Bold new business ideas pitching to win university awards

Alex Buckman, Nicola Lazenby and Andrew Timmis of The Energy Community

Alex Buckman, Nicola Lazenby and Andrew Timmis of The Energy Community

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The best five businesses who entered Sheffield University’s enterprise competition will go head-to-head for a £5,000 prize tomorrow - including the ‘Weight Watchers of Energy’ and a company making bamboo socks.

PhD students Alex Buckman, Nicola Lazenby and Andrew Timmis set up The Energy Community to ‘make energy visual’, developing personalised advice and social networks to help people find what energy saving changes could work for them - and have the support to keep it up.

They are up against Ollie Chapple’s The Bear Socks Company, an award-winning, ethical designer sock brand that uses bamboo fibres. Said to be the future of the sock industry, the yarn is renewable, biodegradable, anti-bacterial, durable, soft and breathable. The firm says it gives 10 per cent of profits to a charity supporting bear welfare.

The three other shortlisted entries include Roz Davies, of We Love Life, a community platform which helps people improve the way they manage diabetes, and Dr Sarah Bryan’s SB Holistic, which offers ‘made-to-measure’ massage and bath and skin products.

Rebekah Russell of Renown Media which offers photography, videography and graphic design, is another finalist

The winner will be announced at the Vice Chancellor’s Enterprise Innovation and Impact Celebration Dinner at the university’s Firth Hall tonight.

There will also be an award, and a £1,000 prize, for best business concept. Entries include Azeeza Ismail, who hopes to launch an Indian cafe where customers are allowed to choose how much they want, to prevent waste, Lauren Nicholson, whose Remember The Date business helps people create cards and upload video greetings, and Natalia Welch, who is behind a plan to sell Panela, a natural sweetener derived from sugar cane already popular in Colombia. Other finalists are Sophie Findlay, who hopes to sell 3D printed affordable electric guitars and Yeqing Liu, who aims to launch Nostalgia, a city centre Chinese food stand.

Vice Chancellor, Prof Sir Keith Burnett, said: “Enterprise is at the heart of our university which was founded to use education to make a difference to the lives of students and society. The results have already been outstanding.”