More than 120 people attended the Birmingham Skills for Enterprise and Employability Network (BSEEN) Celebration and Awards event at the Old Library in Birmingham’s iconic Custard Factory complex.
The Awards evening marked the end of the current BSEEN programme, which comes to a close in December 2015, while recognising the outstanding achievements of the 200 businesses started and supported by the project since October 2012. Prizes in various categories were handed to companies who were deemed to have done particularly well.
BSEEN is a collaborative initiative between Aston University, University of Birmingham and Birmingham City University. The initiative offers students and graduates a package of intensive start-up support. Successful participants benefit from a variety of workshops, networking opportunities, tailored mentoring, grants and workspace.
Guests at the celebration evening included BSEEN participants, Aston University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Helen Higson, executive teams from all three partner Universities and mentors and supporters from the business community. To highlight the array of talented and enterprising participants on the programme, businesses from all three partner universities were asked to take part in the special evening.
Attendees were welcomed into the venue by Mercian String Quartet, ate their meal at tables that were decorated with beautiful handcrafted flower arrangement created by And Dance and were entertained by an original performance from Beatfreeks.
Independent Awards judges had the troublesome task of shortlisting candidates in each of the five categories and deciding upon eventual winners.
The BSEEN Award for Innovation, LoopdLife - Jonny Driscoll, University of Birmingham
This award recognises all forms of successfully applied innovation including new products and services. Judges commented that LoopdLife considered the wider impact of innovation, how it can move the market on in a tangible way and that the business had developed in partnership with other organisations. It was said that LoopdLife is a completely new idea with the potential to change the marketplace and with the scope for significant growth. Loopd.life is a social learning environment that combines social media elements with learning technologies.
The BSEEN Award for Networking, UniGreen Scheme - Michael Mcleod, University of Birmingham
This award celebrates excellence in business networking practice. UniGreen Scheme was chosen due to the way in which they demonstrated the positive impact of a highly targeted networking campaign, not only on the business but more widely for the founder and the community. UniGreenScheme takes unwanted but valuable items and equipment from universities through a simple, hassle free and legally compliant programme.
The BSEEN Award for Social Impact, Class Careers- Chris Orthodoxou, Aston University
This award recognises a business that has a positive impact on the local community with a clear mission and understanding of beneficiaries’ needs. The judges were impressed with the methods that Class Careers uses to connect his beneficiaries to the market as they are innovative and reduce the barriers to participation. Class Careers operates within the school leaver recruitment market.
The Most Progressed BSEEN Business Award, Codevate - Sam Jones and David Bennett, Aston University.
This award celebrates new ventures that have exceeded initial targets for growth and have developed a sustainable and profitable business. It was said that Codevate evidenced strong application of personal skill from the two founders coupled with a firm financial basis of the business. Codevate is an app development company that delivers mobile-friendly websites, mobile applications, bespoke software, and IT infrastructures that boost customer acquisition and maximise business growth.
The Most Supportive BSEEN Mentor Award, Clive Poole, X2 Print and Emma Jennings, The Studio.
This award is for an individual who has helped, supported, mentored, instructed or guided a BSEEN business to start up and grow. Both mentors show clear commitment on a broad range of issues for their mentees using contacts regardless of the impact on their own business. Clive Poole mentored Peter Connolly and Jayne Reilly of Aston University. Emma Jennings mentored Asma Inayat also of Aston University.
Professor Helen Higson said: “The evening was a great opportunity to showcase both shortlisted companies and all companies who have been supported by BSEEN. It was fantastic to see the businesses from all cohorts and partner universities of the programme reunited and sharing their experiences. The evening highlighted the crucial role that the BSEEN programme plays in supporting students and graduates to start their own businesses, whilst providing a memorable evening to take forward to the next phase of the programme, expected to start in early 2016”.
BSEEN, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, has helped to create over 80 start-up businesses in the last 12 months alone. New companies established by Aston graduates and supported the BSEEN programme include Beatfreeks, BKSK Inspire, Frumtious and Codevate.
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