SPARK boss shortlisted for national award
July 23, 2015 | Simon Jenkins
The Head of University of Leeds’ business start-up service, SPARK, has been shortlisted for a national award recognising her work in helping student entrepreneurs launch their own businesses.
The National Enterprise Educators Award recognises people in the Further and Higher Education sectors who have made unique contributions to enterprise and entrepreneurship education.
Shortlisted in this year’s Education Enterprise Champion Category is Kairen Skelley, who joined SPARK eight years ago, and has grown it into a valued and highly respected service that has helped launch more than 250 businesses and created over 400 jobs.
Through Kairen’s work, SPARK has developed into an extremely well-connected organisation that offers its students and graduates superb networking and funding opportunities crucial to growing their businesses. In the last year alone, SPARK has helped more than 1,200 students. The University’s alumni network is vital to SPARK’s work, with alumni funding many student entrepreneurs through scholarships and competitions and working closely with SPARK in many areas of its projects.
Kairen’s background in academia and business has enabled her to understand what graduate entrepreneurs really need and she has developed services to match these needs. Support offered by SPARK ranges from one-to-one business advice, to workshops, bootcamps, networking events, help with funding – and earlier this year, the launch of a dedicated business incubation suite offering space and business support for 36 fledgling businesses.
“We’re extremely proud of the work that we do at SPARK and watching students fulfil their ambitions to launch and develop their own businesses is the most rewarding part of my job,” says Kairen. “We’re particularly pleased that more than three quarters of the businesses we’ve helped are still operating three years later – and many of them are still actively contributing to our growing network.”
Kairen’s dedication to helping students achieve their full potential is evident in their enthusiasm for the service.
“The help and support that I received from Kairen Skelley in the past year has been invaluable,” says Marie Stenton, of Marie Stenton Designs. “Not only has she helped my business grow by offering significant financial opportunities, she is always available to offer extra advice.”
James Wilkinson, Founder of One Sound Hire Ltd, adds: “Kairen has provided a huge amount of support to me and my business through SPARK and has always endeavoured to make sure I made the most of every opportunity.”
The award is organised by the National Centre for Enterprise in Education and Enterprise Educators UK and the winners will be announced at a gala dinner and award ceremony in Chelmsford on 10 September 2015.