Four aspiring entrepreneurs, including a first year Middlesex University student, will compete for a £3,000 prize in the Grand Final of the Entrepreneurial Barnet Competition 2019 on Wednesday 3rd April.
The competition, now in its sixth year, has attracted record levels of interest. There were 70 entries, from students at Middlesex or Barnet and Southgate College and Barnet residents with a business idea, or an existing business or social enterprise less than two years old. Forty-nine cleared the elevator pitch stage, receiving a “golden ticket”. Judges of the Business Model Canvas stage at NatWest’s Accelerator Space say the standard was very high and struggled to narrow the shortlist down to the final four.
The competition is a joint venture between Middlesex, Barnet and Southgate College and Barnet Council, generously sponsored by Brent Cross Shopping Centre, with the aim of identifying, developing and encouraging new business ideas and entrepreneurial skills in the borough.
Finalist Zak Morrison, a first year undergraduate Psychology student at Middlesex, pitched his start-up Mono-Designs, which sells clothing and bags printed with artwork inspired by pop art, gaming, and Japanese “otaku” culture. Mono-Designs, which currently has four people including Zak working on it, will market itself online and at fan conventions and fairs. Longer-term Zak hopes to open up a London outlet where customers can design their own T-shirt or hoodie and get it printed at the store on completion.
Zak plans to use data capture and analysis to work out what his potential customers like and what they don't like. "I've been told I have a strong entrepreneurial mind" he says. He enjoys games development and since arriving at MDX he has set up a STEM Society open to all students.
Other finalists are Avinoam Baruch with Previsco, a Loughborough University spin-out which offers real-time, street level flood prediction based on a unique self-improving forecasting model; Joanne Merchant with her proposed high street family hub When I Grow Up, providing an appealing play, support and community space for families with young children; and Anthony McCollum with Foodwatts, a nutrition/food selection App.
The judges for the final are Terry Magennis, Hammerson (co-owner of Brent Cross), Steve Leverton of business finance specialists Cornmill Associates, Business Inclusion Co-ordinator at NatWest Sharniya Ferdinand and beauty company MD Vanessa Fernandes, a MDX Master’s graduate. The prize for the winner is mentoring alongside £3,000 to invest in their business.
Last year’s winner Marie Farmer, who designed an App for parents to monitor their children’s food intake called Mini Mealtimes, says she was “immensely proud to have won the Entrepreneurial Barnet Award. It was encouraging to hear that so many people believed in the idea”. Over the past 12 months she says she has had to learn how to boot strap a business, meaning that she had to work at some point on every aspect of the business by herself.
Chris Barnes, General Manager of Brent Cross, said: “We are delighted to support the Entrepreneurial Barnet competition for what will be the fifth year in a row. The initiative provides local entrepreneurs and students in our community a fantastic opportunity to kick-start their business and we wish all entrants the very best of luck.”
Barnet Councillor Daniel Thomas, Chair of the Assets, Regeneration and Growth Committee, said: “It’s great to see so much entrepreneurial talent in our borough. I would like to congratulate the finalists, and everyone who has taken part in this competition. We are proud to be able to promote and recognise the entrepreneurial spirit of people in Barnet in this way.”
The final will be held at Hammerson PLC HQ at 90 York Way, London N1 9GE. The audience takes a role in the judging process, and there is networking, drinks and a chance to meet the finalists.