Daisy Anderson founder of Roobarb's

Exeter hails its student and graduate ‘entrepreneurs of tomorrow’ in startup awards

An innovative surf-hire firm and a social enterprise that helps disadvantaged women in Kenya start their own businesses were among the winners at this month’s Student Startups End-of-Year Awards Ceremony. 

The virtual event, hosted by the SETsquared Exeter Student Startup team, celebrated the hard work of more than 300 students and graduates enrolled on the Student Startups programmes since September 2020.

Other student and graduate startups that were singled out by the judges included a food and drink business aimed at tackling the problem of supermarket food surpluses and a company that produces carbon-negative toilet paper.

The awards were presented by Chris Evans, Director of Regional Engagement in the Innovation, Impact and Business department at the University of Exeter, and the event featured a guest speech from Exeter alumnus and entrepreneur Alex Somervell, who talked about setting up his business One Third Stories, which provides language-learning storybooks for children.

Community Impact Award winner:

Oyana– a social enterprise established by a team of students from the Enactus Exeter network that aims to empower disadvantaged women in Kwa Murugi, Kenya, by giving them the resources and knowledge to run a handmade soap business and become financially independent. 

Most Innovative Award winner:

Just Surf – a surf-hire company founded by Exeter graduate Max Harrington and Michael Shawley, which partners with local holiday accommodation providers in Cornwall, so that holidaymakers can pre-book surfboards and wetsuits to be delivered direct to the accommodation in time for their arrival. 

Most Scalable Award winner:

Progression CV – a startup that reinvents the CV creation process for students by providing an accessible mobile application, to be launched this summer. Founder Annabelle Percy hopes to get universities involved across the country, who can offer the app as a free tool.

Two startups were awarded the Environmentally Conscious Award:

Bazoo – the world’s first and only carbon-negative toilet paper company, founded by graduates Sanmarie Grobler and Tom Trow.

Roobarb’s– which turns food products on or past their sell-by date into home-cooked vegan meals, which are sold at pop-up food markets in and around Falmouth by founder Daisy Anderson.

The peer-nominated Rising Star Award winner:

James Tetlow, who impressed his fellow students with his innovative business, Zama Digital, which provides manufacturers with real-time insights from manufacturing equipment using data to improve the efficiency and profitability of their operations.

The judging panel also added two special mention awards to recognise the achievements of two other nominees and their distinctive contributions to the year’s programmes.

Big Idea Award winner:

Harvey Mitchell, whose project aims to develop a bio-reactor that is able to produce Biohydrogen, which could be used as an alternative energy source on a domestic or commercial scale.

People’s Choice Award winner:

Leo Carr, who was recognised not only for successfully launching his revision resource platform Study Politics alongside his university studies, but for being a huge supporter of other students and graduates on the programme.

All the winners received a £100 prize and a trophy.

The 40-strong audience included students, alumni, academics and representatives from external partner Santander Universities UK, who have funded 34 startup grants to University of Exeter students and graduates since September 2020, totalling £37,000.

Matt Hutnell, Director of Santander Universities UK, said: “We’re delighted that our funding is able to support student and graduate entrepreneurs at the University of Exeter in developing their business ideas. We’ve seen such incredible entrepreneurial talent – many congratulations to all those who have been recognised for their fantastic initiatives.” 

Professor Lisa Roberts, Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Exeter, congratulated the students and graduates in a recorded message highlighting the importance of entrepreneurship.

She said: “Our future economy depends on the creation of new businesses that solve real-world problems and that add value to society. The development of entrepreneurial competencies is key to ensuring that we meet this need. In order to develop the entrepreneurs of tomorrow, universities have an essential role to play in ensuring entrepreneurship is embedded in both curricular and extra-curricular provision.”

Emily Davies, SETsquared Exeter Student Startups Manager, said: “The Student Start-up Awards provided a wonderful opportunity to recognise and celebrate the achievements of our students and graduates over this past year.”

“We have seen such creativity, innovation and resilience in our cohorts and have awarded more grants than ever before to a huge range of exciting new ventures.

“It's also been exciting to grow and develop our team and our core programmes and it feels an incredibly exciting time for entrepreneurship here at the University of Exeter."

Watch a recording of the ceremony here, and view the highlights reel from the 2020-21 Student Startups programmes.

Date: 28 July 2021

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