The Manchester Enterprise Centre’s (MEC) Venture Further scheme is a business startup competition hoping to find some of the best business idea proposals which have the most potential for success.
Entrants can win up to £10,000 in four categories: business, social, digital and research. Business proposals have the potential for commercial success through a new product or service, social proposals are those that can improve the lives of people and communities, digital proposals apply technology for new experiences and innovative opportunities, and research proposals focus on the application of university-based research to real-world problems.
The winners of each category receive £10,000 to implement their proposal, while a runner-up in each section receives £2,500.
The deadline for entry to the first round of applications is the 29th of March at 23:59. Proposals that make it to the final round will pitch their idea to panels of experts such as Professor Luke Georghiou, Vice-President for Research and Innovation; Professor Kenneth McPhail, Associate Dean Social Responsibility; Professor Chris Taylor, Associate Vice-President Research; and Kris Matykiewicz, Head of Business Engagement.
Below are two case studies of previous Venture Further winners, Jenny Berry and Olumayowa ‘Mayor’ Osundeko.
Jenny, Your Own Words creator
Poet and English Language student Jenny Berry has always recognised the power words had on people and while studying at the University of Manchester, she used her undergraduate research project to create ‘Your Own Words’, an initiative which she hopes will help rehabilitate prisoners and other vulnerable populations in the Greater Manchester area.
For many years, Jenny has written bespoke poetry for others helping them voice their feelings through her writing. Through creating words for speeches, funerals and many other events she has seen first-hand how poetry can help people to heal by expressing their emotions.
Your Own Words is a creative poetry programme which has been run in the Salford-based prison, HMP Forest Bank. Jenny’s philosophy is to encourage prisoners to express themselves through a creative release, rather than a physical one.
Last year, Jenny submitted a business proposal for the programme to Manchester Enterprise Centre’s annual Venture Further competition. Your Own Words impressed the judges and she won a £10,000 prize to develop her idea further. Jenny now hopes to adapt the sessions for other prisons across the country, as she believes it will help towards tackling problems such as drug and alcohol addiction. Furthermore, these sessions can be used in schools and the corporate sector to enable effective communication.
“I’m really passionate about helping people, particularly in relation to rehabilitation. There’s no point in letting a prisoner out if they go on to reoffend. If I can help people to help themselves, I will,” Jenny explained.
Jenny hopes to use her seed funding to introduce community classes for released prisoners and wants to introduce her concept to the Ministry of Defence and other settings to help with communication and well-being.
“In a typical hour and a half session, we work with eight to ten inmates. We talk through published poems, rap and song lyrics and what they mean to them. Then encourage them to write raw poems of their own.
“I’m really grateful to the Manchester Enterprise Centre because in a very short time I’ve had a lot of support from them to refine my business plan. Over the last year I’ve been on many training courses offered and have managed to link my dissertation to business development. Both Alliance Manchester Business School and Manchester University have been extremely supportive.
“I believe Your Own Words is an idea that can live on in various formats and I’m delighted to have been given the opportunity to develop it through Venture Further.”
Jenny has also worked with primary and high school pupils, delivering master classes in poetry and inspiring youngsters to write their own poems.
Mayor, Joy & Joe creator
Entrepreneur Mayor Osundeko created his award-winning manufacturing business Joy & Joe when he identified a gap in the baby carrier market following the births of his two children.
Mayor Osundeko and his wife Bisi spent a lot of time in neonatal intensive care in 2007 when their daughter Joy was born with Down’s syndrome. During this time, the couple observed how important physical contact and affection was to help children develop.
They used their knowledge of kangaroo care—a technique where babies are bound skin-to-skin to their parents, helping to facilitate infant development and happiness – to create their own product.
The inspiration for Joy & Joe baby carriers was born, but it wasn’t until 2009 that the couple would pursue their business dream, following the birth of their son Joseph, the “Joe” in Joy & Joe.
The couple recognised that there were very few kangaroo care carriers available on the market and of those that existed, none were manufactured in the UK. The Bolton-based couple set up Joy & Joe Ltd. in 2013, where they design baby carriers and work with weavers and tailors in the North West to create the products, ensuring the whole manufacturing process remains 100% British.
Joy & Joe’s proposition is clearly one that worked. In its first year, the company turned over £47,500 and made a £10,000 profit. The carriers are currently used in the NHS and sold in the UK as well as through retail channels globally.
In 2015 Mayor put a business plan together to expand his current offering further. He entered the plan into Manchester Enterprise Centre’s Venture Further competition, where his proposal won an investment of £10,000 to further his business.
Upon winning the competition Mayor said: “We are investing £10,000 into developing our packaging, which is at the moment only really suitable for online customers. We intend to launch the product on the high street this year and expand our accessory range.
“We’ve gained a lot from entering Venture Further and the team at 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 from them which will help our business grow.”
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