The Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Awards returned to De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) this week as budding entrepreneurs came together for an evening of celebration at The Venue.
Held in partnership with The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity and supported by DMUforLife, the evening was organised by the Enterprise and Entrepreneurship team, part of the Careers Team. It saw 10 awards handed out to both students and graduates, as well as the live final of the annual Pitch2Win competition.
It was a very strong night for recent graduate Alfie Dibrowa, who secured a trifecta of awards for his set of bike and e-scooter lights that have been designed to mimic the lights of a car, allowing riders to indicate, show when they’re braking and use hazard lights.
The Mechatronics Engineering graduate, who grew up in Desford, scooped the Entrepreneurial Graduate Success Award earlier in the night before going on to win both the panel and audience prizes in the Pitch2Win competition, securing £2,000 towards running his company, Pxle.
“It’s pretty sick, I must admit,” Alfie said. “I’m up until 11pm some nights while working full-time and I’m putting a lot of effort into the business, so to win three awards feels like a healthy recognition and shows I’m doing the right thing.”
Alfie Dibrowa with BBC Radio 1's Calum Leslie
Inspired by his time cycling and skating around Leicester, Alfie felt that current bike lights weren’t sufficient for navigating traffic.
With the increase in bike traffic from food delivery companies and initiatives such as cycle-to-work, he is hoping to see more legislation introduced to ensure that all bikes are equipped with lights and indicators.
He is continuing to build his prototypes and grow his business while working full-time as an electrical engineer at Druck in Leicester.
Alfie edged out Fashion Buying with Merchandising student Liam Thompson, a participant in DMU’s Enterprise Placement Year, who is upcycling unwanted clothes on his marketplace Second Society, and co-founder of the Great Central Gazette Megan Lupton, who formed the not-for-profit newspaper with DMU graduates Rhys Everquill and Emma Guy.
Speaking after the event, Alfie said: “My only regret is that I didn’t start this sooner. If I were to give any advice, I’d say do things that make you feel uncomfortable and truly believe in what you are doing because you can’t fake authenticity.
“Alongside putting money into a Kickstarter campaign, I’m going to be putting more time into developing the physical product. I want to code new functionality into the lights.”
Economics and Politics student Melvin Riley and Komal Shahzadi, who graduated from DMU in September, both capped off a successful 12 months by sharing the Student Entrepreneur of the Year award.
Melvin won the Entrepreneurship in Social Enterprise Award and was a runner-up in the Pitch2Win competition at last year’s ceremony.
Director of Library and Student Services David Parkes with award winners Melvin Riley and Komal Shahzadi
He has since been nominated for Young Business Person of the Year at the LeicestershireLive Business Awards, was named ‘Young Campaigner of the Year’ at the Inspirational Youth Awards and has become an ambassador for EmployabilityUK.
On top of his studies, he has co-founded Not So Micro, a business that uses AI technology to help create anti-racist training for teachers, as well as raising the profile for his other venture ATLSBLK, an app that helps minority students better integrate into university life.
Melvin said: “It’s been a year of wins – probably my most successful. There are a few social entrepreneurship awards I have won and I’ve been trying to build my personal brand.
“To win the award with Komal is very cool. When I came to DMU, I connected with her through the entrepreneurship programmes and we became friends, so it’s nice to see how our journeys are panning out.
“A lot of my time this year has been taken up by Not So Micro, and between us, we have raised £75,000 to develop that.
“I’m also on an accelerator programme funded by Arsenal player Bukayo Saka, so I’m hoping to use the experience from that to push ATLSBLK forward too. I’d like to get the app off the ground in my last year at DMU.”
Fellow award-winner Komal spent the 2022-23 academic year as the president of Enactus DMU, encouraging students to get involved in a variety of community projects across Leicestershire.
The initiatives include Project Smile, which delivers children’s dental packs to food banks, collecting medical equipment no longer used in the UK and sending it overseas, and supporting homeless people to find permanent homes in the city.
Her work with Enactus saw her nominated for an Environmental Warrior Award in this year’s East Midlands Chamber’s Generation Next Awards.
Komal said: “I knew I was nominated for an award but I had no idea which one. I was joking with Melvin that if we were in the same category, there was no way I would beat him.
“When I heard my name, I froze. Melvin does so much good work and I’m always inspired by him, so to share the award is very special for me.
“It’s been a busy year for Enactus. We got to the semi-finals of the national Enactus Awards and competed in the finals of the Leicester Innovation Awards but I’m particularly happy that we delivered our first shipment of medical equipment to Kenya.
“I’m so proud of myself and everyone in Enactus. I’d like to thank everyone I’ve worked with for their support.”
Singer Michael Auger, who won Britain’s Got Talent as part of Callabro, also returned to DMU for the awards evening, having wowed the audience with his performances at last year’s ceremony.
Britain's Got Talent winner Michael Auger returned for the 2023 awards ceremony
Between his musical interludes, which included Defying Gravity from the musical Wicked, Michael shared an insight into his career and advised students to “enjoy everything, even if you think it’s a failure.”
Providing live voice-overs on the night was Calum Leslie from BBC Radio 1 Breakfast, who also participated in Careers Team’s Entrepreneurship Day conference earlier in the year.
The event was opened by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Greene and awards were given out by advocates for student and graduate enterprise and entrepreneurship including Mike Kaliogou, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Business Innovation and Sarah Thomson, Director of Engagement.
Eleanor Davis was the first to win an award on the night for her work supporting mental health and there was special recognition for Clare Tattersall, who won the Entrepreneurial Alumni of the Year. Having studied Creative Arts at DMU, Claire founded New York Digital Fashion Week and lives out in the Big Apple.
Simon Baines, who manages DMU Entrepreneurship, said: “The awards served as a huge celebration not only for the amazing finalists but also for every single one of the three thousand students and graduates who have engaged with one of initiatives over the last year.
It’s these initiatives – including our flagship enterprise initiative the Enterprise Placement Year and our Graduate Champions Startup Catapult programme – that have led to DMU being named a top ten university for student and graduate startups in the UK.
“This work ensured we achieved the highest possible score in this category within the national Knowledge Exchange Framework.
“The event also brought together a raft of incredibly supportive staff from across DMU who support us in our work, plus many advocates from the external business community”.
A full list of winners can be found below:
Eleanor Davis – Health and Wellbeing Award, presented by Chair of the Sir Thomas White Loans Charity Lucy Womack
Joe Shade – Tech and Creative Industries Award, presented by Pro Vice-Chancellor Research and Business Innovation Mike Kagioglou
Giselle Kadekore – Fashion Award, presented by Deputy Dean of Arts Design and Humanities Chris White
Liam Thompson – Sustainability Award, presented by Head of Income Generation and Enterprise at the De Montfort University’s Student Union Andy Reynolds
Marika Tkacz – Outstanding Global Ambassador, presented by Head of Global Mobility Leo Smith
Clare Tattersall – Entrepreneurial Alumni of the Year, presented by Alumni Engagement Manager Danielle Wright
Ben Ravilious – Community Entrepreneurship Champion, presented by Director of Engagement Sarah Thomson
Alfie Dibrowa – Entrepreneurship Graduate Success, presented by Head of Graduate Success Richard Bowden
Melvin Riley and Komal Shahzadi – Student Entrepreneur of the Year, presented by Director of Library and Student Services David Parkes
Alfie Dibrowa – Pitch2Win, sponsored by the Sir Thomas White Loans Charity, panel winner
Alfie Dibrowa – Pitch2Win, sponsored by the Sir Thomas White Loans Charity, audience winner
Any student or graduate interested in developing entrepreneurial skills or developing a business idea can receive support by going to www.dmu.ac.uk/enterprise
Posted on Friday 10th November 2023