Students from across The University of Manchester have taken part in the city’s Venture Further Awards, a unique competition that showcases the entrepreneurial talent of Manchester’s students and alumni.
Now in its 15th year, the annual business start-up competition is open to all current students, researchers and recent alumni across The University of Manchester, and supports budding entrepreneurs with expertise and a prize fund of £75,000.
Led by a team from the Masood Enterprise Centre at Alliance Manchester Business School, the competition gave students the chance to gain practical business planning skills and receive expert support in progressing their business ideas. Over five categories – business, creative, environmental, social and technology – the finalists submitted detailed business plans and pitched their proposals to panels of expert judges.
One of the standout winners included the socially responsible production company, Blue Shoes Productions, which scooped the prize in the creative category. Founded by three MA History students from the University, Blue Shoes Productions creates audio and visual content based on underrepresented voices in society. Recent work includes a documentary on an asylum seeker experiencing homelessness in the North West, and a podcast series based on mental health in the South Asian community.
A notable entrant in the environmental category was the Green Energy Guru, an initiative that allows businesses and homeowners to research and buy products that promote a sustainable future. Founded by Finn Lawton, an alumnus of Alliance Manchester Business School, the business compares prices on products such as heat pumps, solar panels and electric vehicle chargers.
Electric Bazaar, an ethical fashion social enterprise aiming to empower artisan workers in Pakistan, also impressed the judges. The company promotes ‘slow fashion’ - producing pieces that will last longer and value fair treatment – by partnering with small, local producers to source fabrics. It also runs a Sewing Machine Project to enable women in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab regions to start self-sustaining tailoring businesses.
Lynn Sheppard, director at the Masood Enterprise Centre, said: “Venture Further continues to evolve, and as it does it plays an important role in highlighting and nurturing the wide range of entrepreneurial students and alumni at Alliance Manchester Business School and The University of Manchester.
“Manchester is a global hub for entrepreneurship, and the competition has helped to launch many successful new ventures and careers. It’s especially inspiring to see ventures with ethical and sustainable issues at the core, and we will continue to support the development of real talent and uncover the responsible business leaders of tomorrow.”
The competition is the latest spotlight on entrepreneurial talent that has been supported by the Masood Enterprise Centre, after Alliance Manchester Business School alumna Christina Taylor was named in a list of 10 female entrepreneurs to watch in 2020 by Business Insider.
Christina founded dance company Aim Sky High, which works to help socially mobilise children and young people and address social issues through their dance classes. With an average of 500 children attending a week, the group has danced for high profile celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Stormzy, and starred in a CBBC documentary about the dance school.