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Award-winning Kingston University ELEVATE programme holds side hustle showcase to give budding entrepreneurs chance to compete for funding for business ideas

Posted Tuesday 1 June 2021

Award-winning Kingston University ELEVATE programme holds side hustle showcase to give budding entrepreneurs chance to compete for funding for business ideas ELEVATE co-founder Hawa Mansaray and Side Hustle Showcase winner Omari Okwulu

Entrepreneurial students pitched a range of innovative business ideas at an inaugural ‘side-hustle' showcase run by an award-winning Kingston University programme that supports black students to achieve their full potential.

From a virtual quiz themed around black history to a film project shining a light on the experiences of people living in Ghana and a sustainable recycling initiative, the competition finalists pitched their ideas virtually to a judging panel in a bid to win the top prize of £2,000 towards setting up a new company. 

The showcase event was part of the ELEVATE accelerator programme launched in October by the University's careers and employability team. Last month, the programme was recognised with an equality, diversity and inclusion award at the Global Careers Summit.

The final of the Side Hustle Showcase was the culmination of a five-week long event that saw students pitch their business ideas to win prize money. Due to Covid restrictions all pitches were submitted virtually via short videos.

Three students made it to the final, with their business ideas competing for the grand prize of £2,000, with awards of £1,000 and £500 for the two runners up. All finalists also won places on a 10-session customer validation programme, delivered by the University's enterprise team, to help make their ideas a reality.

Omari Okwulu, a media skills Masters student, won the virtual showcase with her idea, Quizzd. "The aim of Quizzd is to celebrate blackness in a fun and entertaining way," she said. "I was inspired by my love of black history and quizzes – I had not seen anything else like it. The quizzes are currently virtual, but I have plans to develop them further to be held in person as well."

Omari was chosen as the winner by the judges who praised the presentation of her pitch. The judges were also impressed by her comprehensive breakdown of how she would use the prize money and also how the business would turn a profit.

During the showcase event, the finalists heard from guest speaker Christian Facey, who graduated from Kingston in 2014 with a BSc (Hons) in Business Management before going on to set up AudioMob, an audio advertising company for mobile gaming. Christian was listed in this year's prestigious Forbes 30 under 30 list. "If you apply yourself at Kingston, you can approach the real world with no ceiling," he told the finalists… "You really get out of Kingston what you put in. The University provided me with the resources and opportunities to help get me to where I am today."

The competition's runner up was final year English literature and drama student Akua Abedia-Boafo, who wanted to use the investment to fund the development of a film company, AAB Productions, that would highlight the experiences of everyday life in her home country of Ghana. "The idea came about because I wanted to create a short film highlighting diverse audiences," she said. "We filmed in Ghana and I was inspired make it because the film industry barely exists there. The investment into developing this idea further could make a real difference to help my achieve my goals."

Third place went to Demmy Adaramodu, an international business management student, who put forward his idea of wastepaper recycling initiative, highlighting the importance of sustainability in business.

The ELEVATE programme was set up by careers and employability advisors Hawa Mansaray and Zion Sengulay, and the pair were impressed with the dedication and effort put into the showcase event by those entering.

 "After a five-week long competition the finalists had each come such a long way, so it was incredible to hear first-hand what the opportunity meant to each of them," Hawa said.  "Hearing from our guest speaker and Kingston alumni Christian Facey talk about his odds -defying business journey served as a source of inspiration and motivation for everyone at the event. A good friend reminded me to think about what kind of positive ripple effects an achievement like this would have for the students involved and that thought has really stayed with me - I can't wait to see where their journeys and ideas take them next."


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