Final year BSc Sport and Exercise Science student Charlotte was inspired to pursue a ‘hypothetical business idea’ after receiving financial endorsement from her academic department and mentoring from the Essex Startups team.

How it started…

During the second year of my course, I took a business module where we had to come up with a hypothetical product or service and consider the ways it could be successfully taken to market. Upon receiving a First for my assignment, I was invited by my academic department to pitch for funding. I presented my idea to the and was delighted to be awarded £3,000 (funded by Santander Universities) to pursue the idea. As part of this process, I was introduced to the Essex Startups team and my journey as an entrepreneur began.

I started having 1:1 mentoring with Entrepreneur-in-Residence Magdalena Mahdy who helped me to hone my idea, gain in-depth knowledge into my target market, and understand feasibility with manufacturing costs. I would not consider myself to be a naturally business-minded person, and am prone to imposter syndrome, so the mentoring has been vital in boosting my confidence and pushing me forward to reach each milestone.

How it’s going…

I have designed an overshoe for athletic spikes. It is a slide-style shoe to prevent blunting when moving away from the track on to varied floor surfaces. The aim of my product is to increase the longevity of this specialist footwear to reduce costs over time for the wearer and help reduce the waste created from discarded spikes.

At the end of last year, I joined the Empower: Female Founders programme run by Essex Startups. Over six weeks, we were joined by guest entrepreneurs who talked to us about their own journeys, providing insights about their personal and business development along the way. At the end of the programme, I pitched for funding and was thrilled to be awarded a further £3,000 (funded by Santander Universities) to take my business to the next stage.

I was accepted onto the evolve Accelerator Programme hosted by Essex Startups, which runs over a nine-month period. I feel it is going to give me a huge push forward in terms of my business knowledge and building my professional network. I am determined to make the most of this programme so that I’m fully prepared for any opportunities and challenges that may lie ahead.

Life is very busy at the moment as I juggle life, study, and my business. When I initially started on this path, I felt quite overwhelmed and unsure if I should continue. I have struggled with anxiety before, so have had to be conscious of my overall health and wellbeing to ensure it doesn’t all become too much to cope with. During one of the talks as part of the Empower: Female Founders programme, the speaker said ‘Your business is your baby, but it’s not everything. Your business will not flourish if you don’t look after yourself.’ This instantly resonated with me and encouraged me to allocate my time more effectively, to ensure I give myself the physical breaks and headspace needed to function at my full potential.

What’s next…

I am currently awaiting the arrival of my prototypes in different shoe sizes. I have been working with a UK-based company, who have advised me on adaptions needed to my design in order to pursue mass manufacture and have been able to create prototypes for me. This process has been possible as a result of the funding I received, as well as aiding the creation of a portfolio as I prepare to explore partnership opportunities with some of the big sportswear brands.

Words of wisdom…

Just say yes! I know this is a cliché thing to say but maximise every opportunity that comes along. As students, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do as much as possible, but ultimately it is worth it. It’s essential that you maintain an element of self-care within your schedule but making the most of this time when we have relatively few responsibilities is important for long-term personal progression.

Find out more

If you have a potential business idea, or are interested in developing your business skills, find out more about the training, events and support Essex Startups offers to current students and recent graduates.