Upcoming talent: 19 young entrepreneurs to watch (part three)

Group of young innovators standing and smiling, and looking at each other

Championing the UK’s next generation of innovators, who are bringing energy, entrepreneurial flair and fresh perspectives to society’s big challenges.

This is the final blog of a series that has showcased 19 of the UK’s high-potential young entrepreneurs, along with their innovations and business successes.

Catch up with part one and part two for more inspiring stories.

Ideas mean business

For the UK to reach its potential as an innovation superpower, we must act now to build a pipeline of diverse future talent. Our Young Innovators Awards has become an excellent spotlight for tomorrow’s innovation leaders, who represent a multitude of pathways into innovation.

Now in its 4th year, the programme has already supported over 150 aspiring entrepreneurs, aged 18 to 30, with:

  • seed funding
  • an allowance to cover living costs
  • a tailored package of business support and mentoring

This year, we unleashed a new complimentary award called Young Innovators Next Steps, which provides a further boost to the most successful and engaged young innovators from past programmes. Following a comprehensive evaluation process, almost £1 million had been awarded to 19 high-potential young entrepreneurs, who each received a fresh £50,000 investment and one-to-one business coaching.

These young pioneers have worked tirelessly to realise their ambitions and are already making a positive socioeconomic impact. At Innovate UK, we are proud to have helped them on their journey, and we hope that the Next Steps support package will empower their businesses to grow further and faster.

Be inspired!

This third blog showcases the final five of the 19 Next Steps award holders, who are tackling significant societal challenges. The projects range from virtual reality-based stroke rehabilitation to sustainable plastic-alternatives derived from seaweed.

We hope their stories will inspire others to pursue a career in innovation, so that we build a future of prosperity, equity and sustainability.

Michael McCreadie

Credit: Michael McCreadie, founder of Kit Keeper

Who: Michael McCreadie (24 years old), founder of Kit Keeper

Michael started Kit Keeper to help students move in and out of university accommodation each term. Kit Keeper is an online platform that provides an all-inclusive service that handles boxes, transportation, and storage, keeping things safe while students are between homes. Since winning his first award, Michael has raised £400,000 in investment, become the official storage provider for several university unions, and grown the head office team to 8 people.

Commenting on his award and project, Michael said:

The Young Innovators Award supported us to develop key business skills and network with other young innovators. We are very happy to receive the Young Innovators Next Steps Award; it is an amazing opportunity for our growth.

We want ‘Kit Keeper’ to be the number one student storage company in the UK and hope the funding and support from Innovate UK will propel us to get there.

Rhiannon Jeffreys

Credit: Rhiannon Jeffreys, founder of Starling Music Academy

Who: Rhiannon Jeffreys (28 years old), founder of Starling Music Academy

Rhiannon is a professional musician and the creator of Starling Music Academy – a 100% online music education platform that helps students pass music theory exams. Each student receives a bespoke course plan and is assigned a personal theory tutor to support their learning. Winning the Young Innovators Next Steps award has enabled Rhiannon to secure office space and hire her first employees.

Rhiannon commented:

I feel honoured to be recognised with a Young Innovators Next Steps award.

Being an introverted founder comes with its challenges, but through the Young Innovators Award I was able to speak with other founders and it gave me confidence to know that there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to running your own business.

In five years, I would like Starling Music Academy to be known as the place to go for the areas of music education that we support.

Marcos Souto Ulloa

Credit: Marcos Souto Ulloa, co-founder of Sweed

Who: Marcos Souto Ulloa (28), co-founder of Sweed

Marcos is developing a home-compostable, ocean-friendly material made from seaweed. The material can replace traditional plastics across a variety of industries and applications. Currently, Marcos is focusing on replacing non-recyclable wrapping films in the fashion and tech sectors. Since winning his first award, Marcos has tested his material for a variety of purposes (through properties like elasticity, strength, barrier and degradability) and secured access to a $10 million lab facility to help prep the material for its launch.

Marcos commented:

Through the Young Innovators Award, we could produce our prototypes, test them in lab conditions, and develop a new seaweed-based material that is compostable, ocean-friendly, and CO2 negative. Seaweed is one of the most effective organisms for capturing CO2; it doesn’t need freshwater, fertilisers or pesticides to grow and is useful for controlling ocean acidification.

We have already tested more than 20 formulas, so hopefully, we will be launching soon. Winning Innovate UK’s Young Innovators Next Steps Award will allow us to progress further with our plan to create a seaweed plastic facility of our own, selling a sustainable material to the world.

Antoinette Adams

Credit: Antoinette Adams, founder of JWEL

Who: Antoinette Adams (27 years old), founder of JWEL

Antoinette‘s startup is a jewellery company with a difference. Her unique jewellery collections, for example, attract customers with antique and eco-friendly jewellery, all gift wrapped within 100% biodegradable packaging. Since winning Innovate UK’s Young Innovator Award, Antoinette has grown her business to an average annual turnover of over £80,000.

Commenting on her award and project, Antoinette said:

The Young Innovators Award gave me the confidence and support – financially and through mentorship – to take my business to the next level. I can now buy products and sell them making on average a 35% profit margin whereas most of my sales before were commission pieces.

My hope from winning the Young Innovators Next Steps Award is that it will help us to become the one-stop-shop for eco-friendly jewellery, with strong e-commerce and physical retail brand that is well known.

Eve Gregoriou

Credit: Eve Gregoriou, founder of NeuroVirt

Eve Gregoriou (29 years old), founder of NeuroVirt

Eve completed a PhD at UCL in the Department of Clinical and Movement Neurosciences. Eve has used her expertise in brain stimulation applications to build her company NeuroVirt, which helps stroke survivors reach their full recovery potential through immersive virtual reality (VR), with a focus on hand impairment. Since winning the Young Innovators Award, she’s hired key people, raised a further £180,000 investment, and trialled the device with over 40 stroke survivors.

Eve commented:

The support and mentorship provided by Innovate UK has helped us grow massively as a company. The Young Innovators Award helped make important connections to leading medical experts and investors.

We have two clinics interested in adopting our device, and patients have expressed interest to purchase the device for home-use. We’re hoping the Young Innovators Next Steps Award will support us to get UK Conformity Assessed and develop our business further.

Make things happen!

Great ideas can come from anyone. Regardless of your background, if you are unsure how to realise the commercial potential of your innovative business idea, maybe Innovate UK can help!

Check out the links below to learn more about the Young Innovators programme and keep up to date with the latest news, events and funding opportunities.

Learn more about the Young Innovators programme and award holders.

Subscribe to the Young Innovators newsletter for the latest news and events.

Further information

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Top image:  Credit: Innovate UK

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