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Enterprising students scoop business awards

 May 7, 2016 | Simon Jenkins


A business supplying 3D printing filament and a consultancy helping film and documentary makers sell their products in China have been named as the winners of the University’s 2016 Sir Peter Thompson Awards.

The prestigious Awards are organised by business start-up service, Spark, with each winner receiving £5,000 from Sir Peter – a University of Leeds alumnus who is himself a serial entrepreneur and business angel investor.

Kairen Skelley, Head of Spark Business Start-Up said: “To describe this year’s winners as impressive just doesn’t do them justice. Both entrepreneurs have spotted a lucrative gap in the market because of their extensive knowledge of their target sectors. They have ambitious and credible business plans to exploit these gaps, with the skills and drive to succeed.”

Ravi Toor (21) is studying for a BA in Environment and Business, and already has a thriving online business importing and selling 3D printers and related products worldwide. His new venture, Filamentive, sources and sells his own brand of high quality, sustainably-produced filament, the material used in 3D printing.

“I wanted to apply what I’d learned from my studies about sustainable, pro-environmental business practices, so we sell products designed and manufactured in Europe,” he says. “We’re proud of having high regulatory standards and quality controls and credible supply chains. This has given us the competitive edge we needed in selling to  businesses and direct to consumers.”

Business is booming: an Enterprise Scholarship from the University of Leeds and Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Award enabled Ravi to expand the brand with ranges made from waste materials. “I’ve had access to so many unbelievable opportunities at Leeds already,” he says. “But the Sir Peter Thompson Award is really special. Being backed by such a distinguished businessman  gives me real credibility in the business world,” he says.

Ravi says the prize money will help him to invest in production equipment so that the company can carry out in-house research and start its own small-scale production.

For  Aiping Xu, 30, winning a Sir Peter Thompson Award crowns an “unbelievable and incredibly exciting” six months. Currently studying for a Master’s degree in New Media, Aiping won both the Pre-Trading category and the Digital Business category of University’s 2016 Business Plan Competition and she already has potential clients on her books.

Aiping’s company, Lean In Media, draws on her years working as a movie and documentary buyer in China to provide consultancy to international film producers and distributors looking to sell their programmes to the Chinese market. Using her extensive industry contacts in China, Aiping will advise on tailoring programmes to pitch to different Chinese customers, produce Chinese subtitles for English programmes and offer licensing negotiation support so that her clients can maximise their revenues by licencing a programme to multiple buyers.

She says: “I’d had this business idea for a while, but didn’t think that I would have the confidence to start a business while I was in the UK. Working with Spark and its advisors has made me realise that the most important thing is effort, determination and passion and, within the space of six months, so many wonderful things have happened. The fact that Sir Peter Thomson himself has endorsed my plans gives me enormous confidence to make this a success.”

Sir Peter has funded the very best fledgling businesses at Leeds for ten years and the 2016 Awards will be his last. He says:  “The start-up companies of today will be the wealth and employment generators of tomorrow. This, simply, is the reason for the encouragement of enterprise and young entrepreneurs. It’s great that Leeds is now the leading university in starting entrepreneurs on their journey to building companies for the future.”

Kairen Skelley thanked Sir Peter, saying: “We have so much to be grateful to Sir Peter for. He has devoted a great deal of his time, expertise and wisdom to supporting our entrepreneurs over the years, as well as being such a generous benefactor. He’s helped us to develop Spark into an award-winning start-up service that’s recognised nationally as unrivalled in the UK for student and graduate enterprise.”

Enterprising students scoop business awards