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MDXcelerator winners awarded £20,000 as entrepreneur competition continues to grow

Men’s suit upcycler, coffee ordering App and innovative ballet shoe business compete in ‘Dragons’ Den’-style final

Six MDX entrepreneurs have been awarded a total of £20,000 to develop their businesses following the MDXcelerator Student Start Up Support final.

The event, now in its fourth year, offers mentoring and grants for students and alumni who are thinking about setting up an enterprise or becoming self-employed.

This year for the first time, the competition was open to Middlesex University students and alumni, Barnet residents and students from Barnet and Southgate College as Middlesex University's MDXcelerator Start-Up programme and the Entrepreneurial Barnet Competition partnered to offer a joint programme.

Around 30 entrepreneurs attended a series of workshops, masterclasses, tailored one-to one mentoring sessions and pitching challenges before three participants were selected to present their business idea during the grand final.

They were given five minutes to pitch before facing around 10 minutes of questions from the panel of judges in a Dragons’ Den-type set up.

Presentations included explaining the why and concept of the business, the problem it sets out to solve, the marketing strategy and financial modelling.

The high-powered panel of judges was headed up by Steve Leverton, founder of Cornmill Associates, and included MDX alumnus Danish Bagadia, Google’s Head of Media Governance, Operations and Performance Marketing, Hendon Councillor Alex Prager, Himanshu Raja, Chief Financial Officer at Hammerson and Councillor Anne Clarke, the newly appointed Small Business Champion for the London Borough of Barnet.

Cllr Clarke spoke about the importance of enterprise and  entrepreneurship before the finalists pitched their business ideas.

Steve Leverton said:  "I was delighted to again be asked to lead the judging for the Entrepreneurial Barnet and MDXcelerator final. This initiative seems to grow in strength and impact every year and plays an important part in recognising and encouraging entrepreneurship in the Barnet community, as well as within the University.

"A very strong set of finalists presented a real challenge for a judging panel which had vast experience and credibility and it was valuable to have such support. Well done to all the finalists. Also thank you to the organisers and the support of Middlesex University yet again."

First prize of £9,000 went to Eva Dojackova for her start- up Suit Me.

The 22-year-old Advertising, Branding & PR student said her  interest in fashion and sustainability led her to launch an up-cycling business based in her native Czech Republic, focused on selling to women reworked designer suit jackets previously worn by corporate men.

Eva’s presentation carried the tagline, ‘If you take care of things, they last.’

Suit Me buys jackets from charity shops in London, sending them to the Czech Republic to be repaired and then sells them online.

Eva said: “The business was started throughout my studies, as a reaction to environmental issues and the gap in the market.

“It hit me that 85 per cent of clothes get sent to landfill and that made me want to change my approach.

“Unlike any other second-hand shop in Prague, Suit Me provides designer blazers that are repaired, cleaned and are good quality. The brand cares for the satisfaction of the customer and it is a sustainable business.

“I believe that we can still enjoy fashion and wear nice pieces without necessarily using new materials.”

Runner- up Luna Al-kaisy received £5,000 for her App, Java Go.

While working on a TV production, the MDX film student noticed that crew members were constantly going on coffee runs that required them to locate their department members, write down everyone’s orders, locate a café and then chase everyone up to pay them back.

“I thought to myself, there has to be a more efficient way of doing this,” says Luna.

The app works like a Whatsapp chat with different groups using QR codes which allows them to pay for their orders individually and select orders from menus of independent local cafés.

“I got the opportunity to learn about the foundations of running a business” says Luna.

“I enjoyed the challenge of doing the pitches: an important skill”.

Ballerina Bruna Lisa, who graduated from MDX last year with a BA in Theatre Performance and Production, won £3,000 to invest in her ballet shoe business CortiPonta.

She said: “Being in this industry for so long made me realise that ballet shoes don’t meet  dancers’ needs to perform in full.

“They are hard and very uncomfortable, cause excruciating pain, and smell terrible too, due to bacteria. In fact, they are being made in the same way for decades. It’s time to change!

“They are hard and very uncomfortable, cause excruciating pain, and smell terrible too, due to bacteria. In fact, they are being made in the same way for decades. It’s time to change!

“All dancers around the world will enjoy every second on stage, pain-free!”

Three other entrepreneurs received £1,000 each for their businesses: Interior Architecture student Selen Lapaci, for furniture upcycling company, Up2Be; MDX Advertising, Branding & PR student Livia Tan Yi Shuen for a social commerce platform connecting businesses, influencers and consumers; and PGCE Primary Education Graduate Kasha Stankowska, whose platform Grounded is designed to help people going through a break up.

All six entrants will be paired with a mentor to continue their entrepreneurial journey.

MDXcelerator is delivered by University employment service MDXworks.

It is one of a number of programmes led or championed by the University for students looking to start up a business, along with  Entrepreneurial Barnet, the Enterprise Development Hub, and the Mayor’s Entrepreneur Programme.

This focus on developing future entrepreneurs has paid off as Hitachi Capital Invoice Finance research shows that one in seven  MDX graduates manage or own their business.

Competition judge Danish Bagadia said: "What MDXcelerator has built is a great example of how to harness pure talent with entrepreneurial ambitions by providing not only the funding but also the means of increasing the probability of success with its workshops, masterclasses, mentoring and more.

"The prowess  of the MDX  team, fellow judges, and more importantly the participants is nothing but brilliant."

Find out more about the Enterprise Development Hub

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