Written by Mohammed Cheriet & Kane Collings
Look no further than the Venture Further competition.
Organised by the Manchester Business School, Venture Further rewards business ingenuity with a handsome cash prize. The winner of the contest will receive £4000 to be invested into their business. The runners up and third place are also given a reward of £750 and £250 respectively.
Martin Starkey, the senior marketing officer at MBS, says that the Venture Further contest provides an unconventional learning curve that will bolster their employability. “Enterprise competitions give students the opportunity to put forward their business ideas and are a fun and exciting way of learning. By entering, students develop skills such as imagination, creativity, effective problem solving and vision, giving a boost to their employability” he explains.
The competition was available to any individual or group of students who think that they have a good business idea. They are to put together a business plan and submit it before the submission deadline. Afterwards, the best six are shortlisted as potential winners. These six contestants then need to present their ideas to a panel of key university staff personnel before the best three are announced.
The competition is now running for the sixth consecutive year thanks to its telling contribution. The Mancunion takes a look at some of the past winners to reveal the key to a successful business plan, before and after the contest.
The winners for this year’s contest will be announced on May 18th at an awards ceremony in the Manchester Museum.
2011 Winner: Cav Form
John Wade, an undergraduate studying Civil Engineering, won last year’s Venture Further competition with his innovative and eco-friendly Cav-Form system. Equipped with his engineering knowledge, John designed an alternative method of constructing a cavity wall. His system eliminates the need of backing blocks that are usually required in construction. This not only saves on costs, but also additional labour and materials that are usually required in the construction process.
Cav-Form claims that the “simplicity of construction means less experienced and qualified staff can quickly and safely become involved with minimal training and supervision”. But it is the environmental benefits that this product delivers that are the most noteworthy. John explains that because backing blocks are so “high in energy to produce”, not having to use them will “not only save costs to the user, [be] quicker, but will also have environmental benefits”.
The Cav-Form system is also made from recycled plastic, delivering additional gains in terms of carbon reduction in construction. John hopes the Cav-Form system will be used on “every single new build in the UK”. John has now considered business abroad and has already applied for an international patent on his product.
2010 Winner: Netsportique
French and Business Management student Andrew Hacking won the 2010 contest thanks to his business plan for Netsportique. The business sells specialised sports equipment, from corner flags to score boards, in markets across continental Europe. Like any good business plan, Netsportique has a unique selling point, yet it is somewhat very simple: stock everything that is sold. “This sounds pretty normal for any business” Hacking admits, “but in France and Germany what they tend to do is custom build all their orders and that can take one or two months until it reaches the final consumer, whilst I can do it between two to three days because I have the stock!”
By forming a business plan that exploits this gap in the market, as well as the ability to convince the judges that his plan was feasible, Hacking had the perfect ingredients to win the competition.
Since winning the competition, Hacking has put the £8,000 of prize money rewarded in that year’s Venture Further to finance the initial high costs and expand the business. Half of the money was spent on the development of a website, whilst the remainder was used to import stock from India.
Netsportique now operates out of a real office and Hacking has even hired his first employee, with a second one soon to follow. Despite mixed results in the first year of trading, Netsportique is now running smoothly and has so far reached a total profit margin of 25 percent since October 2010.
2009 Winner: Venture Uganda
Venture Uganda, a charitable business developed by Jennifer O’Brien and Lesley Harris, won Venture Future three years ago. “Venture Uganda is a small, independent tour operator specialising in academic field visits and specialist holidays to Uganda”. Jennifer, who has a PhD in Human Geography, explains how the company provides such a service: “we do all the in-country organisation, we arrange meetings with speakers, accommodation and transport”.
The managing director, Lesley, first travelled to Uganda in the 1990s and had subsequent visits where she focused on educational development in the country. Whilst working as a qualified teacher in Uganda, Lesley met the third partner in Venture Uganda: Byaruhanga Michael. By Byaruhanga having such a vast knowledge of Uganda and extensive contacts within the country, the company can ensure students an experience of the country from a very local level. With such an eclectic team, Venture Uganda is able to deliver a personal, informative and real experience of a country that can offer so much to many different students.
The revenue generated by these visits is then invested into RISE: the Rukungiri Institute of Social Enterprise. This charity’s overall aim, as Jennifer says, is to “help local people lift themselves out of poverty through establishing equitable businesses”. Venture Uganda is now a fully-fledged business, which continues to deliver a quality service to students and valuable support to RISE.
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