‘Boot camp’ weekend leads to social enterprise start-up

lisa smith

A social entrepreneur has been helped to set up her own business after being inspired by a social enterprise ‘boot camp’ for North-East university students and recent graduates.

Lisa Smith, a student at Teesside University, set up Ice Nation to organise events to promote cultural awareness, integration and equality amongst different ethnic communities after pitching her business idea at a Social Enterprise Start-Up Weekend at the Northern Design Centre in Gateshead.

The weekend was organised through a Teesside University-led social enterprise cluster, comprising the five North-East Universities, as part of a dynamic effort to improve the social enterprise support infrastructure in the region.

The cluster is funded through UnLtd, a support charity for social entrepreneurs, as part of its SEE Change Programme.

The Social Enterprise Start-Up weekend was attended by more than 80 people including 43 students from the five Universities, as well as dozens of mentors, social entrepreneurs and industry experts.

It marked the beginning of a programme of events which are designed to support and give energy to social enterprises across the region.

Over the course of the weekend, the students split into five groups and were tasked with developing an idea for a social enterprise.

They were given intensive coaching and mentoring from a variety of experts including Kate Welch of Social Enterprise Acumen CIC, Amjid Khazir  of Media Cultured CIC, Jamie Sadler of Food Nation CIC and Rich Myers of Transmit Start-Ups.

At the end of the weekend, the teams then pitched their ideas to a panel of judges.

The winning pitch was made by a team called Lift Up, with an idea for a handmade bra business. The bras would be designed and sold by women living in domestic abuse refuges.

The aim of the social enterprise was not only to raise vital funds for the women and the refuge by selling the clothing, but also to increase the self-esteem of the victims.

Following the pitches by the teams, Lisa did an individual pitch for her Ice Nation social enterprise after formulating the idea over the course of the weekend.

The idea was extremely well received and the BSc (Hons) Business Management student is now working with Teesside University’s enterprise team to make it a reality.

She said: “I came to higher education quite late and I really wanted to set up my own events management business when I leave university.

“Before taking part in the weekend I didn’t really know an awful lot about social enterprise.

“However, it taught me to think about what I’m really passionate about and find a problem that can be helped by it.

“Through a combination of personal circumstances, I’ve had my eyes opened to how segregated we are as a society, so I hit upon the idea of organising events to help bring different communities and cultures together.”

Lisa and her business partner and fellow Teesside University student, Hannah McGrory, are now in the process of registering Ice Nation as a social enterprise and are planning the first event, an Ice Ball at the Dickens Inn on Thursday, 5 February 2015.

Her business will be supported by Teesside University start-up programmes.

Laura Woods, Director of Academic Enterprise at Teesside University, said: “The cluster is a unique example of universities working together to support social enterprise in the region.

“The start-up weekend was a tremendous success and it’s great to see a new social enterprise now taking shape. We wish Lisa every success in her venture.”


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