Hidden entrepreneurial talent unearthed at University's first enterprise Awards Showcase

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The University of Sheffield’s Emerge: Be enterprising team successfully hosted its first Awards Showcase on 30 April, where entrepreneurial teams showcased their innovative business ideas for a share of a £12,000 prize pot.

The new enterprise service, launched earlier this year, provides a community for budding entrepreneurs – staff, students, and recent graduates. By offering workshops, mentoring programmes, and access to resources, the service has empowered students to translate their ideas into viable businesses.

The #EmergeAwards24 was the culmination of the year’s activity, and encourages the community to showcase their innovative business ideas and compete for a share of a £12,000 prize pool.

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But Emerge aims to go beyond financial backing; it aspires to create a lasting cultural shift. By recognising and rewarding entrepreneurial spirit, the program encourages students to embrace their ingenuity and translate ideas into action. This fosters a more enterprising environment within the University, where innovation thrives and challenge-led problems are met with creative solutions.

The winners of the first Emerge: Be Enterprising Awards ShowcaseThe winners of the first Emerge: Be Enterprising Awards Showcase
The winners of the first Emerge: Be Enterprising Awards Showcase

The Awards Showcase saw a vibrant display of talent across four diverse categories, with ventures tackling social challenges, promoting sustainability, and offering innovative products and services. Supported by Santander UK Universities, each category winner receives a significant £3,000 boost to further develop their businesses.

"We received over 70 unique applications for the Awards. The standard and quantity of the businesses far succeeded our expectations, demonstrating there is an undiscovered wealth of talent and innovative thinking present within our University community," said Victoria Berry, Enterprise Officer at the University of Sheffield.

The Awards Showcase saw students, staff members and local industry leaders come together to network and celebrate the achievements of the 2024 winners, which included:

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Community Venture of the Year: A venture that gives back to people, enriches communities and makes a contribution to society.

Winners: Tall Growth: For tall women by tall women

Sustainability Venture of the Year: A venture that prioritises sustainability and the environment through a product and/or service that has a minimal impact on the planet.

Winners: The Hollow Oak Project: Creative, sustainable and inclusive making and urban greening

Enterprising Project of the Year: Recognises outstanding service to enterprise education or provision.

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Winners: Bobbi: Uniting fitness and period health - supporting informed decisions and a holistic wellbeing approach.

"Getting this funding and mentorship is going to be game changing for us to develop our idea further. Emerge’s support has not only opened up an avenue for business, but also an avenue for us to explore who we want to be," said Saffron Howdle, Bobbi Co-founder.

Start-up of the Year: Commercial business that is delivering tangible results to customers through an innovative product or service.

Winners: Future Greens: Carbon-negative Urban Farming.

Additionally, a Rising Star of the Year award recognised the exceptional energy and entrepreneurial spirit of a student, while the prestigious Enterprising Champion of the Year award acknowledged staff who are fostering an enterprising environment at the University.

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The generous prize money awarded at the Showcase serves as a springboard for the future growth of student ventures which in turn, will contribute to a more dynamic and challenge-driven community, where creative solutions are actively pursued and planted within the city. This injection of resources strengthens Sheffield's innovation ecosystem, fostering the development of homegrown businesses that will contribute to the city's economic vibrancy.

Executive Director of Mantel and Emerge Finalist Panel Member, Fran Ferris, said: "The quality of the applicants was exceptional, and the standard of the presentations was very high indeed. The Emerge Programme is hugely important for these new businesses and for the wider city; it’s enabling Sheffield to really position itself as the best place in the North to start and grow a business."

Emerge: Be Enterprising provides support and funding all year round. If you are interested in connecting with our network, please email [email protected]