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Swansea’s student entrepreneurs boost their business ideas with ‘Big Pitch’

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Entrepreneurial students received a major boost for their business ideas at Swansea University’s annual Big Pitch Competition, sponsored by Santander Universities.

Held in person for the first time in two years, the Big Pitch aims to provide support for students to gain valuable skills and get their ideas off the ground.

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19 entrepreneurial students pitched 14 different ideas to a panel of esteemed judges, who awarded more than £10,500 to four start-ups.

All students received mentoring, and four businesses were awarded spaces on bespoke accelerator programmes designed by the Enterprise Team in collaboration with national organisations.

Students were each given a three-minute slot to pitch their ideas to the judges: Ben Reynolds, Founder of the Urban Foundry and Wales’ first B-Corp; Nicholas Davies, Relationship Manager for Santander Universities; Lucy Griffiths, Head of Swansea University’s Employability Academy; Kelly Jordan, Senior Enterprise Officer for the Enterprise Team and James Hughes, Chief Executive at Vedra Partners.

Businesses ranged from healthy acai smoothie bowls, patented baking technology and bespoke student design solutions, to plant and gift shops, student consultancies and more.

Before their presentations, students attended workshops organised by Swansea University’s Enterprise Team, based in Research, Engagement and Innovation Services (REIS), which offered advice on developing their ideas and pitching them effectively.

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Dan Eedy, School of Management postgraduate student and founder of Kiwi, said: “The Big Pitch was a really great opportunity to showcase my new business start-up to an audience, something I hadn’t previously done.

“It was interesting to learn about a variety of other new businesses through their pitches and the networking opportunity during the event.

“The funding that I gratefully received will be hugely beneficial in purchasing essential equipment, that will allow my business to grow faster than anticipated.

“I’m looking forward to serving tasty and healthy smoothie bowls in Swansea and farther afield in the coming months.”

Senior Enterprise Officer Kelly Jordan said she was delighted to see the competition going from strength to strength: “After two challenging years for all businesses, we have again been blown away by the quality and standard of the pitches and business models delivered during the Big Pitch.

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“Each of the students who took part has done Swansea University proud, with entries from all three faculties spanning across all years of study.

“Our students are proving that Swansea University is a truly entrepreneurial institution.”

Dr Ben Reynolds, a judge for the Big Pitch and founder of Urban Foundry, said: “I really enjoyed being a judge for the Big Pitch again. There were some great pitches and lots of talent on show!”

(Lead image: Swansea University)

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Gower College Swansea

Sketty Hall Business School appoints Advisory Board

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Sketty Hall Business School has announced the formation of its Advisory Board – key industry figures who will help shape the future of education and training across South Wales and beyond.

With the support of Welsh Government’s Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme, Gower College Swansea has recently transformed the much loved Georgian building into a contemporary Business School.

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As well as being home to a range of professional, management and degree programmes, Sketty Hall Business School will also host high profile training events where academics, captains of industry and leading sporting personalities will inspire both businesses and individuals.

The Business School will also look to introduce the concepts of management and leadership to all its students, enabling them to become the inspirational leaders of the future.

“We are delighted to announce Sketty Hall Business School’s Advisory Board which will support Gower College Swansea in further understanding employers’ needs, and strengthen our relationships with key industries. The Board will help ensure that we are delivering the right skills for both now and in the future,” says Director of Skills and Business Development, Paul Kift.

“Delivering a cutting-edge, employer-led curriculum which supports economic development, and which is aligned to regional and Welsh priorities, is our key strategic aim as a Board.”

“Board members will have a major voice in shaping the business skills that are available across the region, benefitting learners and College staff whilst also creating a pipeline of talent for organisations. This will help to develop the prosperity and productivity of the wider business community. Together, we can also create skills solutions that will assist the Swansea Bay City Deal – enabling economic regeneration, development and growth.”

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The Sketty Hall Business School Advisory Board members are:

  • (Chair) Chris Foxall, Finance Director, Riversimple and Swansea Bay City Deal Economic Strategy Board Chair.
  • Deb Bowen-Rees, Chair of South West Wales Branch, IoD, formerly CEO of Cardiff Airport, and current NED at Milford Haven Port Authority.
  • Ian Price, Wales Director, CBI.
  • Lucie Thomas, Director of Recruitment, Learning and Development, Pobl Housing Association.
  • Adrian Sutton, CEO, Vortex IoT.
  • Lucy Cohen, Co-founder of Mazuma, and Swansea Bay City Deal Economic Strategy Board member.
  • Tony Roberts, Head of Wales, Vodafone.
  • Adrian Chard, Strategic Human Resources and Organisational Development Manager, Swansea Council.
  • Louise Harris, CEO, Tramshed Tech.
  • Lisa Mart, General Manager, Swansea Arena/Ambassador Theatre Group.
  • Alison Orrells, Managing Director, Safety Letterbox Company.
  • Michael Kavanagh, Development Director, Short Brothers.
  • Matt Wintle, Head of Learning & Development, Admiral.

“It’s wonderful to see Sketty Hall’s outstanding redevelopment being put to such good use as the home of the Sketty Hall Business School,” says Chris Foxall. “I’m very pleased to be chairing the business school’s advisory board which is made up of some of the best local employers and businesses leaders in the Swansea Bay City region.

“As the markets and economy continue to change, the demands on our business managers and leaders are increasingly challenging and complex. It’s important that the requirements of businesses help to inform the skills and training provision being developed by our education partners so that businesses can remain competitive and fulfil their potential growth.

“The Swansea Bay City region is one of the best places for ambitious companies looking to grow and invest for the future and, clearly, the best investment any company can make is in its people. Gower College Swansea wants to make sure they’re offering courses that protect those investments and, at the same time, give their students the best chance at a successful career in business and management.”

“I’m delighted that, with the support of Welsh Government, we have been able to make these excellent facilities at Sketty Hall Business School available for all of our students,” says Gower College Swansea Principal, Mark Jones. “And now, with the support of our new Advisory Board, we can begin to make a real impact in this key area for all businesses.”

Lead image: Gower College Swansea Advisory Board Sketty Hall (Image: Adrian White)

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Llanelli

West Wales car dealership to double in size

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Dafen-based Llanelli Motor Company have broken ground on a new development that will see their forecourt double in size over the coming months.

Led by Managing Director Ian Jonathan, the two-phase project will see the independent car dealership increase the number of used vehicles it has on sale to over 400 by January 2023.

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“It’s certainly an exciting period for the business,” said Ian, “and with the significant changes to the used car market, we felt now was the right time to start the project, which has been in the pipeline for over five years.”

Although the business was potentially looking at 2020 as a start date for the developments, the Coronavirus Pandemic put the brakes on the project.

However, since the easing of lockdown restrictions and the delay in obtaining new vehicles, the used car market has seen an unprecedented spike in demand.

Dafen based Llanelli Motor Company is planning to double in size
The company have broken ground on an expansion that will see over 400 cars on sale by the end of January 2023

“The last 12 months have been exceptionally busy,” continued Ian.

“No sooner are we finalising our 140-point safety check on vehicles before placing them on the forecourt, than they are being purchased within a matter of days”.

With the ability to stock 150 nearly new vehicles of all makes and models at the moment, the 1-acre expansion will increase this to 250 by September before more than doubling it to 400 by the spring of 2023.

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In order to facilitate this growth, the company will also be entering a recruitment phase and looking to employ at least 10 new members of staff across its sales, workshop and admin teams as well as taking on new apprenticeships.

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Technology

£67k contract win with leading power tools specialists for Swansea’s Uplands Communications

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Uplands Communications is celebrating a major contract win to the tune of £67k, having closed a deal with a division of Techtronic Industries EMEA Ltd.

The deal sees the Swansea-headquartered telephony specialists supply connectivity for more than 130 users.

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Techtronic owns brands including Ryobi, Milwaukee and AEG. The company enjoyed record 2021 worldwide sales of US$13.2 billion and has more than 51,000 employees.

Paul Hooper, MD of Uplands Communications, which is based in Swansea, said: “We are pleased to forge a new partnership with Techtronic Industries EMEA Ltd, a leaders in its field which is committed to ensuring its customers receive the best experience whenever they interact with the business.

“The past two years have been challenging for businesses across all industries, including for telephony and communications, and, of course for construction and for their supply chain colleagues.

“However, we are seeing, across the board, companies becoming increasingly aware of the need to make sure their communications are in the best shape possible and are modern and fit for purpose.

“The pandemic has brought about a sea-change in the way consumers and businesses interact with each other. Carefully-tailored telephone and communications solutions are more essential than ever if businesses want to thrive.”

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Natasha Russell, Financial Accountant at Techtronic said: “We operate a multi-million pound operation across a range of products and sites and we deal with a broad customer base – both commercial and domestic.

“The solution we sought from Uplands will give us a more seamless billing functionality and smoother processes, as well as more robust day-to-day support. We are pleased to enter into an agreement with Uplands Communications and we look forward to our ongoing relationship with them.”

Uplands Communications, based at Swansea Enterprise Park, is a leading managed services company delivering flexible voice, data and mobile communications.

The firm, which has its HQ in Swansea and an office in Somerset, specialises in independent network management and providing bespoke, converged solutions that aren’t tied to technology and supplier.

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