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First Students and Graduates Awards hails Class of 2021


Entrepreneurs, rising stars in the workplace and inspirational educators have been honoured in the first Students and Graduates Awards at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

The online event was live-streamed and hosted by DMU Works Enterprise and Entrepreneurship team which works with students and alumni to grow a business or learn entrepreneurial skills.

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Host Simon Baines said: “This event felt like a real celebration of the phenomenal achievements of our entrepreneurial students and graduates, plus the staff and founders who help us to inspire them.

"We received a huge number of nominations and every one of them should feel very proud.

"Our enterprise offer for students and alumni is continuously growing and evolving and I would encourage anybody with even a seed of an idea to check out and have a look at how we can help them".

More than 100 nominations were received and judges whittled it down to 27 finalists across eight categories.

Lingerie designer Roshni Desai, who won the Positive Planet Impact Award, is part of the Crucible Project, DMU's two-year programme to support graduates to launch their own businesses. She said: "It was an honour to be nominated and win the positive planet impact award. My business has overcome many challenges over the past year and launching during the height of Covid was incredibly difficult but

"I achieved everything I set out to do with my garments and designing them in a way that reduces waste in the fashion industry when making them and reducing the amount of waste that goes to landfill at the end. I hope to create many more designs and garments like this in the years to come."

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The winners were:

Inspirational Founder: Eve Drayton-Hill, co-founder and manager of the Woodgate Community Foodbank, which began during the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic. It offers food and essential household items and runs a delivery service for people unable to travel or who are shielding.

Positive Planet Impact Award: Roshni Desai, owner of Roshni Desai Designs, is a lingerie brand that creates bras that fit up to four sizes to reduce waste in the fashion industry. She uses biodegradable and recyclable materials to pack and send items.

Launchpad award: This recognised the students and graduates who took part in the DMU Launchpad Start-up Programme, a four day bootcamp that delivered business essentials. The winners were Lauren Snowden Higgs, Richard Narayan, Sonia Bordin Aykroyd and Kirsty Topley.

International Entrepreneur of the Year: Rupinder Kaur Bhanganni, who runs RKB Design Studio, an interior design firm in Leicester that specialises in café and office transformations.

Intrapreneur of the Year: Esther Sodeke won this category, which aimed to recognise those people who had made a difference in their 9-5 jobs by bringing an entrepreneurial mindset to their job. She works for mobile gaming company NaturalMotion.

Inspirational Educators: Dr Simon Hill and Dr Natasha Mwila of the Faculty of Business and Law, and Martin Shakeshaft, senior lecturer in photography and video.

Entrepreneurial alumni award: Photographer and videographer Phoebe Carnall-Ruppel who set up her own photography business after graduating in 2020. She started in fashion photography and has since collaborated with local artists and designers.

Entrepreneurial student award: Chris Philips, who started his cyber security company ADSS Cyber Security alongside his business. ADSS was named one of the UK’s top five security start-ups in 2020 by Enterprise Security Magazine.
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A special award for outstanding achievement was presented to Jane Hearst, a filmmaker who set up The Curious Observer while a student. She is now a postgraduate researcher exploring the role of arts on wellbeing.

She said: “I would have never have had the opportunity to do any of this without DMU and the opportunities it provides. There is a real entrepreneurial support system in place at the university.”


Posted on Thursday 8th July 2021

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