Budding entrepreneurs from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have been recognised for their outstanding work at the university’s second Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Awards, in partnership with The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity.
Students from across the university’s four faculties were joined by Leicester business leaders, senior university staff and returning alumni in a bumper awards ceremony at The Venue@DMU.
In total, 11 awards were handed out on the night, which included musical interludes from Michael Auger, who won Britain’s Got Talent as part of Collabro, and the live final of the university’s Pitch2Win competition.
Here is the round-up from a busy awards evening.
Having led DMU Enactus to its highest finish in the National Enactus Awards and meeting with members of the United Nations (UN) in New York, Business Management and Economics student Tarnjeet Kaur rounded off a magical year by winning the Entrepreneurial Student of the Year Award.
As President of DMU Enactus, Tarnjeet helped create the university’s first student-led allotment, which will produce sustainably-grown food for staff and students. She is also leading a campaign to reduce dental poverty in Leicester and the society’s Welcome Home project looks at the causes of homelessness in the city.
Tarnjeet Kaur picks up the Entrepreneurial Student of the Year Award
She was among four DMU students to present their work on sustainability at the UN headquarters and was described by the Director of the Sustainable Development Unit, Michelle Gyles-McDonnough, as an “agent for change”.
“I’m very emotional. I’m actually holding in tears right now,” Tarnjeet said after the ceremony. “I certainly want to own my own sustainable business at some point in my life and become an entrepreneur but right now I want to get some more business experience under my belt.
“Growing up, I didn’t learn much about sustainability, so I want to find fun ways of educating school children on the importance of good practices - just enough to plant that idea in their heart.”
Picture gallery – see all the high-resolution pictures from a jam-packed awards evening at The Venue@DMU.
The pitch of her life
An emphasis on sustainability also helped Fashion Textile Design graduate Alexandra Weatherby take the 2022 DMU Pitch2Win crown for her eco-conscious knitwear design brand.
Pitching to win £1,000 for her eco-friendly start-up business, Alexandra Weatherby delivers a winning presentation
Backed by the Sir Thomas White Loans Charity, the Ptich2Win competition sees students pitch their potential business ideas to a panel of judges in a bid to win £1,000 to help start their businesses.
Presenting to Chair of the Sir Thomas White Charity Lucy Womack, its patron Barrie Stephen and DMU’s Enterprise Projects Officer Vikesh Mistry, Alexandra showcased one of her colourful designs before impressing the judges with in-depth research into her competitors, as well as a push towards slow, sustainable fashion through biodegradable outfits and restore and repair services.
She edged out Ben Hancock and Melvin Riley in a closely contested final, which was decided by online votes from the audience.
Alexandra said: “Since I was about five years old, I’ve always wanted my own fashion brand. I try and focus on clothes that match my aesthetic but also my ethics, so everything will be sustainably sourced. I’m a sucker for colour and a lot of my inspiration comes from colour therapy, placing specific colours in certain spots to help people’s mindset and emotions.
“I’m so grateful for the competition and everyone who voted for me. My next step is getting my hands on a second-hand knit machine straight away and looking at eco-dye availability as they’re quite hard to find.
“I would love to be able to design sustainable, bio-degradable clothes for all occasions, from casual wear all the way up to glitzy garments for celebrities on the red carpet.
“I’m also very interested in bridal wear, having worked in it for a while and would love to make more sustainable dresses because typically it’s a very unsustainable industry.”
Celebrating DMU’s entrepreneurial spirit
Organised by Simon Baines, Tammy Meahan, Laura Wilson and Vikesh Mistry, this was the first time that the Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Awards could take place in person.
The night opened with a speech from DMU’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Katie Normington, who reiterated Leicester’s growing reputation for start-up businesses, thanks in part to the university’s ability to create business-savvy students through its various programmes.
DMU's Vice-Chancellor Professor Katie Normington addresses the audience
For the second year in a row, DMU has ranked in the top 10 British universities with the most student and graduate start-ups, with a total of 140 new businesses launched by students and graduates in the 2020/21 academic year.
The Vice-Chancellor emphasised how entrepreneurship “goes hand-in-hand with DMU’s empowering university strategy” and the importance of “embedding and retaining talent in our city” through new initiatives including a new DMU Works hub for start-up guidance and events as well as a new Barclays Eagle Lab co-working space for local, high-growth businesses.
Addressing the audience, Simon, who manages DMU Entrepreneurship, said: “We wouldn’t be a top 10 university for student and graduate start-ups without our amazing students and graduates. We wanted to create something that celebrates their fantastic achievements because we have been genuinely blown away by their ideas and passion for their businesses.
“We’re a small team but we do big things and pride ourselves on our entrepreneurial mindsets. Our managers Richard Bowden, Phil Curtis, Adele Brown – the former head of Graduate Success – and Jo Cooke have put so much trust in us and I hope we haven’t let them down yet, so I want to say a heartfelt thanks to them especially.
“A big thank you too to the Sir Thomas White Loans Charity, who we have worked with for more than 10 years. The events our team put on could not happen without their generous support.
Taking the stage for their awards
Lucy Womack presented the Entrepreneurship in Health and Wellbeing award – the first of the night – to winner Lauren Snowden for her series of seated exercise classes for over the 60s in Bristol.
Contour Fashion Innovation MA student Phoebe Jimenez-Lewis won the Entrepreneurship in Sports Award for designing sustainable breast guards for use in women’s contact sports.
“I feel seen,” Phoebe said after collecting her award. “It’s really important that we try to include more women in extreme sports. The breast guards that you have to use are compulsory in competitions and training only goes up to a size 14, so if I can make one girl’s dream of being in by creating larger plates, it would make me really happy.”
Elsewhere, Melvin Riley won the Entrepreneurship in Social Enterprise Award for his ATLSBLK app that helps minority students better integrate into university life and Nayaab Mohamed, who earlier this year designed a garment for Joy Crookes at the Brit Awards, won the entrepreneurship in fashion and textile awards for her designs she has created during her studies.
John Lees, Deputy Director of Student Academic Services, presents Melvin Riley with his award
Lis Naylor, who has been supported by The Crucible programme, won the Entrepreneurship in the Arts Award. A successful self-employed business consultant and life coach, Lis has become a prominent member of the Leicester Society of Artists by painting and sculpting life models as they practice ballet or gymnastics.
There was an award too for Jordan Lewis, who won the Placement Award following on from a successful 12 months in DMU’s Enterprise Placement Year scheme. During his time on the initiative, Jordan created his own digital marketing agency, Regal Marketing, where he uses data insights to market luxury brands in the UK and the US.
Jordan Lewis receives his Placement Award from Careers Digital and Data Strategy Manager Phil Curtis
Related news story: Meet the 2022 Enterprise Cohort Year
Textile Design and Technical Innovation MSc student Ellie Jones scooped the Entrepreneurship in Tech Award for her research into how designers can harness the electricity generated by bacteria and incorporate it into electronic textiles, while Gabby Miller, owner of the Cool As Group and the women behind the Cool As Leicester online magazine, won the Positive Influencer Award.
There was a special return to campus for DMU alumnus Lee Tomes, who set up Leicester-based video production and animation company Orange Fox Studios.
Since graduating from the university in 2010, Lee has gone on to found Creative Coffee Leicester, Creative Company Leicester and the Orange Fox Studios to build on the inventive communities within Leicester.
Danielle Wright of the DMU Alumni team with Lee Tomes, founder of Orange Fox Studios
After receiving his award, Lee said: “I was delighted to be awarded the Enterprising Alumni of the Year accolade. Leicester is a city that is so special and I had the best time at De Montfort University during my days as a student.
“The city's openness and collaborative entrepreneurial spirit has always been one of its many strengths. Building a business and presence for yourself and your brand is a tough task but with the right environment, support and motivation you can do something you love.
“It's been a journey a decade in the making and I'm only just getting going! Thank you to the team at DMU for honouring me with this award.”
A fitting tribute to the late Stephen Peak
Throughout the ceremony, Michael Auger was on hand to perform powerful ballads from Les Misérables but his rendition of the song Shallow from the 2018 remake of A Star is Born was particularly prominent as it was sung in tribute to the late Stephen Peak.
Michael Auger from Britain's Got Talent-winning group Collabro was the special guest at the awards evening
Stephen was the Director of Corporate Development (now Enterprise and Business Services) at DMU and shared a close working relationship with Simon Baines.
Paying tribute to his former colleague, Simon said: “Stephen was always thinking of new ideas and sense checking them with me. He was full of humour and creativity, he put faith in me with a significant promotion and together we launched Leicester's first-ever co-working space, The Innovation Centre, which was way ahead of its time.
“I learned so much from Stephen and continue to apply much of my learning from him in my work.”
It’s been a bumper couple of years for the DMU Entrepreneurship team, which has launched online start-up schools, its Launchpad programme, and Graduate Champions Start-up Catapult programme, as well as organised trips to Los Angles and Lisbon on top of its Enterprise Placement Year scheme and the Pitch2Win competition, supported by the Sir Thomas White Loans Charity.
Applications for the team’s latest programmes, Leicester Future BAME Entrepreneurs and the DMUmade Creative Entrepreneurship programme are open now at dmumade.com
The full list of winners:
Health and Wellbeing Award – Lauren Snowden
Sports Award – Phoebe Jimenez-Lewis
Social Enterprise Award – Melvin Riley
Fashion Award – Nayaab Mahomed
Arts Award – Lis Naylor
Placement Award – Jordan Lewis
Tech Award – Ellie Jones
Positive Influencer Award – Gabby Miller
Entrepreneurial Alumni of the Year Award – Lee Tomes
Entrepreneurial Student of the Year Award – Tanjeet Kaur
Pitch2Win Live Final, sponsored by the Sir Thomas White Loan Charity – Alexandra Weatherby
Posted on Monday 4th July 2022