Graduates innovate their way into employment with business start-ups

At Business Zone’s pitching contest The Pitch. Entrants pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges in front of a live audience competing for a £50,000 prize package.

Preliminary heats will be held across the UK in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Dan Martin, editor of BusinessZone.co.uk said: “In a market where graduate opportunities are harder to come by, an increasing number of young people are creating opportunities for themselves. The number of self-employed graduates has increased by 46 per cent in the last six years, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa). We are hoping to see lots of these young entrepreneurs in the competition.”

Last year’s The Pitch event demonstrated the calibre of young entrepreneurs. Finalists included Cardiff University Business School graduates Helen McAvoy and Naomi Kibble, who wowed judges with their unique product Rocktails, a range of frozen cocktails which they describe as ‘powerfully fruity’ and ‘wildly convenient.’

The ambitious duo again used their pitching skills at the end of last year to secure a national contract with J Sainsbury. They are currently finalising plans to roll out their product at music festivals this summer.

Helen McAvoy said: “I would definitely recommend starting a business to any ambitious graduates. Taking part in The Pitch last year forced us to really articulate what our offering was. Taking the investors through our business plan and financial projections was nerve-wracking, but we knew we had a great product. It was an incredibly rewarding experience – we learned a lot.”

Helen and Naomi offer the following tips for young entrepreneurs preparing to pitch their ideas to investors:

• Organisation and strategic planning are crucial when putting together a pitch. You need to
demonstrate to investors that your business plan is realistic and that you’ve given your financial projections serious thought.

• Think long and hard about your branding and the key messages that best embody your product and values. Keep it simple and have fun with it.

• Ensure you understand your product’s unique selling point. Identify exactly what makes you different and why consumers will buy your products.

• Do your market research – show that you know who your target audience is and how best to reach them.

• Be sure to demonstrate the flexibility of your brand. This is important in consumer markets that are always changing.

• Finally, relax and enjoy yourself. You love and believe in your product; be resilient and stand by your core values.

Dan Martin said: “Our young graduates are vital to the economic life of this country. We salute them for their ambition and courage in setting up their own businesses. We hope that The Pitch competition process will help them hone their skills and give them recognition and the oxygen of publicity.”

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