Young entrepreneurs in the spotlight at the awards ceremony


Northumbria University students and graduates were among more than 40 new business creators who showcased their talents at a prestigious online awards event.

Organized and hosted by the learning and development agency FIRST, the Startup Awards North East provided an opportunity for new business owners to seek help and develop their professional networks, whether they are at the stadium. start-up, skills development or growth with their business.

Those involved spoke passionately about their entrepreneurial ambitions to an audience of over 300 members of the North East business community and applied for a chance to win the Social Impact and High Growth Awards.

Amy Clunes, a sophomore fashion design student, was one of Northumbria’s seven finalists and was selected as a co-winner of the Social Impact Award after attending SkillUP Day.

The 20-year-old worked with the Northumbria student and graduate business team as part of the internship year offered as part of her course. She has shown real promise by working on the development of her fledgling fashion and accessories brand, Whozamy.

Amy explains: “The internship year is a real plus for the course because it gives students like me the opportunity to make the connection with a company and to spend time in the working world. But I knew my end goal would be to become independent and work for myself, so I chose to spend my internship time with the company team. ”

With support from the Northumbria corporate team and presentations to organizations like FIRST, Amy has attended meetings, training sessions and webinars that have helped her develop essential skills such as conducting books, website building and marketing.

She added, “I am currently taking a Sage Accounting course and working on launching my own website. The support I have received has been incredible and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Amy was inspired to start her own business after friends commented on her handmade earrings and then sold hundreds of face masks online during the height of the pandemic. Its goal is to produce its own clothes using fabrics from sustainable sources and less harmful to the environment. She also plans to make her designs inclusive by creating them in sizes 6 to 22.

Amy and the other Northumbria laureates are part of the Europe-funded Northumbria Enterprise and Business Support (NEBS2) project. This specialized system calls on professional mentors to support future entrepreneurs as part of an end-to-end business creation support service.

Graham Baty, who manages the enterprise side of the service, said: “We are very fortunate to work with fantastic students and graduates and it has been amazing to see their potential continue to grow and flourish during the pandemic, which has been a difficult time for so many businesses and individuals.

“The ERDF NEBS2 project has allowed us to further enrich our offering with fantastic opportunities for our start-ups to focus on growing their business. It’s wonderful to see the efforts of so many recognized and celebrated through initiatives like the FIRST Startup Awards North East.

Amy celebrates her victory alongside a host of other Northumbria students and graduates who were selected as finalists and saw the University represented in all three categories.

Farzaneh Hajirasouliha, PhD student in Mechanical Engineering, won the Social Impact Award with Amy after pitching a business idea, named Vivid Futures, which would run workshops in schools and colleges to show how the curriculum subjects are used in the world of work.

Still in the SkillUP category, Paul Kane and Carla Prior reached the final. Callum Mather was recognized as a finalist in the StartUP category and Andrew Cartwright reached the ScaleUP day final.

Charlotte Windebank, Managing Director and Co-Founder of FIRST, said: “After the year we’ve had, early career founders need more than ever to be celebrated, introduced and connected to the business ecosystem.

“The award ceremony, while incredibly difficult, was the right thing to do and we are very proud of everyone involved. This includes the founders of the first stage, our partners and the production team behind the scenes, ensuring that the events were meaningful and engaging.

“The awards recognized the drive and ambition of these incredible founders and the team and I at FIRST have been privileged to provide a platform, albeit digital, for these incredible and resilient entrepreneurs. I’m so excited to be on their continued journey to success – if you can start a business during a pandemic, you can literally do anything. “

Northumbria is ranked in the top three graduate start-ups in the UK, based on estimated turnover, since 2011/12, with five years in the top spot. Since 2009, the University has assisted in the creation of nearly 300 new businesses which have led to the creation of over 1,000 jobs, the vast majority of which are in the North East of England.

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