year to diversify their project portfolio and progress excellent social enterprises which are having a real impact on beneficiaries. The team worked together to deliver a compelling pitch and were rewarded by securing a place in the semi-finals. This student society is doing fantastic work and I’m sure their work with incoming president, Indy Sira, will improve the lives of even more people in our area this year.

Enactus Warwick at Enactus UK National Competition 2016

Enactus Nottingham was crowned Enactus UK National Champion and in September will represent Enactus UK in the Enactus World Cup 2016 in Canada. Andrew Bacon, CEO Enactus UK was delighted with the event, “Congratulations to Nottingham and all of our 56 teams who delivered so much more through their projects this year. It was very pleasing to see the growth in numbers and diversity of students participating in the programme this year. This year, every stage was more competitive and this is down to the hard work of all involved; whether from team members, business advisers and universities. We look forward to the World Cup in Toronto in September and to a stronger and bigger programme in 2017.”

London will host the Enactus World Cup in October 2017 - the first time since 2004 and the Enactus UK team is already making preparations.

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For more information about Enactus Warwick, please visit www.enactuswarwick.com 

Enterprising students compete in National Apprentice Challenge

A team of students supported by the Warwick Enterprise Partnership represented Warwick at the 2016 National Apprentice Challenge. It is one of the largest UK inter-university enterprise competitions and is run by the Centre for Applied Learning. Each year, up to 100 of the nation's brightest and most ambitious students tackle practical business tasks. This year the prize was £1,000 cash, business mentorship and a fast-track to paid internships.

Warwick entrants National Apprentice Competition

Warwick's National Apprentice Challengers

Warwick's participants, Shachi Banthia, Shalini Hadpawat, Sakshi Sanghvi and Priyanshi Shah are four undergraduates reading Business and Management and Economics and International Studies. They thought strategically, presented skillfully and worked very well together against 20 other teams from across the UK.


Training

All students went through an intense and rewarding residential weekend at Aston University. Their time was packed with reality-based business tasks, networking opportunities and fun surprises. This was the opportunity for trainees to experience the key stages of running a business and to put their studies into practice.


Competition day

For the first task, students ran an airline within an online simulation software. The teams had to develop and implement business strategies, create marketing plans and decide flight routes, amenities and schedules for their fleet of planes. All companies began by selling domestic flights and could expand routes to Spain and China. With the support of four virtual advisers, their main goal was to profit as much as possible within seven trading rounds. The market was dynamic, so each round teams were forced to adapt their strategies according to their competitors' performances - like in reality.

The second task required students create an innovative business concept for The Next Social Media Platform and to pitch it to serial entrepreneurs. Before beginning this task, all the participants were trained how to deliver effective and memorable presentations by Otearners.org. With just a few hours to prepare, each team relied on each others' strengths and were compelled to work together and communicate effectively.


Want to get engaged with Enterprise at Warwick?

To find out more about enterprise opportunities at Warwick visit www.warwick.ac.uk/enterprise

Case Study: Christina Morelli, CEO Artist

Christina Morelli

Warwick graduate, Christina Morelli,, shares her experience of launching a start-up.

What was your idea and how did it come about?

My vision for CEO Artist was cultivated in New York back in 2011, originally with the independent music sector. Working as a music journalist and interviewing countless artists, I came to realize how frustrating it was for creative individuals to master even the most basic business tasks. The ability to switch from one side of the brain to the other, understand how to prioritize their career, and grasp how to remain creative while also making a living out of it, was a foreign concept. I personally experienced this struggle in my first business, a dance studio, where I was responsible for both the day to day admin and operations, while continuing to teach, choreograph, and produce. CEO Artist started simple - one client (singer-songwriter), one vision (to build a stronger presence online and expand their fan base). We worked on their brand, their image, their content, and their time management. Positive word of mouth spread, and I continued to work as a consultant over the next five years. When I moved to London in 2016 and began film school, I found students, entrepreneurs and filmmakers across the UK encountering similar problems - and so CEO Artist made the leap across the pond.

What has been your greatest achievement/proudest moment during your time on the scheme?

I hosted a workshop independently in January (purely as CEO Artist, not hired out by another school or organization), and I had a good turnout! The attendees were happy with the evening, and I even made a small profit. It was a small win, but I’ve learned it’s important to celebrate those as well. Now I’m being hired by other organizations to conduct workshops for their client base, which is exciting as well.

What have been your biggest challenges?

Despite years of experience in America, making to the move to London was essentially like starting from scratch. My business is based on relationships, contacts, and word of mouth, and it takes time to build that sort of client base. Additionally, there are some cultural attitudes that vary from the US to the UK… I’ve found some people in the UK don’t view the “power skills” workshops and classes to be essential to their business or curriculum, so it requires me to hustle and find networks that see the value in what I offer.

How did you overcome them?

Networking, meeting people, thinking outside the box in my approach to potential markets. Asking my tutors and mentors for help reaching out to new people. Having coffee with anyone who would take a moment to chat with me. Basically, using the same skills I teach others in my own day to day business plan!

What advice would you offer to other entrepreneurs who are starting out?
  1. Plan on working multiple jobs while you build your business - time management is everything.
  2. Ask questions. To everyone. Everywhere. You never know who you are talking to, and who they are talking to.
  3. Be patient, but stay driven. Rejection comes with the territory, so you need a thick skin from day one.
What are your next steps after Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Scheme?

A professional certificate program has approached me about developing a curriculum based on the CEO Artist’s coaching and business skills to add to their new course, so I’ll be working on that for a bit. I also plan to continue expanding the workshops I’m conducting now, and would love to take on some private clients. Additionally, I’m working on a few scripts that are now in development, so I’ll be writing in whatever spare time I have!

Are you happy for your case study to be featured on the Enterprise at Warwick website?

Please provide a link to your website if you would like us to include it in the case study

www.theceoartist.com

Case Study: Don Lee, Devoch Limited

Don Lee profile

Warwick graduate, Don Lee, shares his experience of launching a start-up.

What was your idea and how did it come about?

The idea was about offering British businesses an access into the Chinese market by offering promotional videos and translation services. It was developed by myself and a visiting lecturer in Warwick when I was studying in the second term. During the second term, I chose to study the course titled Cultural Entrepreneurship, which eventually turned my idea into a business plan.

What has been your greatest achievement?

My proudest moment was when I was endorsed by the University on the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Scheme. Other achievements include setting the company up, gaining investment, signing a contract with one of the biggest names in the jewellery business, Deakin & Francis. It has been a journey with constant surprises (and challenges as well).

What have been your biggest challenges?

The biggest challenge I face now is reaching out to potential customers. Previous challenges included building up a filming crew, finding partners, seeking finance, not being able to afford to feed yourself…

How did you overcome them?

I cannot say that I have overcome all of them. I am always trying to promote my business concept to friends, contacts that I have, etc. I have built a website to promote the services that we offer. I try to meet people from chamber of commerce and use personal connections in the UK. I believe that solutions are more than problems. I am still trying to overcome many challenges.

What advice would you offer to other entrepreneurs who are starting out?

Clear vision and mission; confidence in your idea; strong mind-set to persist; make contacts; focus.

www.devoch.co.uk

Case Study: Nabiha Khan, Dress Me Desi

Nabiha Khan profile

Warwick graduate, Nabiha Khan, launched her South-Asian party clothing rental business in October 2017. She tells us about the proud moments and challenges she has experienced with her start-up.

What was your idea and how did it come about?

We provide South-Asian party wear outfit for rent and provide wedding services such as helping to find trusted wedding vendors, discover best ideas and planning tips.

The idea was kickstarted during my undergraduate days, when during Eid or Diwali celebrations, it was always nice to wear traditional outfits, but since few would bring ethnic clothes from their native country, they would either borrow from their friends or splurge for just one-off event.

However, the idea was actually born when I had to attend three South Asian friend’s wedding in UK a year. Each wedding involved at least three events. With dresses being very expensive to buy in UK for a one-off event and no trip to India. We realised having an affordable South Asian wear boutique would solve the problem but partially.

We found that clothes that sit in the back of our closet don't seem to add much value to our life. instead they contribute to inordinate amounts of waste pollution.

The chaos and lack of organised wedding services gave birth to Dressmedesi.

What has been your greatest achievement/proudest moment during your time on the scheme?

Some days, you have the wind at your back and everything goes smoothly. On other days, you feel like you’re constantly batting headwinds, potholes, reckless drivers, and a myriad of other obstacles. In launching and scaling our company, we’ve had no shortage of challenges. However, it was the constant feedback we got from our clients, and their love for our business idea, that really made us keep going. Also, getting client referrals through word of mouth was the proudest moment. Seeing how our business was making a difference in people’s life is a very heart-warming experience.

What have been your biggest challenges?

The biggest challenge I’ve faced as a solo founder is keeping momentum. Without energy and input from other people, it can be easy to lose faith that your product is worthwhile, and start to fall behind.

How did you overcome them?

The best way of overcoming this that I’ve found so far is to try and build a small network of friends you trust to share your goals and bounce ideas around with. If you’re working alone, you need support from people who understand the exact challenges you are facing more than ever.

What advice would you offer to other entrepreneurs who are starting out?

Forge genuine connections with people inside and outside your industry. So much of our business is referral-based, one relationship can make or break your year. Be truly interested in them and try to cast a wide net.

www.dressmediesi.co.uk

Local business has roots firmly in health and well-being

A West Midlands-based business, promoting health and well-being, kicks off this academic year with new classes for Warwick University staff and students taking time out for rest and relaxation.The Yummy Movement class

The Yummy Movement’s Vinyasa Yoga for all abilities will be delivered through Warwick Sport lunchtime on Tuesdays and after work Thursdays – allowing attendees to relax, enjoy a community workout and take some much needed ‘me’ time.

Selina Welter, who founded The Yummy Movement, and leads the classes says:

In our age of consumerism and materialism, it’s time to take a step back and pay attention to the simpler things in life. For many people, the first step to a healthier lifestyle starts with a simple change and yoga classes are perfect for that.”

Movement, healthy food and sustainability are the central ethoses for The Yummy Movement, a business based on an informed and balanced vegan lifestyle, coupled with exercise and conscious breathing.

Selina Welter

Selina continues,

There are many excellent ways to enrich our lives; little changes that can make us feel happier, more content and satisfied with our achievements. Breathing is the essence of our daily life, and attention to it connects us with our inner self and calms our mind, body and soul. Vinyasa Yoga is a great way to start a healthy lifestyle and learn how to breathe consciously.”

Selina has big plans to expand the business, which started life two years ago with financial support and business mentoring from Enterprise at Warwick. Videos and recipes are in the pipeline for the next months, as well as classes for members of Warwick Climbing Centre. There are also plans for guided video classes for those unable to attend in person, but would still like to reap the benefits of The Yummy Movement in their own time. Reaching out to parents on campus with relaxed sessions, as well as offering well-being packages for conference attendees are also on the horizon.

The Yummy Movement logoThe Yummy Movement Vinyasa Yoga sessions begin in week 3 (week commencing 17 October) for 8 weeks (through to mid-December). Classes take place at lunch time (12.30pm – 1.30pm) on Tuesdays and 6pm – 7.30pm on Thursdays. Classes can be booked at Warwick Sport and staff can use their WLA vouchers for courses.

Coventry Chess Academy scoops prize pool at regional final for world's largest chess tournament

Twenty-one members from Coventry Chess Academy (CCA) recently competed against 200+ children in the Warwickshire Megafinal of the 2016 UK Schools Chess Challenge (UKSCC) – the largest chess tournament in the world! Their results were, in short, brilliant. CCA members took outright first place in 5 of the 12 age groups. Three of those did so without losing a match. Fourteen CCA members won 4 or more of their 6 matches and qualified for the national Gigafinal, placing them within the UK’s top 5% of children for their age groups.

Coventry Chess Academy team

Coventry Chess Academy players and their coaches from the University of Warwick, Paul Lam (centre), current undergraduate Hok Yin Chiu (second from left) and graduate Steven Turvey (far right).

Paul Lam, Founder of the CCA, says, “For the membership of a single club to achieve these results is remarkable and it was a tremendous collective effort by all at CCA who took part. To reach this stage of the competition is a fantastic achievement in its own right and this was underscored by the quality of chess played across the board.”

Paul recalls one of his highlights,

The tournament’s round five clash between seven-year-old Sarthak Sanyal and six-year-old Arjun Vadgama, both CCA members was amazing. World Chess Federation (FIDE) Master Nick Thomas, a former chess Olympian, was in the audience and declared it one of the best games between a six-year-old and a seven-year-old that he had ever witnessed.

Sarthak, who was already rated as a top ten UK player for his age group, eventually triumphed in a hard-fought battle, taking first place with a perfect 6/6. Arjun took outright second with 5/6 – a superb achievement considering he was the youngest participant in the whole competition.

The attitude and conduct demonstrated by CCA members as a group did not go unnoticed by parents, tournament organisers and other onlookers. They set a superb example; whether it was by remaining cheerful and positive after a loss, by respecting tournament etiquette during play or by showing modesty in victory.

The highest placed players go onto the national Gigafinal and finally the Terafinal, in which 54 of the original 50,000+ competitors compete for thousands of pounds worth of prize money and the coveted first place, known as the “Strat”.

Each year children in 12 age groups ranging from under-7 to under-18 enter the challenge which starts in schools and junior chess clubs across the country.

The Coventry Chess Academy is a social enterprise providing chess tuition for children aged 6 to 12. Its main aim is to use chess as a catalyst for social change by providing children with skills that empower them in and outside the classroom. Sessions run in Coventry every Saturday morning: 10–12 noon. For more information please visit: https://coventrychessacademy.wordpress.com/

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Chemistry and Warwick Ventures pilot way to develop Early Career Researchers and win £500k to achieve impact

Researchers in the Department of Chemistry have achieved the holy grail of making commodity plastics that can be more easily mixed, painted and joined.

Professor Peter Scott, working with doctoral student Chris Kay, has developed a commercially-viable range of customisable additives, named PolarfinsTM that change the surface properties of plastics to make them more attractive to other materials.

Chris Kay

Working with Warwick Ventures, the University’s technology translation office, the team has set out to achieve impact from this technology. The journey started with a University Proof-of-concept grant to successfully demonstrate the use of the technology and secure the intellectual property. This enthused Chris, having completed his PhD, to want to take the product into the market place and see the benefits of the technology being used globally. The question was how to give him the skills and resources to do so.

With the help of their contacts in the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, Warwick Ventures managed to get Chris on an entrepreneurship scheme called ICURe (Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research), funded by HEFCE and InnovateUK, which is being piloted by the SETsquared group of Universities. Chris and the team were one of the first non-SETsquared attendees. During an intensive training boot-camp Chris was given the skills, resources and support to spend three months travelling the world with the aim of interviewing at least 100 potential commercial users of his technology and demonstrating its market demand.

Armed with this information, the team developed a business plan for a new University of Warwick spin-out, Interface Polymers Ltd, which would develop customised Polarfins™ to make the novel plastic alloys and composite materials that the market wants. The team went on to pitch this plan to InnovateUK, and win a £500k un-matched grant as seed-funding for the spin-out. Chris is delighted. “InnovateUK’s ICURe programme has given us a great start both financially and in helping us develop our industry contacts and get ’beyond academia’, he says. “We have already had a lot of interest from target customers and plastics processors and are in discussion with potential investors to raise matching funds to enable us to get pilot scale trials underway.”

With this impressive result Warwick Ventures has been keen to help develop other Early Career Researchers and teams, to develop their enterprise capabilities, technologies and customer networks. Two other Warwick teams have now attended ICURe and are pitching their business plans and Warwick Ventures are engaging Early Career Researchers and Principal Investigators through a variety of pilot programmes to support, then plan and attain impact from their research, under the banner of Warwick i2i: Innovation to Impact.

For more information on PolarfinsTM contact:

  • CEO - Phil Smith – p dot smith at interfacepolymers dot com
  • Chief Scientific Officer - Dr Chris Kay - c dot kay at interfacepolymers dot com

For more information on how Warwick Ventures can help support and develop your research outputs please contact:

  • Warwick Ventures - ventures at warwick dot ac dot uk

International Women's Day

We’re celebrating International Women’s Day by shining the spotlight on Warwick’s enterprising female students and graduates.

Listen to Priyanka’s advice for enterprising individuals and hear how her enterprise, HealthClic, is helping patients with convenient home-visits by health practitioners.

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Priyanka Chaturvedi, Graduate in BSc (hons) Economics, Founder HealthClic

And take a look at Tomi Oladepo's enterprise, Stylish Academic, where "smarts and style are not mutually exclusive." Learn about Tomi and her enterprising activities...
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Tomi Oladepo, Warwick postgraduate, PhD in Digital Media and Communications, Founder Stylish Academic

Meet the first graduates of Warwick’s Software Incubator!

Warwick graduates who launched new businesses in the University’s Software Incubator are starting to see real returns on their hard work and commitment.

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Two businesses which started out in the incubator just last year have started to expand and their novel approaches have already attracted customer and media interest. The entrepreneurs behind these companies used this opportunity to offer advice for others considering starting their own business.

Henry Jinman is CEO of Crowdfund Campus, an online platform through which university students, staff and alumni can seek crowdfunding for innovative projects – anything from a cutting-edge documentary project to a new type of job-seeking service. He explains how it all works and the secret to its success in this interview in Business Quarterly Magazine.

Henry was one of the first entrepreneurs to receive support through the Software Incubator, which was set up in 2014 by Warwick Ventures Ltd, the University’s technology commercialisation company. The aim of the incubator is to support new companies through the early stages of development by offering mentoring and business advice.

Crowdfund Campus has now moved into premises in Birmingham to focus on expanding the service to a wider pool of graduate entrepreneurs, and also offers training courses in enterprise skills. The company is now working with nine universities in the UK.

Henry explained to the Birmingham Post how useful the Software Incubator had been in helping to launch the business.

Another company to graduate from the Incubator is Funding Invoice, an invoice trading platform that helps SMEs access funds from invoicing more quickly by ‘selling’ invoices to professional investors. An alternative to the traditional ‘invoice factoring model’, Funding Invoice provides a faster and more flexible method for SMEs to access working capital. This is a growing market for businesses looking to tackle the challenges of small business cash flow with recent figures suggesting that asset based finance, such as invoice finance, UK businesses lead Europe in use of asset based finance.

In an interview with Enterprise Times, Funding Invoice CEO Aamar Aslam explained how his business is different from competitors within the sector. Journalist Ian Murphy, who interviewed Aamar, concluded that the company has plenty to offer:

Shaking up the invoice factoring system and providing a fairer value for invoices to SMEs is a great idea. The fact that it has all been done without any new technology or indeed any new software being created is good news as it means there is little to no cost in the system to be absorbed by either investors or users.

Funding Invoice recently announced it had reached a major milestone - £1 million worth of invoices funded to SMEs by its investors. Aamar attributes some of the company’s success to the support he received through the Software Incubator. He explains these benefits in a recent interview with the Business Zone.

If you’d like more information about the Software Incubator, please contact Brendan Spillane, at Warwick Ventures: email: b dot spillane at warwick dot ac dot uk

Building enterprise confidence. Understanding your strengths – where am I now?

Sherry Xian was our guest speaker at Session 2 from the 5 on offer during the Warwick Skills Enterprise Scheme. A former student at Warwick, Sherry gives her tips to budding student entrepreneurs and tells us more about her enterprising venture: Achieve Mentoring.

Sherry Xian - Achieve Mentoring

What does Achieve Mentoring offer?

Achieve Mentoring provides international students with personalised learning support through coaching and mentoring. We have worked with over 200 students for various durations, depending on each student’s study and career preparation needs.


Why did you decide to focus on supporting international students?

International students come to the UK to learn about English life and at university they have to adapt to different styles of education. Students can lack the confidence to attend central careers sessions and do not want to admit they are struggling. Achieve Mentoring provides private personalised support.


What advice can you give new entrepreneurs?

  • You need to build your uniqueness. There are many products out there which are similar to yours, or they can substitute yours. You need to build your uniqueness to make yourself stand out and hard to copy.
  • You need strong motivation. There will be difficult periods where you will be disappointed. Strong motivation will get you through that. We thrive on knowing that students value our service and are relying on us.
  • When choosing a business partner, work with someone who has similar values to you so you agree on the direction of the business and support each other.
  • Choose a business idea which requires little initial investment so you can get up and running to demonstrate an impact before you need to convince potential investors.

You can read more about Sherry and Achieve Mentoring on her Voices webpage.

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All Student Enterprise Projects

Browse all of the projects that have been funded and supported by Warwick Enterprise over the last few years.