I am immensely proud to have been a part of the entrepreneurship journey of some incredible young people. This privilege has been afforded to me in the shape of running the student enterprise programs; Start-up Sussex and the Social Impact Prize on behalf of the University of Sussex. Over the course of the last 6 years, I have witnessed the birth of some truly innovative companies, led by talented and dedicated individuals. I’m always deeply impressed by the level of commitment to the process shown by so many, especially considering it is completely extra-curricular. They have busy schedules and deadlines to hit with their coursework and exams to sit. Yet, year on year and as reliably as the changing of the seasons, they come to learn about what it takes to create a new business and set it on the path to success.

There are a few notable alumni who have been through the programme and gone on to great success in running their company. Darren Tenkorang of TRIM-IT is one. Darren took inspiration from the problem of men waiting to get their haircut at the barbers and thought there must be a better way. Rather than going to the barbershop, how about if the barbershop came to you? So, Darren converted a van, put a barber’s chair in the rear of the van, kitted it out beautifully and built an app so users could book a barber to come straight to their home, place of work, or indeed wherever suited them. To date, Darren has raised over $1m to help grow the venture and is expanding out from his pilot base of London into the regions of the UK. Darren and the business were recently the feature of Channel 4 programme ‘The Money Maker’ in which investor Eric Collins advises entrepreneurs and ultimately makes an investment himself. One signal Darren is doing well is that these days is that I have to go via his PA in order to get some airtime with him!

Another alumni who has gone on to greatness is Molly Masters with her business Books That Matter. It’s a monthly feminist book subscription box that lands through your letter box featuring a female authored book and a bunch of lovingly selected goodies. Having won Start-up Sussex in 2018, Molly went on to be recognised by Facebook and win Great British Entrepreneur of the Year. I’m delighted to say that Eva Poliszczuk, formerly the Catalyst Team Project Manager, has gone to work for Molly in an Operations role now also.

Both Darren and Molly are going to join me for a fireside chat on Wednesday 24th November as they pay it back, by coming to speak to this year’s Start-up Sussex cohort. I’m very excited to get to ask them questions about their journey to date and plans for the future. Here’s to the next Darren or Molly rising up and launching this year!