£10,000 Santander funding for student start-up businesses

  • Date

    Wed 18 Nov 20

Students in the business start-up hub

Essex graduates and students have been given a total of £10,000 to further their business dreams following the Big Pitch - a Dragon’s Den-style competition for budding entrepreneurs.

The biggest grant of £3,000 went to Elena Distaru, who completed a Film Studies PhD earlier this year, for Essex DocFest – a new type of film festival which will come into its own during the current pandemic. It features online events – bringing the work of emerging film makers to a wider audience and providing courses for those who want to learn the basics of documentary film making.

The Astraea Theatre Company, the brainchild of Charlie-Anne Bruce and Holly Matthams, received £2,000 towards a programme of community arts events planned for next year including youth theatre sessions, school shows, a family choir, and a summer school, based at The Forum in Southend. The pair completed their Acting and Community Theatre degrees in the summer.

While Soorya Suresh, a Computer Science graduate, received £2,000 to help develop Herby – a food app aimed at helping people make healthy well-informed meal choices so they can change their diet for the better. 

The Essex Startups Big Pitch is the final showcase for student and graduate businesses. Attendees of the Summer Bootcamp held in June 2020 have worked tirelessly on their business plans throughout the summer and round off their experience by pitching to a panel of judges. 

The judges this year were Head of Start-Up Support Andy Mew, Enterprise Officer Alexa Gordon and special guest judge, Ankit Mehrotra, one of the University’s successful entrepreneurs.

After submitting complete business plans, participants were invited to pitch their ideas with a five- minute presentation and were questioned by the judges on various elements of their business.

Head of Start-up Support, Andy Mew said: “Everyone who took part should be incredibly proud of what they’ve accomplished so far. They all showed dedication, creativity and perseverance – key traits of successful entrepreneurs. It’s clear that there’s a lot of amazing talent in the University of Essex community and I look forward to seeing these ideas progress to the next level.”

Ankit Mehrotra added: “Taking part in the Big Pitch was a fantastic experience. It was great to see this exciting initiative taking place and the quality of ideas pitched was superb.”

In total the judges awarded £10,000 funding, donated by Santander, to eight businesses. The others to benefit were:

£1,000 to Teminioluwa Ayo-Kasumu, an LLB Law graduate, whose company Ede makes eco-friendly sanitary products with packaging made from banana skins.

£500 each to: Alicia Torres, a graduate of International Marketing and Entrepreneurship, for a website for The Harbour Workspace – a co-working space for professionals and businesses who are interested in giving back to their community.

Jordan Akindutire, also a graduate of International Marketing and Entrepreneurship, for Yoruba Gospel Music Ministry- a new record label for gospel music, which also hosts community concerts.

Nidal Aslam, a graduate in Events Management and Hospitality for Intramural - an annual multi-sports charity event to be held at the University with the aim of raising awareness of the importance of sport participation on mental health.

Kamilija Garbauskaite, a third-year Film Studies student for KG Lions Productions- which will provide pre and post-production support to video and film makers, linking them to archive footage and Lithuanian creators.