Budding entrepreneurs have launched 34 new businesses across the region with support from Staffordshire University’s be inspired scheme.

The be inspired programme provides Staffordshire graduates with the practical skills and a financial springboard to help new and developing businesses get off to a flying start.

This year’s graduating showcased their new companies at ‘Start-Up GradEX’, sponsored by NatWest, with industry judges awarding gold, silver and bronze prizes.

The top prize of £1,500 was awarded to Stoke-on-Trent based video production company You Films, which was founded by a trio of friends who met while studying at Staffordshire University.

Creative Director Marika Minkowska, Camera and Drone operator Stuart Swindell and Videographer Steve Grimley are working together to produce high quality video production services, specialising in a range of promotional videos, music videos, commercial and creative videos.

Marika said: “When we first started out, we were very unconfident with our pricing strategies, nor did we have a strong branding or social media presence, and no knowledge how to progress. Since being on the be inspired scheme, it has truly shaped us into the company and team we are today. Not only has it allowed us to develop as individuals but most importantly we have become a confident thriving production company.”

Benjamin Gibson

Sports Development and Coaching graduate Benjamin Gibson scooped the Silver prize and £1,000. He has founded social enterprise In 2 Health & Wellbeing to improve the health and wellbeing of disadvantaged young people in Stoke-On-Trent and Staffordshire.

The business’s holistic approach focuses on nutrition, exercise, and mindfulness which helps young people to build social, emotional and key life skills while improve employability and creating pathways into education, training, and employment.

Benjamin said: “Starting my own business has given me the drive to pursue something that I’m passionate about whilst learning and developing new skills. If you have aspirations of running your own business but it scares you, then I would highly recommend the be inspired programme as they support you every step of the way. We are in the process of obtaining a facility in the heart a deprived community in Stoke-on-Trent that will allow us to expand our offer, generate revenue to help us become sustainable and make a positive impact to young people.”

Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, be inspired is a free, year-long programme open to graduates of Staffordshire University and graduates from other universities who live in Staffordshire. As well as providing expert advice and support, it offers business grants of up to £3,000.

Lauren Penny

Bronze winner Lauren Penny spent more than 15 years working in marketing, communications and graphic design before deciding to pursue her own venture. She won £500 in recognition of her new marketing and creative agency We are good LTD which is dedicated to promoting ethical business.

Lauren added: “The programme gave me the boost I needed to get my business idea to a stage where it is ready to launch. It has also provided the opportunity to make business and client contacts and the grant available enabled me to invest in key business equipment which was crucial in covering start-up costs.”

Watch the Start-Up GradEX highlights or discover more about the be inspired programme

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