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Four businesses given £10,000 boost as 2015 Venture Further winners

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Four businesses given £10,000 boost as 2015 Venture Further winners

Last night saw the 2015 Venture Further winners announced, as part of an evening of celebration at the Whitworth Art Gallery. Attended by industry leaders and staff from across the University, the night provided the competition finalists with a great opportunity to network and make contacts. This year's competition sponsors; NatWest, CMSpi, MAHSC and Manchester Science Partnerships; all presented awards on the night.

The competition is run annually by the Manchester Enterprise Centre (MEC) and gives students and alumni the opportunity to win £10,000. There are four categories; business; social, digital and research.

Opening the awards ceremony, Prof Luke Georghiou, University Vice President for Research and Innovation said: "Enterprise is at the core of what we do as a University...The jewel in our crown is what our students do and MEC is at the front of that activity."


The 2015 winners:

Business Category: Joy & Joe Ltd 

Olumayowa Osundeko finished his research-based PhD in Biotechnology last year and his company has just reached the finals of Manchester Enterprise Centre’s Venture Further competition.

While he and his wife were nursing their first baby at a neonatal unit in 2009, the pair realised that there were very few kangaroo care carriers available and of those that existed, none were manufactured in the UK. Kangaroo care is a technique practiced on new-born babies where the infant is held skin-to-skin with the adult and is proven to facilitate development and pleasure to infants.

After identifying the gap in the market, the couple set up Joy & Joe Ltd in 2013, a manufacturing company that specialises in kangaroo care products. The couple design the prints and styles then work with weavers and tailors in the North West to ensure the whole manufacturing process remains British.

Currently the carriers are used in the NHS and sold in the UK as well as through retail channels globally. In its first year, Joy & Joe turned over £47.5k and made a £10k profit.

Olumayowa says: “We would like to invest the £10,000 into developing our packaging, which is at the moment only really suitable for online customers and we intend to launch the product on the high street later this year. We’d also like to develop our accessory range.

“We’ve gained a lot from entering Venture Further and the team at the Manchester Enterprise Centre has taught us a lot about how to present our product and how to build our brand. We’ve also gathered useful tips and trends to look out for as our business grows.” 

Digital Category: Perfocal

Qiuhao Xu graduated with a masters in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship from Manchester University last year.

As an amateur photographer, Ouihoa found it was difficult to get work and recognised there was a need for a marketing platform which connected photographers with the people who needed them. Thus the idea for Perfocal, an abbreviation of ‘perfect focal’ point, was born.

Perfocal will help both amateur and professional photographers to get work through an online database. Photographers will be able to submit their work as well as details such as rate, equipment used and location to help customers to find the right solution. All entries will be vetted and customers will be able to search for photographers in their locality and within their price range quickly and easily.

While the product is currently still under development, the site has already received nearly 1,000 pre-registrations from photographers across the UK and internationally.

Qiuhao says: “Photography is a very expensive hobby, and many of the photographers I know currently try to market their services on sites like Gumtree which isn’t very targeted. Also many professional photographers tend to spend a lot of time managing jobs and completing paperwork, so marketing is at the back of their minds. Many use standard websites built on templates which don’t really showcase what they can do in an engaging way. Our website hopes to provide a much better solution.

“We are currently developing our first beta version of the website and the £10,000 will allow us to add another two web developers to our team of volunteers and help with the pre-launch marketing of the project.”

Research Category: TRAM

Erol Chioasca is a recent PhD graduate in Software Engineering from the University of Manchester.

Erol and a team of researchers from the School of Computer Science at the University of Manchester recognised that 85% of the information required to develop a software system already exists in documentation such as reports, manuals or emails. Business analysts currently need to examine this information manually in order to develop high quality requirement specification documents using standard tools. The tools are not purpose built and there is no additional support to the user, which can result in a slow and costly process.

TRAM (Texture Requirements to Analysis Model) is a state-of-the-art information extraction and management service which will enable business analysts to examine required information in days rather than months with the same level of accuracy.

Erol says: “A colleague of mine suggested entering Venture Further so we could really define the business model for TRAM.

“The support we received from the Manchester Enterprise Centre has been outstanding. The workshops and one-to-one sessions were great and they made the process of analysing other business models really fun.

“As a computer science graduate, I don’t know a lot about business plans but this initiative allowed us to piece our ideas together into something that could be seen as a viable business.”

Social Category: In your own words

Jenny Berry is an undergraduate at Manchester University studying a degree in English Language for Education. Her social business plan for ‘In Your Own Words’ has reached the finals of the Manchester Enterprise Centre’s £10k Venture Further competition.

In Your Own Words is a poetry programme developed from Jenny’s research project which is currently run in a Manchester-based prison. Poetry is used in a therapeutic way to help prisoners to express themselves through creativity rather than physically.

Having written bespoke poetry for speeches, funerals and eulogies for many years, Jenny saw first-hand how poetry helps people to heal themselves by expressing their emotions.

Jenny says: “I’m really passionate about helping people, particularly in relation to rehabilitating people. There’s no point letting a prisoner out that’s going to reoffend, so if I can help people help themselves, I will.

“In a typical hour and a half session, we work with 5-8 inmates. We talk through published poems and what they mean to them, then encourage them to write poems of their own.

“Within the very short timeframe I’ve known about the competition, I’ve had a lot of support from the Manchester Enterprise Centre to refine my business plan and I’m really grateful for that.

“I believe In Your Own Words is an idea that can live on in various formats and I’m delighted to have been given the opportunity through Venture Further to develop it.”


Congratulations to the 2nd prize winners, who took home £2,500 each to invest in their businesses:

Maritime Security Exchange (Business); Metriculate (Digital); MicroAtlas (Research); and My Nairobi (Social.

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