A budding entrepreneur - who is set to pitch to one of Britain’s biggest business magnates - has been given the royal seal of approval after winning a top award.
University of Sheffield graduate Jerome Jacob received the Duke of York Young Enterprise Award in recognition of his fruit tea enterprise PHROOTI.
He was presented with the award from HRH The Duke of York himself at a special awards ceremony recently, organised and hosted by the University of Huddersfield.
The royal approval also comes as Jerome is hoping to pitch his business ideas to Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson as part of the Virgin Media Business VOOM 2016 contest.
The 24-year-old, of Banner Cross, said: “After working so hard on reinventing fruit tea, gaining recognition from such a prestigious organisation is a great reward.
“I have reinvented fruit tea because I was frustrated that it always smelled fruity but didn’t taste fruity.
“PHROOTI is a caffeine-free, low calorie natural dried fruit powder with no added sugars or preservatives.”
After discovering some fruit teas contained as little as one per cent fruit, Jerome gave up his successful advertising career in London, relocated back to Sheffield and launched PHROOTI.
The firm offers a range of fruit tea infusions, that are made up of 97 per cent real dehydrated fruit and can be served as hot or cold drinks.
Jerome won the new business start-up of the year award at last year’s University of Sheffield Enterprise Evolve Awards, netting £5000 investment in his business.
He used the money to bring PHROOTI into production and is now selling directly to consumers online.
Along with investment, he has received ongoing support from University of Sheffield Enterprise, including free office space and business coaching.
He said: “I certainly wouldn’t have achieved all that I have on this journey, without the invaluable support provided by the team at University Sheffield Enterprise.
“Even now that PHROOTI is established; USE is still always there to help when I need it.”
He is now turning his attention to pitching his business to Sir Richard Branson in the hope of landing a cash boost.
Jerome has submitted an application to the Voom 2016 contest, which is being run by the Virgin Group, in a bid to win a share of £1 million in prizes – as well as pitching his business plans to the man himself.
To enter the contest, he had to send in a video pitch and a written pitch, explaining why he believed his business should win.
Scores of projects have submitted nominations nationwide and the public are being asked to vote on their favourites.
Jerome and the other entrants are set to find out on May 25 if they have made it onto the Voom 2016 shortlist, which will include 160 projects and businesses.
If successful, Jerome will go on to compete in a ‘pitchathon’ in front of Richard Branson before hopefully making it to a live final in London on June 28.
He said: “I want to build PHROOTI up into an iconic Sheffield brand like Henderson’s Relish and I want PHROOTI to be the go to place for people who want alternative fruit teas.
“I only came up with the idea about 18 months ago and spent a year or so planning before launching it.
“It would be great for the public to get behind me.
“If I’m fortunate enough to win, which would be amazing, then I have a plan for a major marketing scheme and I want to create a few jobs.
“Further down the line I want to keep expanding into more independent cafes and retailers.
“This should hopefully enable me to create even more jobs foe the region.”
Alongside Jerome, Sheffield martial arts star Liam Richards, who runs the Excel Martial Arts training centre in Halfway, is also hoping to pitch in front of Sir Richard.
Liam, who started Excel in 2007, said: “I have always been inspired by Richard Branson.
“Winning Voom 2016 would give us a massive boost.
“When I started I had one student, now we have 350 martial arts students, 250 dance students and over 100 Excel fitness students; 700 in total.
“Our current premises are too small so the prize money would go towards a new facility.”
Liam shot to fame on Britain’s Got Talent in 2008 as one half of martial arts duo Strike alongside Danny Ball, from Doncaster.
He added: “Our mission is to be the UK’s largest martial arts family with over 40,000 members in 200 academies.”
Another Sheffield entrepreneur, Ruth Lucas, is bidding for a chance to pitch her game-changing invention for dogs to Sir Richard.
The 46-year-old wowed those attending Crufts dog show last month when she launched her invention – an overnight bag for dogs which turns into a dog bed.
The Rovernighter is a lightweight, easy to use bag that caters for every canine need and transforms into a comfortable dog bed in under 20 seconds.
She is now urging people to vote for her invention in the VOOM competition.
Ruth, of Greystones, came up with the idea when she had to take her Welsh Terrier, Bronwyn, into work on Christmas Eve and wanted to make a quick getaway for Christmas.
She said: “I couldn’t believe a similar product didn’t already exist.
“Bronwyn loves it too.
“It would be fantastic to have the opportunity to pitch and get support from the Virgin Media business team.”
For more information about any of the projects and to vote visit https://www.vmbvoom.com