On Thursday 15th September, Young Start-up Talent (YST) hosted their Kent showcase in the Gulbenkian Theatre, where the judges celebrated one lucky young entrepreneur as the winner of a prize fund of business products and services worth £50,000. The initiative, which is aimed at finding the best 16 – 25-year-olds with an entrepreneurial flair, started back in April with a large variety of applicants. After months of business know-how workshops and a 1-2-1 styled speed-networking event with local businesses and sponsors, the applicants were whittled down to just five finalists.
The finalists then had to present and pitch their final, polished business plan to a panel of eight professionals, in a ‘Dragons Den’ style event, hoping their business would stand out from all the rest. Finally, the winner was announced as Ben Jeffries with his business ‘Influencer’. His business is connects global brands with famous individuals from social media – whether it be from Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or Snapchat – to help promote their business or products through targeted social media marketing campaigns. Ben believes that brands are no longer what Companies tell the consumer it is, it is now what the consumers tell each other it is.
Upon winning this year's Kent initiative, Ben Jeffries commented, “I am speechless. I honestly didn’t think I would win. The support from all my friends and family at home has been fantastic, let alone all the support from the Young Start-up Talent team and sponsors themselves. It’s been a fantastic process and I really urge other young entrepreneurs to apply.”
Ben now plans to use the prize fund to propel his business, with hopes he will now explode onto the market. He will also be looking for funding through CrowdCube to help him launch his web platform.
Young Start-up Talent were very pleased to welcome three guest speakers at the showcase event, including two representatives of the initiatives loyal sponsors; Simon Warne, Tax Partner at Crowe Clarke Whitehill, who described the entrepreneurs as “confident, connected with the world and comfortable with change”; Jackie Sumner, Head of Community Investment and Chief Executive Officer for Town and Country Housing Group, who felt the night was “just fantastic with five high quality business men and women”; and finally, Sabrina Pearson, last year’s East Kent winner who has since used the £50k prize fund to help kick-start her business, Iluminame.
A number of judges and sponsors also attended the showcase, showing their support of the initiative and the five finalists. Pete Kenyon from Cripps said it was “great to be working with YST again” and that it was brilliant to see how the “judging process had influenced and inspired the entrepreneurs, shown by how much they have developed throughout the process”. Michael Adamou from Local World South East stated that he felt the young entrepreneurs were both “amazing and inspirational with a lot of guts at such a young age to pitch in front of all those judges”. He also stated that he was “looking forward to seeing the future of these entrepreneurs”, wishing them success in everything they go on to do.
Richard Reid from NatWest, one of Young Start-up Talent’s headline sponsors, also commented on the evening and finalists, stating he was “very impressed with the quality of all the candidates and how they presented themselves.” He was also fascinated by “their ideas and how in a number of cases, their businesses had already been put into practice”. Richard would like to congratulate Ben Jeffries on his success in the process, but would also like to wish all the finalists every success in the future.
As well as the winner, other finalists, who also impressed the judges with their professional pitches, included:
Edoardo Abati, with his business ‘Servee’ – an app that aims to not only make restaurant and café management smarter but also reduces the hassle of the customer’s dining experience. Edoardo stated; “I am very happy to have participated in this process. I’ve learnt a lot and continued to improve. In the future, I hope to find someone to invest in my app to make my business a reality”.
Jonathon Wood, with ‘Eagle Travel’ – a business that specialises in providing flexible bookings that are tailored to the customer based on their needs, allowing them to get on with their busy lifestyle whilst Eagle Travel find them the best deal. “Although I hoped to win, I honestly feel that everyone is a winner. This process has given me clarity on where I want to go with my business, and I would like to thank everyone for this experience”.
Kelly Culver, with her business ‘Route 66 Motors’, which will restore and sell classic American cars with aims to become the go-to place for bespoke American cars. Kelly commented, “I’m chuffed with how this whole process has gone. Young Start-up Talent has given me the drive to take over the world and spread my love of American cars. I don’t aim small!”
Serena Christie with ‘Imperial Industries’, a creative jewellery company that offers a range of bespoke and innovative accessories and body adornments made from up-cycled coins. “The judges' advice has been amazing. It will really help me to push my business forward”.
Many of the Young Start-up Talent alumni also attended the event and showed their support to the initiative and the candidates. Rob Nunn, Strategic Director of Young Start-up Talent finished with; “This is the first time I have had the honour of judging the young entrepreneurs in Kent. I would like to not only congratulate, but also thank all of the finalists for making it such a brilliant year. Your journey with Young Start-up Talent has only just begun, and we all look forward to continuing working with you in the future!”