An innovative equestrian business is set to hit the ground running - thanks to support from London South Bank University (LSBU) and London Knowledge Innovation Centre (LKIC).
Former LSBU student Claire Burden impressed their judging panel with her robust business plan for an automatic hay feeder for stable horses.
Her device could benefit thoroughbreds in the horse-racing world to ponies who are family pets - and is already attracting considerable interest.
Claire beat three other finalists who pitched their business plans in the Make it Happen competition to win £1,000 for her firm, support and mentoring from the LSBU Student Enterprise team, and a year's free office space provided by LKIC and based on campus.
Claire, who graduated from LSBU with a first class honours degree in Engineering Product Design last year, said: "It's a great honour to win the competition. As an entrepreneur, my drive to succeed always pushes through - but it's nice to have all the hard work and sleepless nights acknowledged and rewarded.
"The competition will make a huge difference to the business. It will give me the opportunity to invest more money in product development and ensure the product I take to market is the best it can be."
Beverley Jullien, Pro Vice-Chancellor at LSBU and Chairman at LKIC, said: "The judges were very impressed by Claire's sound business plan, the great potential of the product and her strong belief in it.
"As a University we pride ourselves in recognising and developing enterprising talent and providing our current and former students with a nurturing environment to succeed.
"The University has been closely supporting Claire with her business venture - and we are delighted to take this to the next level in partnership with LKIC."
Claire's product is designed for stabled horses and delivers hay at regular intervals, mimicking how horses have evolved to graze in the wild. By doing this, owners can reduce the risk of illnesses, professional riders can improve horses' health and performance, and casual horse owners who are unable to feed their horses every four hours due to work or because the yard is too far away can ensure their animal is being well cared for.
She said: "I always endeavour to design products that solve a real problem and Hay Delay does just that. With one million horses in the UK and 93% of horse owners working full time it is impossible to feed them continually, as they have evolved to do, without risking making them overweight.
"I already have a huge network of industry experts willing to endorse the product and have had great feedback from potential customers. Hay Delay will improve horses' health and wellbeing, which is something every horse owner strives for."
Following graduation, Claire won a bursary from the University to take her product to market on the Enterprise Associate Scheme.
She said: "The University has such a huge enterprise culture. Throughout my degree we were asked to constantly think about how a product would be taken to market, if it would be viable and how it could solve a problem. It gave me a great foundation which the Enterprise Associate Scheme helped me build on. I have had support that most start-ups could only ever dream of - and sharing offices with other Enterprise Associates who have succeeded is massively inspirational."
Claire is encouraging would-be entrepreneurs to follow their instinct if they have an innovative business idea.
She said: "If you have a business idea that you believe in and want to give it a try, go for it. But don't think it will be easy. Be prepared to work 24/7, as no one else will do the work for you. Be ready to stand up to the people who say you can't do it, because there will be many! But at the end of the day, that is what being an entrepreneur is all about - doing something that everyone else is scared to do.
"And when you succeed, you have the opportunity to look back and admire that you have done what so many others can only ever dream of doing."
Claire's top five tips for people who are considering setting up their own business are:
1 Make sure you have a great support network around you
2 Don't expect to succeed overnight
3 Use every piece of support offered
5 Stay grounded.
Posted: 30th May 2012