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Business Plan Prizewinners

 April 17, 2018 | Simon Jenkins


Large-cup lingerie and TEFL in China win University’s top business plan prizes

A luxury lingerie company inspiring body confidence in young, larger-breasted women and a provider of English teachers to schools in China are the winners of the 2018 University of Leeds Business Plan Competition.

Organised by Spark, the University’s business start-up service, the competition is open to both students and graduates and awards prizes in two categories,   Pre-trading and Trading up to 24 months.  This year’s competition winners shared a total prize fund of £8,500, with a £2,000 first prize in each category, second prize of £1,250 and third prize of £750.  A special award of £1,000 was sponsored by former Business Plan Competition winner Nick Howard, from film agency Limehouse.

First Prize in the Trading Category was won by Hannah Kallend and Jacob Twomey for their business, Impact English China, which recruits graduates to fill the demand for native English speaking teachers in both kindergarten (state primary schools) and English Training Schools (after-school clubs).

Inspired by their own year teaching English in China after graduating in 2016, Hannah and Jacob interview all their candidates and match them with vacancies at over 200 schools they’re partnered with across Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu and Guangzhou. They also provide pastoral support and assistance with travel and visas. They’ve only just started trading, but already have over 100 graduates on their books and have placed 10 candidates.

“We’d already graduated and had set up the company when first got in touch with Spark,” says Hannah, “so it was amazing to discover the level of support still available to us – proof of concept funding, the Business Plan Competition, Spark’s own team of advisers, the professional services network –  it’s been fantastic. The opportunity is enormous and there are plenty of ways we can expand the business so it’s brilliant to know there’s advice on hand to help guide us when we need it.”

First prize in the pre-trading category was won by 3rd year Management student, Harriett Howe (21), who hopes to launch her business, Lunebelle, in the summer.  Lunebelle will produce luxury large-cup lingerie ranging from D-G cup, but it will also educate young women on breast health and bra fitting as well as giving them a comfortable and positive environment to transform their body confidence.

Harriett is an Enterprise Scholar and won a place in the competitive Year in Enterprise programme. She’s currently working with a specialist bra maker who works for top brands and who will transform Harriett’s designs into beautiful products for the 15-25yr old market.

“Spark is the most incredible resource for student entrepreneurs,“ she says. “The Spark team and the network of professional advisers are helping me turn my dream into a reality. Winning this award is brilliant because it shows their belief in my business – and in me – and this gives me the confidence I need, because I know they’re with me all the way.”

Nick Howard of film agency Limehouse– one of the University’s first Business Plan Competition winners in 2008 – joined this year’s judging panel. He said: “Judging was a brilliant experience, although it was tougher than I thought it would be, because all the students were really informed, their drive and ambition was clear and their business plans were incredibly well thought through.”

Nick’s company also sponsored a special prize of £1,000 which he awarded to the social enterprise Bloomin’ Buds Theatre Company.  Run by 3rd year Performing Arts students, Katie Mahon and Molly Rumford, Bloomin’ Buds offers drama-based support to young people who are struggling to access opportunities due to social and educational inequalities.

“I loved their business,” he said. “It’s rooted in strong social values and Molly and Katie work really hard to make a difference to children from less advantaged backgrounds. Ten years ago, my own business was founded through Spark’s support and I’ve never forgotten how important that belief in my business was, so it’s great to be able to give something back.”

Kairen Skelley, Head of Spark Business Start-Up, said: “This is the tenth year of the Business Plan Competition and the overall quality of the entries is startling. Both category winners this year are entering markets dominated by big brands, but are confident and articulate in their own venture’s unique selling points and have the vision, determination and talent to succeed.”

The full results are as follows:

Trading category
1st prize: Impact English China – recruiting and matching graduates with English teaching vacancies in China
2nd prize: Atypical – a full service creative studio making brands relevant to the millennial demographic (18-35year olds)
3rd prize: Conquer Services – affordable interview training for aspiring medical students and tutoring

Pre-Trading category:
1st prize: Lunebelle – luxury large-cup lingerie for 15-25yr olds
2nd prize: JetLink – making charter aviation more accessible to all
3rd prize: Lokals Ltd – a mobile application platform to make sport easier to organise and more easily accessible to all

Business Plan Prizewinners