Celebrating our "made in Stoke" entrepreneurs

Staffordshire University’s growing community of entrepreneurs came together this week to showcase their exciting business ideas.

Woman with camera

Peter Coates MSc in Entrepreneurship student Lilija Bekisa won the prize for Best Business Exhibition

“An integral part of our partnership with the Peter Coates Foundation has been to widen access and participation to effective and empowering education that builds skills and transforms lives."

Professor Martin Jones, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive

The Celebrating Entrepreneurship event was held to celebrate the achievements of students from the Peter Coates MSc in Entrepreneurship, a unique study programme supported by the Peter Coates Foundation.

Launched in 2022, the course aims to put Stoke-on-Trent on the map as a leading city for innovation and wealth creation at the same time as giving emerging entrepreneurs the practical business education and funding support to develop their ideas into a sustainable, scalable and investable businesses.

At the culmination of the course, students are able to pitch for up to £300,000 investment in their business idea and secure ongoing mentoring and start-up support through the Peter Coates Fast Forward Programme

Speaking at Celebrating Entrepreneurship event, Staffordshire University Vice-Chancellor Professor Martin Jones said: “An integral part of our partnership with the Peter Coates Foundation has been to widen access and participation to effective and empowering education that builds skills and transforms lives.

“The MSc is delivered by academics and professionals, with eyes on the future, who teach in the best way, not the old way and I would like to thank them all for getting us off to such a fantastic start.”

Representing Peter Coates Foundation, Max Thowless-Reeves from SORBUS Partners added: "Congratulations to cohort 1 from the Peter Coates Fast Forward Programme. It is delightful to see such ambition and purpose. The course has given so many the self-confidence and ability to found new businesses; which is critical to the wellbeing of our city and county. I would like to thank Peter Coates for his vision and generosity in supporting this project."

The entrepreneurs exhibiting at the celebration event spanned a wide range of business ideas from social enterprises, people marketing new products and businesses focusing on promoting well-being. Examples included Sunny Side Drinks Co, which sells alcoholic ginger beer made from organic ingredients and Wild Pickle, which specialises in foraging and fermentation experiences.

Kamani Puswella set up her own creative digital agency, Pixel Academy, in 2022 which teaches coding to young people, aged six to 16. She says she has learnt lots of skills to help develop her business and now delivers some of the coding sessions for children on the Staffordshire University campus.

Kamani, 48, from Penkhull, was named Entrepreneurial Champion at a special prizegiving held as part of the event. She said: “I’ve made loads of good connections and we’ve shared ideas. Every single lesson has been valuable. We’ve done workshops and practicals. We’ve looked at storytelling, business development, business planning and social media marketing. It’s all the essentials. Every week, we’ve also had a guest speaker. I’ve loved this course.”

Other prizewinners announced on the evening included:

  • Laura Bailey - Outstanding Community Enterprise
  • Nick Sykes - Outstanding Innovation
  • Kate Butler - Outstanding Entrepreneurial Performance
  • Lilija Bekisa- Best Business Exhibition

Dr Laura Walton-Williams, Director of Enterprise Education, said: “The event was a fantastic opportunity to recognise the phenomenal achievements of our first group of entreprenerial students to complete this programme.

"It was also an opportunity to thank all of the amazing people who have contributed to this programme, including many local successful entrepreneurs who have inspired and supported our students over the last 14 months. We can't wait to see the positive impact these students will go on to have in our region."

Professor Martin Jones

Derrick Wallace - entrepreneur

Christian Heath - entrepreneur

Emma Cronin - entrepreneur

Laura Bailey - prizewinner

Kamani Puswell - prizewinner

Kate Butler - prizewinner

Nick Sykes - prizewinner

Dr Laura Walton-Williams

Celebrating Entrepreneurs

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