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Essex microgrants awarded to help small businesses flourish

  • Date

    Tue 21 Jan 20

From an app to help find charity shop bargains to an online platform to support local business communities, the founders of innovative start-up companies have been awarded with microgrants to help develop their businesses.

Four fledgling companies have each received £3,000 from the Knowledge Gateway Seedcorn Fund, established by the University of Essex.

Businesses had five minutes to make their pitch, followed by a 15-minute question and answer session in front of a panel of judges.

Polish Pad – an app for booking nail appointments

Essex economics graduate Abigail Bright was awarded a microgrant for her business, Polish Pad.

Polish Pad is a mobile application which offers a convenient way to book nail appointments online.

Nail technicians pay a monthly subscription fee to feature in the app, which allows them to increase exposure and showcase their work for potential customers.

Blank Slate Body- online tutorials for actors

Blank Slate Body, a hub of online video tutorials for actors in strength and conditioning has also received a grant thanks to the Seedcorn Fund.

The company, founded by East 15 Acting School MA graduate Sara Lessman provides web-based courses and in-person movement training for actors.

Blank Slate Body’s long-term plan is to connect with other practitioners and theatre groups around London to create a “Netflix” of courses specifically geared toward educating actors in movement and fitness practices relevant to their craft.

All course material will be accessible online and information and assignments delivered by web-based charts and video.

Thrift – a mobile app for charity shops

Alexander Slade and Benjamin Reeder have received funding for Thrift, a mobile application which aims to help charity shops maximise donations.

Alexander and Benjamin, who currently study Management Economics and Accounting and Finance at Essex, created the platform so charity shops in a local area can upload their best clothing items for customers to browse and buy from their phone.

Users will be able to use a filter and keyword search to narrow down specific items in their area, or simply browse for bargains.

This will save consumers time and money, reduce clothing consumption and increase sales for charities.

Relocon – A resource tool for businesses

A Knowledge Gateway tenant has been awarded a grant for Relocon, an online platform designed to create better access to regional resources for businesses.

Entrepreneur in Residence James Cracknell is working with Essex Startups to build an online, one stop shop where business owners can find support specific to their needs.

Business clients would have access to a rich network for project partnering and the establishment of joint ventures, educational content that focuses upon innovation and technology and sources of finance and funding through alternative platforms.

Andy Mew, Head of Startup Support, EIRA Director Dr Kirstie Cochrane, Honorary Graduate and Business Angel Phil O’Donovan and business entrepreneur Peter Wood formed the judging panel.

Andy Mew said: “The standard of pitches today was absolutely phenomenal and the panel were impressed with the range of businesses on show today. The presenters were asked some tough questions and demonstrated that they know their business, and their market sectors, inside out.

The University of Essex is committed to supporting our students, graduates, and members of the Knowledge Gateway, through access to business support, new networks, and funding opportunities, and I look forward to seeing how these companies develop over the coming years.”

In total, £123,000 was awarded to the continued development of seven businesses, including three businesses from University staff, students and graduates who received funds ranging from £30,000 to over £50,000.