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Kalkidan Legesse and Vidmantas Markevicius from Sancho's Dress are through to the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Award finals.

Exeter graduates highlighted at prestigious awards

Four Exeter graduates were recently featured at the prestigious Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Award semi-finals.

The event, held at Middlesex University showcased entries from sixty of the nation’s top student and graduate startups, competing for a share of £82,000 worth of prize money.

Kalkidan Legesse and Vidmantas Markevicius from Sancho's Dress alongside fellow Exeter graduates Tom Jordan and Jesse Wilson from Jubël beer pitched at the event. Both companies submitted a business model canvas and video entry depicting their company prior to being selected for the semi-finals.

At the event, Jubël secured the People’s Choice Award while Sanchos Dress were successful in reaching the finals to be held in October. They will be forwarded into an accelerator week that will include workshops and masterclasses to help build on business plans.

Jesse and Tom created Jubël, a unique and innovative beer, bridging the gap between bland beers and super sweet ciders, as a natural peach lager. The duo were delighted with the experience and to be awarded People’s Choice at the event. Jesse said: “The experience was very positive, it was a great opportunity to present the progress we've made on Jubël and network with some other entrepreneurs and representatives from Santander.

“We were thrilled to be the company that the audience voted as their favourite team, must've been the free beers we were dishing out! It was a great encouragement to know that our positioning as a mass-appeal product is backed up by wide acceptance from people who were trying it.”

Kalkidan and Vidmantas run Sancho's Dress, an ethical clothing store focusing on fairtrade and sustainable products and processes. They were overwhelmed to be going forward to the national finals. Speaking of the event, Kalkidan said: “"We thoroughly enjoyed the experience for pitching for Santander Universities, the event, its layout and the team organising went above any beyond our expectations.

“There was a high calibre of business pitching and we were thrilled to pitch alongside our peers in the post revenue category. We are pleased to say that we won our round and will be heading to the finals in October! We will be attending the accelerator week at the University of Loughborough in July, for what promises to be an insightful fast track course in building a scalable business. Our vision for Sancho's is to create sustainable clothing shops in key locations around the UK, so we are thrilled to not only have the opportunity to compete in the finals but also to benefit from the wealth of knowledge provided by Santander Universities at the accelerator week.

“We discovered the event through Katy Dash and Joe Pearce from the University's Innovation Centre and are hugely grateful for all their support in putting together our pitch for this competition and also their long term support in mentoring Sancho's Dress from its opening in 2014.”

Joe Pearce, Business Support Manager at the Innovation Centre said: “It is a great privilege to support Sancho’s Dress and Jubël. I am delighted with their successes at the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards. Both companies have worked incredibly hard through the various stages of their startup journey. It’s fantastic to see Exeter graduates applying such energy and enthusiasm as well as good business practice to grow their startups. I look forward to watching their businesses develop and flourish. Best of luck to Sancho’s Dress for the finals.”

Both Sancho's Dress and Jubël were able to utilise the opportunities available to students and graduates at the University of Exeter’s, Think:Try:Do student support programme. The programme boasts an ambitious selection of advice and mentoring options through each stage of the startup journey including access to funding and mentoring.

The Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards is aimed at giving a financial boost to student and graduate businesses from UK partner universities and has given away more than £260,000 since its launch in 2011.

Date: 29 June 2017

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