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Sustainable business scoops £10,000 first prize in entrepreneurial award

Sustainable business scoops £10,000 first prize in entrepreneurial award

Nine University of Wolverhampton student entrepreneurs have been gifted with cash prizes and bespoke support to develop their fledgling businesses after the winners of the Lord Swraj Paul Award for Student Entrepreneurs were announced recently – with a sustainable initiative scooping the first prize award of £10,000! 

The business-focused award which supports student entrepreneurial initiatives is part of a charitable gift donated to the University by its Chancellor, Lord Paul via the Ambika Paul Foundation.  

The nine shortlisted finalists, who attended two business pitching workshops in May, gave a final live pitch to the judging panel in June.   

The prizes were a headline award of £10,000, two awards of £5,000 with the other six finalists each receiving £1,000. As well as the cash prizes, all nine entrepreneurs will receive five hours of specialist business consultancy to help them progress their business idea further. 

The students pitched their business ideas at the University of Wolverhampton Business School to a prestigious panel of judges including the Chair, Walter Gleeson, co-founder of musicMagpie and Highclear Investments, Dawn Tuck, Head of New Business at FBC Manby Bowdler, Stephanie Henson, Founder and MD of techtimeout, University alumna Keli King, Founder of the Little Green Pantry and Honorary Graduate, Sham Sharma, Founder and CEO of Sunitek and Zuri Coffee. 

The winning student, Olivia Simpson, 20, from Bridgnorth is a third-year student studying for a Medical Science and Clinical Practice degree. She set up SymbioTex Ltd focusing on producing bio-based, bio-degradable 3D printed products and filaments for the consumables market, mainly focusing on the medical sector.   

She said: “I went out on placement as part of my course and visited hospitals around the region. I realised quickly how much plastic waste there was in the medical sector and that only a small amount of waste was being recycled. 

As the medical sector will undoubtedly grow stronger, I realised that there was a gap in the market for bio-degradable products that don’t release harmful fumes when they have to be burned or that can be put into the ground and break down naturally without causing harm to the environment. 

“I was really thrilled to hear that I’d won first prize of £10,000.  This is a really generous initiative which helps start-up businesses get going in the early stages of set up. I plan to use the money for patent protection. I’ve been working closely with researchers and academics in the University’s Science in Industry Research Centre (SIRC) developing and prototyping optimisation into materials and patenting the products is a priority for the business. 

“It was great to be able to pitch to such a community-minded panel from a wide range of backgrounds. The questions were very challenging and the feedback was valuable - it was a brilliant opportunity for us as students.” 

Two students took the runner-up prizes of £5,000 each. 


Joy Roxborough, 56 from Wolverhampton, who is in her second year of studying for a Master’s degree in Social Work, set up Roxborough Publishing and, as a children’s author, focuses on community publishing.  

Joy said: “I’ve always been a writer and during the first lockdown I got involved in a crowdfunding campaign through Nat West.  I’d drafted a picture book and needed to raise some money to get the illustrations created to accompany the words.  I set up Roxborough Publishing and used some of the initial funding money to publish the book and this has opened other doors for me to get involved with the community. 

“My idea is to use the prize money to work with children to help them publish some of their work, through picture books, which hopefully will boost their self-esteem and increase their confidence. I’m also going to look at how best I can market the book to reach a wider audience.” 

Joy’s picture book is called I Wish I Were a Bird and is about a little boy who observes the fascinating antics of a bird and wishes he could be a bird too. The bird offers to exchange places with him, and that wish takes the boy on a whimsical journey, swapping identities with a number of animals that he meets on the way.  

Louis Farrell, 31 from Solihull, in his first year of studying for a Football Coaching & Performance Degree, pitched his community football and sports fitness business, Winnr Sports CIC, to the panel. 

Winnr Sports is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company which delivers football and sports sessions for teenagers and young adults focusing on both mental and physical health, using modern technology and video sessions for data and performance analysis to monitor their individual and physical development and progress. 

Louis said: “We use trackers and fitness devices to monitor progress and we analyse how that might affect their mental progress. Through this analysis we can compare how they have developed, how positive they are in their emotion and how their physical activity might have affected how they feel.  

“Physical activity has been proven to improve mental health, but the difference with Winnr Sports is that the business model actually provides evidence of progression so they can see how it has helped them. Our data can then be used to collaborate with other organisations to potentially identify social issues in certain areas. 

The money will be used to improve our equipment and technology.” 

Walter Gleeson, whose investment company, Highclear Investments, is headline sponsor of the University of Wolverhampton Race Team, said: “The students are so passionate about what they want to do and the areas they have chosen.  It was a really difficult decision to pick one, but it’s been really useful for the students because as business leaders we’ve been able to give them advice about what they should be focusing on in terms of business planning. 

“It’s great to see what kind of business ideas are around – especially in terms of things like sustainability which should really be the focus of business at the minute. We need more of that going forward. Whilst having a great idea is good, it also needs some practicalities in terms of the business planning process. From my perspective, giving something back and inspiring students to be aspirational is absolutely crucial.” 

Stephanie Henson, Founder and MD of techtimeout, said: “I was born and bred in Wolverhampton, so I feel quite passionate about helping the community. Hearing some of these stories today really resonates. There was so much passion about contributing to the local community. Young people are adapting to business and this will shape our future in terms of the business world. We are also offering pointers for the students which is helping them in terms of ideas. There’s a lot to learn. This is a wonderful initiative and it’s great to be able to offer a safe environment for students to take that first step.” 

Lord Paul, Chancellor at the University, said: “It’s wonderful to see students engaging with business ideas so early in their careers. The University is proud of the opportunities it offers to students in terms of preparing them for the world of work and enterprise is key to building back better communities following the pandemic.  

“I’m very proud for this funding to have been the catalyst to further progress ideas for these amazing emerging businesses and am looking forward to seeing what benefits they bring in the long-term.”  

Winners of the £1,000 investment prizes were: 

Nick Landon & Pioneer Leadership – troubled teens outward bound and leadership training 

Kelly Hadley & MAYE: Photography – photographer 

Sadie MillerMaggs & Vegan Material House – vegan design and building material database 

Hamlet Reynoso Vanderhorst & Cocodrone – drone design and innovation 

Aaron Prior & PMedia – photography and multimedia development 

Gemma Newey & Mythica Studios – ceramic glass product development 

If you are a student or recent graduate interested in being your own boss or are already the owner of an early-stage start-up and would like to benefit from specialist business development support contact to find out more.    

Anyone looking to study at the University of Wolverhampton should register for one of our Open Days. 

For more information contact the Corporate Communications Team 

Picture caption top from left to right: Joy Roxborough, Olivia Simpson and Louis Farrell. 

Picture caption bottom from left to right: Stephanie Henson, Walter Gleeson, Dawn Tuck, Sham Sharma and Keli King.


For more information please contact the Corporate Communications Team.

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