Business Plan Competition winners announced

A luxury, large-cup lingerie company and a provider of English teachers to schools in China win the University's 2018 Business Plan Competition.

First prize in the Trading category: Jacob Twomey and Hannah Kallend

Hannah Kallend and Jacob Twomey - first prize winners in the Trading category of the Business Plan Competition March 2018

Organised by Spark, the University’s business start-up service, the competition is open to both students and graduates and awards prizes in two categories– Pre-trading and Trading up to 24 months.

This year’s competition winners shared a total prize fund of £8,500, with a £2,000 first prize in each category, second prize of £1,250 and third prize of £750. A special award of £1,000 was sponsored by former Business Plan Competition winner Nick Howard, from film agency Limehouse.

First prize in the trading category was won by Hannah Kallend (23) and Jacob Twomey (22) for their business, Impact English China, which recruits graduates to fill the demand for native English speaking teachers in both kindergarten (state primary schools) and English Training Schools (after-school clubs).

Inspired by their own year teaching English in China after graduating in 2016, Hannah and Jacob interview candidates and match them with vacancies at more than 200 schools they’re partnered with across Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu and Guangzhou. They also provide pastoral support and assistance with travel and visas. Despite only recently starting trading, they already have more than 100 graduates on their books and have placed 10 candidates.

“We’d already graduated and had set up the company when we first got in touch with Spark,” says Hannah, “so it was amazing to discover the level of support still available to us – proof of concept funding, the Business Plan Competition, Spark’s own team of advisers, the professional services network. It’s been fantastic. The opportunity is enormous and there are plenty of ways we can expand the business, so it’s brilliant to know there’s advice on hand to help guide us when we need it.”

First prize in the pre-trading category was won by third year Management student, Harriett Howe (21), who hopes to launch her business, Lunebelle, in the summer.  Lunebelle will produce luxury large-cup lingerie ranging from D-G cup, but it will also educate young women on breast health and bra fitting, as well as giving them a comfortable and positive environment to transform their body confidence.

“Spark is the most incredible resource for student entrepreneurs,” she says. “The Spark team and the network of professional advisers are helping me turn my dream into a reality. Winning this award is brilliant because it shows their belief in my business – and in me – and this gives me the confidence I need because I know they’re with me all the way.”

Harriet Howe - first prize winner in the pre-trading category of the Business Plan Competition March 2018First prize in the Pre-trading category: Harriett Howe

Nick Howard, of film agency Limehouse, joined this year’s judging panel, after being a winner of the competition in 2008. Nick’s company sponsored a special prize of £1,000, which he awarded to the social enterprise, Bloomin’ Buds Theatre Company. Run by third year Performing Arts students, Katie Mahon and Molly Rumford, Bloomin’ Buds offers drama-based support to young people who are struggling to access opportunities due to social and educational inequalities.

Kairen Skelley, Head of Spark Business Start-Up, says: “This is the tenth year of the Business Plan Competition and the overall quality of the entries is startling. Both category winners this year are entering markets dominated by big brands, but are confident and articulate in their own venture’s unique selling points and have the vision, determination and talent to succeed.”

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