A BUSINESS proposal to produce hemp products resulted in a student from Aberystwyth winning a £10,000 prize.
Industrial hemp research postgraduate Jamila La Malfa-Donaldson’s business plan and pitch landed her a £10,000 business investment sponsored by Aberystwyth University alumni , as part of the InvEnterPrize student business idea competition.
Its food and cosmetics brand, ProHempOtic, will offer a range of products derived from organic hemp with added plant ingredients, aimed at supporting health and well-being.
Jamila’s business idea also won another of the competition’s coveted prizes, a year of office space at Aberystwyth’s innovation and enterprise campus, AberInnovation.
Aberinnovation campus near Penrhyncoch opened in 2020 (Aber United ) (Aber United)
Five of this year’s twelve entries were shortlisted by the judging panel, which reviewed business plans, listened to presentations and deliberated on submissions.
The five finalists received £1,000 from the university, through its Research Wales Innovation Fund grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.
A separate prize of £3,000 sponsored by Engineers in Business has been awarded to Thomas Breeze, a postgraduate computer science student, who presented an innovative modular robotics concept, BreezeLabs.
The judging panel included several Aberystwyth University graduates who went on to successful careers in business. They were also joined by last year’s InvEnterPrize winner Karl Swanepoel, who graduated with a degree in artificial intelligence and robotics in 2021.
After securing an investment in his business idea in InvEnterPrize 2021, Karl’s company, Revolancer, an independent marketplace that connects skilled freelancers with ambitious businesses looking to grow, has gone from strength to strength. As well as helping to judge this year’s entries, Karl also donated a £1,500 Revolancer voucher as a prize for the finalist whose business idea would benefit most from the support of an independent, such as design work or website development. This prize was also awarded to ProHempOtic.
Following the awards presentation, Jamila La Malfa-Donaldson said, “The opportunity to participate in, let alone win, the InvEnterPrize competition has given me a life-changing opportunity for which I am so grateful. To prepare for the competition, I worked with Big Ideas Wales Business Advisor Julie Morgan, attended all of the online workshops hosted by Aberpreneurs, and participated in the BioAccelerate program run by AberInnovation.
Jamila is studying for her PhD at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University, and has developed testing processes and methods for growing and processing industrial hemp for therapeutic compounds.
The 29-year-old from south-east London has already made plans on how to use her investment funding: “I intend to spend the prize money on research and development for the product line, testing products for safety and nutritional content, as well as developing the brand and an e-commerce site and blog.I’m excited to grow a team of freelancers through Revolancer I am also participating in the Productivity to Prosperity program led by AberInnovation to develop a recipe for a new hemp drink.I look forward to continuing to work with Julie Morgan, who is now working with Antur Cymru Enterprise, to test the product line in a pop-up retail space in Aberystwyth town center this summer.
Organized annually by the University Careers Service, this year’s InvEnterPrize competition saw entries from student entrepreneurs and student groups across the University, who submitted a wide range of business ideas.
There were product design concepts such as a smart cane for the blind and a weight harness for kettle bells; online businesses, including a music and chat platform and a style platform; virtual tour creation assistance software; a healthy lung app to help patients manage their disease; a shop selling environmentally friendly products; and a seed and seedling development company.
University career consultant and entrepreneurship champion Tony Orme said: “A decade after its launch, InvEnterPrize continues to be one of the UK’s most exciting student business idea competitions. -United. The added value of the competition is that, while developing their business plans, participants have the opportunity to attend workshops and presentations to hone their business skills and access free one-on-one mentoring from Big Ideas Wales.
“The quality of this year’s finalists has certainly lived up to expectations – congratulations to each of them. Our thanks go to the Aber alumni whose generous donations fund the main prize, and of course to our fantastic judges. It was great to welcome back last year’s winner, Karl Swanepoel, whose success we are looking forward to following with Revolancer. We wish Jamila every success in developing her business. »
Chairman of the InvEnterPrize judges, Peter Gradwell, who graduated from Aberystwyth with a degree in software engineering in 2002 and founded the business communications company Gradwell Communications Ltd and more recently a mobile network (IQ Mobile Ltd), said: “The former ‘Dragons’ were delighted to be back to assess another fantastic range of innovative business ideas from Aber students. The entries highlighted the diversity and tenacity of student enterprises, spanning business opportunities such as fitness, entertainment, mental health, biomedical sciences, tourism and robotics. Congratulations to our grand prize winner Jamila, who delivered a clear presentation and comprehensive business plan to bring an innovative line of hemp-based products to market, capitalizing on both an exciting skincare trend consumer health and the experience of the University in the development of industrial hemp.