One of my course projects helped me start my company

A profile photo of Matt.
Matt Barett
CEO, Handy Fasteners
Aerospace Engineering MEng
After taking a module where he was tasked with designing a product to help people with arthritis, Matt was awarded a grant to start a company which helps people with limited dexterity.

I chose to study Aerospace Engineering because I had always had an interest in space and planes, and it was the natural choice after two years at a specialised engineering academy. I fell in love with Sheffield when I came to visit on an open day, and knew straight away that I didn’t want to go anywhere else.

My favourite parts of the course were the group design project, designing and building an unmanned flying vehicle; my dissertation; designing and modelling an autonomous micro-airship, and some of the particularly interesting modules over the years.

After graduating, I set up Handy Fasteners with two other alumni (Psychology graduate, Natalie English and fellow Aerospace Engineer, Tom Fantham). It’s a clothing fastening retrofitting company which aims to help people with limited dexterity. We take items with fiddly buttons, remove them, and attach simple, magnetic, "Handy-Fasteners", that can make it much easier and quicker when dressing.

The company came about as a result of a final year module I was part of where, in groups, we were tasked to design something to help people with arthritis. At the end of the module, we were encouraged to enter Design Council Spark (a UK product innovation support programme and fund), which we did, and were awarded £15,000.

Four months later, and at the culmination of the programme, we were awarded a further £25,000.

As Chief Executive Officer, I'm responsible for a wide variety of things, including being the general face of the company, doing presentations, accounting, designing, liaising with manufacturers, and managing the website, amongst others.

After graduating, I set up Handy Fasteners with two other alumni. It’s a clothing fastening retrofitting company which aims to help people with limited dexterity.

Matt Barett

CEO, Handy Fasteners

The self-discipline I had to use to finish my dissertation has certainly been applicable throughout my Handy Fasteners journey. We received lots of support from the module leader, who’s suggested that we apply for the Spark programme.

Once we were more established, she and the Faculty of Engineering have been helpful in sharing our news updates through social media, and occasionally checking in to see how we are doing.

Eventually, I would like to work my way back into engineering at some point, potentially in robotics. I hope there is also the opportunity to work and live abroad for a while. For now though, it feels good to know that my work is helping to improve people’s lives.

Four students laughing while sat at a bench, outside the Students' Union

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