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Founders of reforestation platform and quality food at a discount web shop win £5000 each in Entrepreneurial Barnet competition

"The guidance from the mentors was fantastic and it was all so well organised," says winner Amanda Bronkhorst

An MDX alumna and her business partners who have developed an App for people to buy discounted quality, sustainable food by grouping purchases, and a Barnet resident behind a platform to donate to climate change mitigation are the winners of the 2021 Entrepreneurial Barnet competition.

The founders of Bulkify and JUST ONE Tree, who won the Commercial and Social Impact categories respectively, both receive a £5,000 prize and mentoring. Runners up, winning £2,500 each, were 2021 MDX BA Management graduate Luigi Castellano for storage-saving home furnishing business Xuonii and MDX Sound Engineering alumnus Cesar Portillo, who pitched his accessible entertainment audio production company Ceesound.

Following competition rounds of elevator pitches and online workshops, the final was held as a remote event on Thursday 29th July. The judges were business finance specialist Steve Leverton of Cornmill Associates, Barnet Council’s Small Business Champion Cllr Alex Prager, founder of high-protein healthy ready meal brand The Gym Kitchen Segun Akinwoleola and co-founder of ‘edutainment’ App Kidadl, Hannah Feldman.

Bulkify's Clare Brass says the concept was inspired by her and her co-founders having neighbours running start-ups who produced great food, when they were running previous business, consultancy Department 22, "and when the pandemic started we thought it would be a good opportunity to try something new”.

Bulkify works by grouping orders and deliveries in the same geographic cluster, and allows customers to discover local shops and businesses when they go to pick up their orders. After some trial and error testing, the team put together a web shop, currently available to people in the Barnet area, offering products such as organic raw honey, single-origin coffee and locally-baked goods at discounts of up to 40%. The more users in a neighbourhood, the easier it becomes to “bulkify”.The team now seeks to expand to other parts of London and later to other towns and cities.

Clare says she had a “fantastic experience” studying furniture design at what was Middlesex Polytechnic in the 1980s. She ran a design studio in Italy for almost 20 years, then on her return to the UK worked as a design educator and trainer, through which she developed her passion for social enterprise. While working at Royal College of Art she established SustainRCA, an initiative to inspire and support students to embrace sustainability in their design work. She set up Department 22 and then Bulkify with RCA graduates Dejan Mitrovic and Thomas Leech.

JUST ONE Tree enables schools, businesses and individuals to fund reforestation at a rate of just £1 per tree, through partnerships with organisations working in nine countries. In the two years since it was founded, the non-profit platform has facilitated the planting of almost 1.4 million trees, plus kelp restoration. It also raises environmental awareness in the classroom, engaging children through an annual JUST ONE Tree Day, and setting up partnerships between schools across continents.

"When I discovered how cheap it was to plant a tree I just wanted to tell everyone, because the more people who joined with me, the bigger collective impact we could have" says founder Amanda Bronkhorst, who used to produce TV commercials.

She says that taking part in the competition helped her think beyond day-to-day start-up challenges: "it made me allocate time to concentrate on the business model itself and to ensure that we were progressing in the right direction. The guidance from the mentors was fantastic and it was all so well organised. It was also wonderful to know [Corporate Events and Engagement Manager] Dominic [Moule] was always on hand if we had any questions".

Judge Steve Leverton said: "Leading the judging of the Entrepreneurial Barnet Competition has been an annual event for me for several years. This year the competitors and the organisers had to deal with the challenges of lockdowns and how to present their businesses and their applications online. Nevertheless, the number of entrants has exceeded expectations and the quality of the business ideas was good, with healthy variety. The pitches on the day were, as always, very different but consistently the outcome of hard work and preparation".

The competition is run by jointly by MDX, Barnet Council and Barnet & Southgate College, and is generously supported by Hammerson PLC and Santander Universities.

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