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The Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Award finals were held last week at the iconic Regent's Street Cinema.

Exeter graduates shine at prestigious awards

Four Exeter graduates were recognized at the prestigious Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Award finals last week.

The event, held at the iconic, Regent’s Street Cinema in central London showcased entries from 18 of the nation’s top student and graduate startups, competing for an extensive package of grant funding, internship provision and mentoring and support services.

There were 18 finalists in total, six in each category (pre-revenue, post-revenue and people’s choice). The pre and post revenue finalists had a 5 minute pitch followed by a 5 minute Q&A from the judging panel which involved experts and leaders in industry and academia including: Nathan Bostock, CEO, Santander UK, Sue Douthwaite, Managing Director, Santander Business Banking, Professor John Hughes, Vice-Chancellor, Bangor University, Warwick Hill, CEO in Residence, Microsoft Accelerator London and Hannah Fisher, Executive Director of Client Leadership, IProspect.

Kalkidan Legesse and Vidmantas Markevicius from Sancho's Dress alongside fellow Exeter graduates Tom Jordan and Jesse Wilson from Jubël beer appeared at the event having been successful in the semi-finals held earlier in the year at Middlesex University in the categories of Post Revenue and People’s Choice respectively. Sanchos Dress were forwarded into an accelerator week that included workshops and masterclasses to help build on business plans, in preparation for the finals.

Kalkidan and Vidmantas run Sancho's Dress, an ethical clothing store focusing on fairtrade and sustainable products and processes. As runners-up of the post-revenue category, Sanchos Dress will receive a £15,000 grant, £3,000 internship sponsorship, mentorship, a Microsoft laptop and web development support.

Kalkidan said: 'We were thrilled to take home the runners up prizes of seed investment, internship funding, and mentorship support from Santander. The whole experience has been wonderful and hugely validating. We are so grateful for all of the support from the University of Exeter and the Think, Try, Do Student Startup program. As the fashion industry is the second dirtiest industry in the world it is paramount that our business and its peers challenges the status quo and provides an alternative to the industry. We have many things in the pipeline, including the opening of our second shop in Exeter on 4 November. And are excited to get going with the help of Santander.'

Joe Pearce, Business Support Manager at the Innovation Centre said: “It is tremendous to see Kalkidan and Vidmantus take the runners up prize in this national competition. Since its launch, Sanchos Dress has been a great example of a purpose-led organisation, with the core values of founders present throughout all aspects business, and it is this authenticity which, I think, has been critical to its success. The award really recognises the massive potential that the business has to lead the way in genuinely ethical fashion and it is great to see yet another graduate of the University of Exeter’s Think, Try, Do Student Startup programme succeeding on a national scale.”

Emily Davies, Student Start-up Manager said: “We were so proud to see our graduates reach the finals at such a prestigious event and both teams did themselves proud, from start to finish. The finals were held at the beautifully restored and decadent Regent Street Cinema in London and there was a palpable buzz of excitement throughout the day as pitches were made, judges deliberated and the winners were finally announced. The competition was extraordinarily high and both teams handled the pressure admirably and exuded confidence and professionalism throughout. Jesse and Tom, co-founders of Jubel, proved firm favourites with the audience, bounding onto the stage in full ski-gear to deliver a blistering 2-minute pitch in the People’s Choice final. Though they were pipped to the post to first prize in that category, we couldn’t be prouder of how they have grown and developed their business over the past 12 months and can’t wait to see what the next chapter will hold.”

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: 11 October 2017

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