Following a delay to regular operation, the Propeller Enterprise Award finally took place in July, seeing two student businesses rewarded with £1,000 each.

The Propeller Enterprise Award is offered by UCLan’s service for enterprise & start-up support twice a year. Students and graduates can apply to fund their business start-up or voluntary project, with award winners receiving up to £1,000. Each application is evaluated on its own merit, through application forms and presentations.

About the Propeller Enterprise Award

For the Spring application period, the final panel was originally planned for the 19th of March; however, a day before it was due to take place the UCLan campus was closed due to coronavirus. Now, four months later, we have been able to conduct the finalists’ presentations online.

We were delighted to hear that two of the five finalists selected still intended to push forward with their businesses despite the uncertainty brought by COVID-19. As such, we arranged for the panel to be conducted via Microsoft Teams.

A panel of external mentors made the decision on who to shortlist and how much funding to award each winner. In the final presentation, applicants were assessed on the viability and sustainability of their ideas; growth potential and their ability to meet the demand of an existing market. Both teams that presented impressed the panel and took the full £1,000 away with them.

“I’ve been working as a mentor at UCLan for about a year now, and I’m constantly blown away by some of the amazing new ideas for businesses. I believe that innovation and entrepreneurship activity deserves to be supported and encouraged. It was a real privilege to be part of the Propeller Enterprise Awards. I’ll be keeping a keen eye on our winners to see how they develop and grow.”- Jackie Harris, Panelist


About the Award Winners

Beached Records

The first award winners to pitch, Beached Records, is an independent record label. Created by current student Alanis Duncan and a recent graduate, Jonathan Robinson, from the Music MA and Music Industry & Management course, there is a distinctive community element.

Unlike large record companies, Jonathan and Alanis are focused on experimental music, in which the artists’ process is valued. This means the music they offer is highly varied, but provides a pure sound without the interference of others. Because the experimental scene doesn’t usually buy digital tracks, the pair will invest in equipment to create cassettes and other merchandise themselves. Beached Records has already started test-trading on bandcamp.

“Younger people are hungry for ‘analogue’ experiences as an antidote to their totally digital lives, and Beached Records come along with an art form that meets that need. Jon and Alanis are passionate, level-headed, focused and knowledgeable about their idea and target market.” – Phil Pond, Panelist

Cocktail Digital

A digital marketing agency focused on SME’s, Cocktail Digital also received the full award. The agency consists of three recent graduates from the Marketing Management course: Gabriela Kryzankova, Luke Shaw and Madeleine Kay Rothorn-Eccles.

The trio has identified that smaller companies are more likely to require agency support and will focus on Lancashire-base SME’s. Focusing on travel and architecture in particular allows for them to tap into existing networks during the initial growth period. Each of the co-owners brings a different skill set to the table, ranging from business development and communications to branding and content creation.

 “Cocktail Digital came across as principled, showing great concern for the ethics of the companies they will work with.  It was a great selling point for me. It was good to know that strong character and values were more important to them than simply making a profit.  They offer a smaller, more personal service and I think this would be cherished by their clients.” – Nigel Farnworth, Panelist


The Role of Enterprise in the Coming Months

Having helped over 10 UCLan students, staff and graduates to register as self-employed since lockdown began, the Propeller team has noticed many small businesses come into their own during recent months. Support for local businesses has been evident from consumers, particularly for companies with an online store. On top of that, the take-up of digital communications also means that many digital agencies have found themselves in high demand.

On several occasions, the government has mentioned the importance of small and medium enterprises in ‘restarting the national economy’. This definitely bodes well for UCLan alumni, who made up the largest number of graduate start-ups outside of London last year.

“It is important to support young people that are passionate about innovation and enterprise as they can often bring in new technology and more creative ways of thinking. If a business is new and young, it isn’t constricted by things that haven’t worked in the past. They are willing to take risks that more established companies wouldn’t take.” – Nigel Farnworth, Panelist