Photos: Hazel Cardew

STUDENTS have pitched another impressive array of business ideas to an expert panel at this year’s Race To Market.

This yearly event, organised by the Student Experience department, aims to encourage entrepreneurial thinking in students from across the university.

The ‘Dragon’s Den’ style competition is just one of the events involved in the week which sees local businesses and ex-students come together to create new and exciting business opportunities.

The winner of Best Pitch was Irene Funnell (Architectural Glass), whose stained glass designs impressed the judges. Zoë Noakes (Surface Pattern Design) won Most Innovative Product, while Katy Maddison (Illustration) won the Most Developed Idea. Two prizes were awarded for Commercial Potential to Laura Evans (Surface Pattern Design) and Katie Fawcett (Architectural Glass).

The university were delighted to welcome a panel of expert judges, including UWTSD Professor of Practice and Head of Workforce & Organisational Development for the National Wales Informatics Service (NWIS) Wendy Dearing, Darren Rees, the Site Manager for UWTSD’s Swansea Waterfront development on behalf of Kier Group in South Wales, and Simon Narbeth who has been Design and Project Manager for BOF for nearly 20 years.

Wendy Dearing said: “I’ve been blown away by the work the students have been producing at Race To Market. The judges were unanimous in their decisions with the winners for their innovation, their inventiveness and I was particularly impressed with their commitment to sustainability.

“This university has a real ethos and values when it comes to sustainability and I think there is already markets there for the products that have been produced. There’s a wide range and huge variety and of course, in Wales, you have a unique opportunity for those niche markets. Well done to everyone on behalf of all of the judges.”

Darren Rees said: “All of the participants did fantastically well – it’s not the most comfortable thing to do, to stand up in front of a panel of judges and pitch something. They all worked so hard and they knew their products very well, it came across so well and the work that they developing are excellent, some fantastic designs – very creative.”

Simon Narbeth said: “The quality of work was fantastic – from the photography, the design –  the way the information was presented was very professional, very commercial, and very appealing. I was impressed with every aspect of their work.”

This year welcomed two graduates who came to offer mentorship to students with their business ideas. They were entrepreneur Kieran Abbott, who is a designer with the Swansea-based creative agency Big Lemon Creative, and ex-Student Union (Swansea) President Beth Thomas, Senior PR and Relationships Executive with Birchbox.

Also on hand to offer support were staff members from the Student Support Services at UWTSD. Melanie Rocyn-Jones is a Specialist Support Lecturer who attended the event. She said: “I found this a fantastic experience for students to put the skills and education generated within their degrees to specific purpose tailoring it to meet the demands of the business market.

“They were able to use current concepts and ideas they had concentrated on for the past 3 years and learn how to progress and develop these further into marketable projects. A fantastic opportunity to progress learning generated through education and academia into business ventures, learning how to tailor ideas and develop them alongside professional business experience.”

Students were given expert guidance from Big Ideas Wales’ Role Models Chris James, Director of CIOTEK Ltd, Tom Baker from Urquhart-Dykes and Lord, Tasha Middleton from Sew Swansea, Nia Beynon from Nia Beynon Designs, and Rebecca Hayes from sGRipt.

UWTSD were also pleased to welcome back last year’s winner Yvonne Shore, whose organic scarves won her a top place in last year’s competition. Yvonne offered support throughout the week and was spoke to students about her experience of the competition.

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