The Very First Winner of Young Start-up Talent Solent is announced!

On Thursday 20th October, Young Start-up Talent (YST) hosted their very first showcase for Solent at the Novotel, Southampton, where the judges finally announced the lucky young entrepreneur who had won a prize fund of business products and services worth £50,000.

After launching the initiative earlier this year, the YST team sought to find the best young budding entrepreneurs, aged between 16 and 25 years old, from the Solent. After being carefully selected from a number of applicants, the chosen candidates worked their way through a number of business workshops and attended a 1-2-1 speed-networking event with both sponsors and local businesses to help them develop their business plans. From there, the candidates were whittled down to just five finalists.

At the Pitch, the finalists had to present their developed and refined business plans to a panel of seven judges, hoping to convey why they deserved to win the competition. After a long and tense wait, the winner, Harry Phelan of Studio H, was announced as the very first Solent winner. Studio H is a modern take on a traditional barbershop that has been in business for over two years and already has nearly 300 clients. Harry believes that it is his unique cutting styles and shaving techniques that attracts the clients, and keeps them coming back.

Upon winning the Solent initiative, Harry Phelan stated, “I’m genuinely shocked. Although I put in a lot of effort to get here, I didn’t think I would win. I was just so nervous!”

Harry now plans to use the prize fund to help expand and grow his business, much faster than he could have achieved without Young Start-up Talent. Studio H will now be able to move from his parents house into his own barber shop, as well as take on a number of apprentices from the local area, allowing Harry to train them on the job and teach them the special techniques that makes Studio H distinctive and individual.

However, this year was not only special as it was the first year running in the Solent, this was also the very first year that Young Start-up Talent awarded a ‘Highly Commended Award’ to another young entrepreneur, John Wheal with his business Group Hub - an online space to make the organisation and management of groups, clubs and societies much simpler. The judges were so impressed with John’s business knowledge and acumen when he pitched his idea back in September that they all kindly contributed to another prize to help him grow his business.

After winning his own prize fund, John Wheal commented: “I am extremely happy and honoured to have been awarded the Highly Commended prize. I am really looking forward to future and I have a vision that one day Group Hub will be used by every group across the world.”

Young Start-up Talent was honoured to welcome guest speaker Chris Allington, Managing Director of Oxford Innovation, to speak at the event. 

Richard May, Innovation Director at Oxford Innovation, stated; “It is amazing to be able to give these young entrepreneurs the opportunity to trial out their thoughts, aspirations and ideas. I wish there was a scheme similar to this when I was their age.” Richard is looking forward to working with YST next year, as the success from our first year in the Solent snowballs.

A number of judges and sponsors also attended the showcase to show their support for both the young entrepreneurs and the initiative.

Michael Dyer from Verisona Law commented on the winner, Harry, stating; “The enthusiasm for his business model was absolutely infectious. His vision to bring in education and train other young apprentices gave him the added edge.”

Simon Finch, Relationship Manager for NatWest, also added, “At every awards ceremony, people always say that it was really close, but this time is actually was! The judges had to deliberate long and hard over who should win, and I feel both Harry and John are worthy winners”.

Zara Hogg, Partner of Wilkins Kennedy, stated; “It’s brilliant to see that it doesn’t have to be a brand new, technological idea, to win.”

Mark Waldron, Editor for The News Portsmouth, said, “This is a brilliant initiative, that supports these very talented young people. Harry is a very worth winner – he is a star, and I wish him all the best.”

As well as the winner, other finalists, who also impressed the judges with their professional pitches, included:

Calvin Macleod, with his business ‘Life Beacon’ - a mobile based application that provides tools for its users or patients to manage their medical health. Calvin commented; “Although I’m disappointed, it has been a great experience and I have made lots of great contacts”.

Ming Wu, with ‘UU-U Design’ - an experimental lifestyle brand and design studio, specialising in fashion, jewellery and wearable technologies. Ming stated; “Although I didn’t win, the process has given me clarification on where and how to take my business forward. I want to become an industry leader in making technology disappear”.

Casper Nielsen, with his business ‘One Beyond’ - a new customer-centric mobile network offering 4G on EEs network. Casper remarked; “The value in this competition is not just the prize fund, it also lies in the networking and contacts you receive throughout the process. With this in mind, I now plan on growing One Beyond to 2 million customers within 5 years.”

Young Start-up Talent would finally like to thank all the sponsors who have helped make the YST Solent initiative a brilliant success. We would also like to thank the YST team behind the scenes, who ensured the whole process ran smoothly.