An entrepreneurial philosophy undergraduate from the University of Leeds who has developed a range of home-made healthy dog food is this year’s winner of the Sir Peter Thompson Enterprise Award, announced last night (Tuesday 7 May).
The annual event, organised by the University’s business start-up service Spark, is open to current students as well as graduates, with the winner receiving an award of £5,000. Serial entrepreneur Sir Peter Thompson is an alumnus of the University of Leeds and selects the winner each year: “There is always a wide range of enterprising business ideas coming out of the University and the winners are chosen for their business idea and its potential impact on the UK’s economic, social or cultural prosperity,” he says.
This year’s winner is Sophie Tregellis with her fledgling company, Top Collar. “My dog biscuits have different flavours and are made with human-grade ingredients,” says Sophie. “I hadn’t originally considered the idea as a serious business proposition until a chat with the University Careers Centre changed my mind.”
Further advice from Spark convinced Sophie that her idea had potential. “Spark believed that the business could be a success – they saw that I am passionate about dog health and wellbeing,” she says. In between submitting coursework, Sophie put together a formal plan for the business after speaking to professional services advisors. “It’s fantastic to have won the prize so early on in the company’s development,” she says. “I’m busy finalising the Top Collar website and will use the prize money to fund hand-made production of the range using my recipes, freeing me up to promote the brand.”
Sophie has been allocated space to sell her range at Handpicked Hall, a community of independent retailers based in Leeds’ Grand Arcade which launches in the summer. “This is a great opportunity to work among other specialist producers and learn from them and shows that other people also have belief in my business,” she says.
A second award has been made by Sir Peter Thompson this year. Final year medicine undergraduate, Wendy Matthews, has developed a non-invasive medical device to stop nose bleeds and received a £5,000 research award, enabling her to develop a prototype of her device. “I had the idea after working on hospital wards and seeing how problematic nose bleeds could be,” says Wendy. “My device can be used in hospitals, but could also be used in sports and with children.”
Spark Business Adviser, Kairen Skelley, says: “Awarding two prizes is testament to the calibre of student entrepreneurs and their business ideas which come through Spark each year. We have seen a large increase in the number of student and graduate entrepreneurs coming in to see Spark over the last few years and we are getting busier and busier as time goes on. To combine entrepreneurial spirit with demanding undergraduate degree courses shows how inspired and dedicated these students are. The fantastic opportunities like the one offered by Sir Peter Thompson will spur them on to business success.”