14 September 2009

Enterprising students have `natural´ talent for business

A business-minded graduate from the University of Sheffield has scooped a £2,500 prize to turn his sustainable tourism idea into a reality, after achieving the `overall winner´ prize and the title of `greatest local impact´ in the University´s annual Enterprising Ideas Business Planning Competition.

Talented entrepreneur Sam Williams, who founded Eco-Tourism Bonaire, looks set to give Alan Sugar a run for his money thanks to his ingenious idea to train local people in the Caribbean Island of Bonaire to enable them to sustainably boost their tourist industry.

One of his ideas that will impact positively both on a social and conservational level in Bonaire, is to encourage and employ local people to take tourists on memorable nature tours featuring endangered species such as parrots, flamingos and turtles. The tours will also aim to give tourists the opportunity to purchase a selection of associated locally produced eco products.

The Enterprising Ideas Business Planning Competition gives students and graduates of the University of Sheffield the chance to get their business ideas off the ground. This year´s entrants were asked to submit a business plan, which was then reviewed by a panel of judges, to determine the overall winner, overall second winner and a winner from each of the following categories: Best Business Plan, Most Innovative Idea, Greatest Local Impact and the Best Social Enterprise.

Eco-Tourism Bonaire, the winning idea, hopes to enable communities to become empowered and gain more stable and sustainable tourism. Judges felt the idea was a "well worked `whole´ concept" with strong ideas specifically tailored to an identified market.

Entrants were judged by a panel including social entrepreneur Morgan Killick from ESP Projects Ltd, Ann Oldroyd, CEO for Key Fund Yorkshire and Dermot Breslin of the University of Sheffield´s Management School and Dave Thornett from Sheffield Community Enterprise Development Unit (SCEDU). The panel were impressed with the variety and quality of the ideas presented, ranging from unique methods of purifying water to schemes that aimed to provide graduates with employment.

All entrants of the competition will be offered support by University of Sheffield Enterprise to help develop their ideas further. The services on offer range from specialist business advice to start-up workshops to help develop individual skills, as well as ideas and businesses. The Enterprising Ideas Business Planning Competition 2009 was aimed at supporting current 2009 University of Sheffield students and graduates to develop their business planning and broader employability skills as they graduate and move into life beyond campus.

An awards ceremony will be held on Tuesday 3rd November at the Enterprise Zone to celebrate the success of the entrants. The ceremony will be followed by a networking event to allow applicants of the competition, as well as students and graduates of the University, the opportunity to meet entrepreneurs and like minded people.

University of Sheffield graduate Sam Williams, winner of the competition and founder of Eco-Tourism Bonaire, said: "Winning the competition is a great reward for the hard work I put into my application and into my business idea. This money will help take my business to the next step which is really exciting."

Helen Parrott, Enterprise Business Manager said: "The competition was an exciting new opportunity for students and graduates of the University to focus on their enterprising skills and developing business ideas with a positive social impact. We received a high number of quality entries which made judging difficult and we look forward to an equally diverse and inspiring set of entries to next year´s competition"