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UEL graduates honoured at The Haberdashers' Awards

east london and thames river

Entrepreneurs earn cash prizes and valuable contacts to develop their businesses

By Lee Pinkerton

The businesses of five University of East London’s (UEL) alumni-turned-entrepreneurs were given a boost at the Haberdashers’ Entrepreneur’s Awards in Smithfield last week.

The Haberdashers’ Awards are a partnership between UEL and the Haberdashers’ Livery Company aimed at giving businesses owned by UEL students and recent alumni a financial boost to encourage their growth.

This year’s five award winners were: Fashion Design graduate Kim Stevenson and her Autonomous Collections clothing line; Psychology graduate Nabil Shabbir and his Chai Life coffee and desert parlour; Sports Therapy graduate Camilla Smee and her Elite Injuries clinic; Music Production graduate Danny Scott’s Pixel 8 Media; and ethical smoothie company Ooze Drinks from 3D design graduates Guiseppe Baidoo, Samson Opayemi and Valerie Akano.

The competition is open to current UEL students or recently graduated alumni who already have a business up and running. It helps them to raise seed funding at a time which is challenging for most fledgling businesses.

The winners have already undergone a programme of mentoring and support and at the ceremony received a certificate and an award of £2,000 to invest in their businesses.

Among those attending the ceremony was Joff Hamilton, Master of the Haberdashers' Company, and Professor John Joughin, the UEL Vice-Chancellor (pictured centre).

The programme has been running for more than ten years and has supported more than 100 students and graduates in that time, with six of the previous 17 winners also based at UEL’s business hub, The Knowledge Dock Business Innovation Centre.

Martin Longstaff, UEL's Director of Research Operations, said, “Back in 2004 the Haberdashers' gave us an initial grant of £50,000 to develop our co-working space, and each year since then they’ve given us a £10,000 grant to distribute among student and alumni businesses. The awards are an important part of our strategy to grow and house student and alumni businesses in the Knowledge Dock.”

But, as Martin points out, the money is not the most important thing.

“The most important thing about the Haberdashers', is the network," he said. "Money is great, but sometimes networks can be more valuable. The Haberdashers' members are high value business professionals who can offer a wealth of experience and networks.

"It is really important that our students and alumni understand that they need to operate in multiple networks to be successful.”