Pitch perfect30 Jun 2014
New Entrepreneur semi-finalists present ten compelling stories of profit with purpose to The Duke of York
It takes boldness to found a new business but real bravery and conviction to pitch it to a judging panel of seasoned entrepreneurs; over 150 investors, advisors and leaders; and The Duke of York.
Ten semi-finalists boldly going with their first enterprise brought their respective ‘A’ games – and some family and friends – to the stunning St George’s Hall in Liverpool on 24th June to compete for the inaugural Duke of York New Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Part of the International Festival for Business, this special judging event included a rousing speech from the Duke of York on the importance of celebrating high potential founders through the National Business Awards.
“These awards are incredibly important, not only in their own right, but also in the process of encouraging people to recognise there’s a lot more in you than you ever imagined if you had the opportunity,” he said.
“If we’re going to employ people we’re going to have to be more entrepreneurial,” he added. “We’re going to have to find ways of encouraging young people or people who are in businesses, who see a niche in the market, to get out there and start their own business. What’s very interesting listening to each one of you this morning, has been the fact that you’ve all come from different backgrounds, you’ve all had different experiences and you’re all setting off down a path, not only to be a business in its own right, but you want to grow quickly.”
Each of the ten semi-finalists competing for a chance to win this prestigious award had an inspirational story to tell, proving that anyone can start a business at any time of their lives and careers. A common element in all of the pitches was how closely personal values and ethics were embedded with the business model.
Essex-based Jamie Clarke, who left school at 15 with no qualifications, launched BioDome Systems to address some of the issues that deterred him from the education system. Judges commended the 25 year old for his passion, tenacity and vision saying he was “one to watch”.
Having experienced recruitment as both a candidate and successful HR professional, Leanne Morris launched Carter Morris Talent Solutions as an alternative to the big corporate providers – with a disruptive model ‘combining technology, active talent pools, specialist networks, data analysis, and clearly defined values to deliver better candidates quicker’.
Richard Llewellyn, a third year Economics student at Newcastle University, founded Forell in his second year from his college bedroom. A rugby injury, and a visit to the physio, highlighted a problem he decided to solve – with an app to improve recovery rates by making exercises clearer, increasing patient motivation and improving efficiency for clinicians.
Sparrho founder Vivian Chan used her experience of completing a PhD in Biochemistry at University of Cambridge to create a content recommendation business to help students stay up to date on new research – inspired by a post-grad researcher called Steve who expanded people’s horizons with suggested reading that could deliver more eureka moments.
Chartered Accountant and ex-banker Soraya Bahrami combined her knowledge of trade finance with her Mauritian heritage to launch Toucan Fruit, a leading importer of rare exotic fruit into the UK market, to protect these species and sustain the farmers that produce them.
The five finalists chosen by the judging panel to go forward to the public vote also combined purpose with profit – demonstrating impressive growth in a short space of time.
After a career in public affairs, with positions at Sainsbury’s and Lexington Communications, Emma Cerrone co-founded Free:formers to teach teams within large corporates to improve their digital skills. What set it apart was its onefor1 scheme where, for every business person trained, it trains a young person for free – working with The Prince’s Trust and UK Youth to provide opportunities to enterprising young people.
The oldest semi-finalist at 40, Alistair Smit left a career in the City to try to solve the problems that come from fossil fuel dependence through innovation and design. The result, ‘after hundreds of prototypes, much testing and many man hours of perseverance and determination’, is The Magic Thermodynamic Box – which is now in 12 countries around the world in less than 18 months.
Married father of three Ben Weaver worked his way up from Sales Executive to Sales Director in publishing before taking the leap to launch Outlook Publishing - founded on family values and a focus on secure, sustainable growth.
Kathryn Birch, a former broadcast journalist for the BBC who later joined the Ministry of Defence, spotted a gap when looking for freelance translation jobs. Her venture, Translive Global, promises to cut the cost of interpretation services by 40% by working with a network of 1200 linguists.
Jay Radia developed his hobby of online marketing into Yieldify after spotting a gap in the market and left a successful career in investment banking at Bank of America to pursue his dream of running his own business.
Having been shortlisted by the judging panel, these five finalists have now gone through to a public vote to determine the overall winner – who will be announced at the 13th NBA Gala Dinner on 11th November. Visit the website now to view each of their 3 minute pitches and vote for your favourite. To book your place to see who triumphs this year, visit for information on ticket and table packages.