A platform opening children's eyes to STEM through inspiring birthday parties, workshops and more won first prize of £4500 funding in the MDXcelerator Spring Sprint business support programme pilot.
MDXcelerator is a new pan-University programme, run by the MDXworks employment hub, offering students who express an interest in starting a business or in self-employment a pathway towards a successful launch.
Twenty students entered the twelve week pilot. The programme offered workshops and seminars around start-up and entrepreneurship, a Masterclass and Q&A from Saracens rugby club chairman, entrepreneur and investor Nigel Wray, 2-3 sessions of mentoring and access to an online toolkit.
Participants had to submit a lean canvas, attend pitch practice sessions and pitch in Round One, from which six finalists were selected.
Winning student Keytonia Walker, about to graduate from the BA Advertising, Media & PR course, was inspired to develop MasterCrafters out a recognition of her passion for science. She had wanted to study science at secondary school, but never felt sufficient confidence in herself to do so with the under-representation of other women from her background in the field. Her aim with the start-up is to "plant seeds in toddlers and young people that anything is possible through a fun, sublime environment".
MasterCrafters promises memorable, bespoke birthday parties and entertainment packages hassle-free for children aged 4-13 to support time-strapped parents. It harnesses the creative and scientific skills of young graduates and science professionals, who can then be trained to help facilitate parties. "We want to ignite the passion for STEM-related careers in the next generation" says Keytonia. "I'm overwhelmed with the positive response so far and I'm looking forward to upscaling and getting young professionals on board".
Runner-up was Grace Yeo with Alva Creative, a platform that centralises booking for models in one automated space, with an App for on-the-go updates between clients and models. In third place was Rianna Ellington with RiCreated, a bespoke clothing business, enabling customers to have casualware designed and tailored to their individual style.
"When I share this idea [with models], they say this is definitely something we need" says Grace about Alva Creative. "There's so many scams out there". A native of Singapore, where she has worked as a model, Grace says "I always had ideas. Where I come from, entrepreneurship is not encouraged. I feel like I've got lots of support from my mentor here".
Rianna says her tailoring business is about "trying to encourage people to express a different perspective. It's increasing people's options. People like choice without too many restrictions". She describes the difficulties of presenting financials to the judges for a start-up which is on the drawing board: "It's hard to pitch an idea in terms of numbers. So they can still understand but not lose essence of what I'm about".
Nigel Wray, who chaired the judging panel, congratulated all the finalists on their passion at the end. "You've got to have start-ups or the economy is going to die," he said. "The spirit of enterprise is so important. I'd love to be able to tell you how to do it, but I can't - it has to come from you".
The competition "is an opportunity for our students to show how creative and entrepreneurial they are, and how they learn from each other" said Deputy Vice Chancellor, Learning and Innovation Andrea Dlaska. "The calibre of the students today, also their confidence, creativity, star quality - we are so proud".
"The MDXcelerator Spring Sprint provided real evidence that there is a strong entrepreneurial spirit within the MDX student community" said Alan Stuart, Director of Employability at MDXworks. "As an extra-curricular activity, MDXcelerator will support students not only in progressing their start-up ideas, but in preparing them for a future workplace where innovation, resilience and self-actualisation will be key personal and professional attributes".
MDXworks will next launch the MDXcelerator 19/20 Sprint, running from October to March 2020, offering more students support in launching their own business.