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After the Awards Part 2: What’s next for our young entrepreneurs?

There are just two weeks left to submit your application for the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy Awards! 

Last week we caught up with Hassan Iqbal, Dan Arundel, David Humpston and Jacob Knowles – four of our most promising National Entrepreneur of the Year (NEOTY) finalists. You can read their interviews here

This week, we spoke to three more of our NEOTY stars – Yolanda Dixon, Emma Sivess and Gemma Rothwell.

Q: So what have you been up to since graduating from PJEA?

Yolanda: I’ve continued to run the business I started at the PJEA, EBONY Cosmetics. It is the UK’s first high-end cosmetics brand that specialises in foundation for ethnic skin tones. Our mission is not only to be the country’s number one brand for foundation, but also to ensure that women of colour feel even more beautiful than ever. I am proud to produce truly British cosmetics, with formulas that are researched, developed and manufactured here in the UK. Since graduating I have actively been seeking mentors from professionals within the business world to help with my business launch. I have also entered pitching competitions for investment and guidance. I am busy working full time alongside my work with EBONY and I have some other projects on the go as well. It’s exciting just how much I’ve learnt since graduating! I’ve been reading a lot of books on business and enterprise and going out there and pushing myself.

Gemma: I’m no longer running the business I started at the academy, Gem Photography, but I’ve certainly learnt from the experience. I now have an online shop on Etsy selling handmade cards called Handmade By GLR and I am hoping to expand my products in the coming months. In September I went to New York for three weeks with World Merit, a youth organisation that works to achieve the United Nations sustainable development goals. I got to visit the UN and spent a week in Boston taking part in a hackathon.

Emma: Since graduating from the PJEA course I have started a Marketing and Management course at the University of Sussex. I am really enjoying my first year and have recently won a marketing competition run by the Big Yellow Storage Company. I run my blog and a business, Vanity Decay, alongside my university work. It is helping me pay my way through my course, which is amazing! I’m currently working with bloggers and media/PR companies to help promote the business. Juggling my blog, Vanity Decay and university is tough at times – it’s a skill that I’m still learning to master, but I’m enjoying the process so much and wouldn’t change a thing.

Q: What has been your proudest moment as an entrepreneur so far?    

Yolanda: Apart from being selected as a finalist of the NEOTY award, other proud moments include being shortlisted for Pitchfest 2017. This was the real deal for me as it was the first time that I entered a competition myself and not through my college. I was extremely proud to be one of the youngest entrepreneurs from the 17 finalists. It was a wonderful experience and led to connections with some great people.

Gemma: It goes without saying that the NEOTY award was a once in a lifetime moment for me – it’s led to amazing opportunities and it’s great to be able to put it on my CV. At the PJEA, I was really inspired by all of the entrepreneurs that shared their stories with me. One of my proudest moments since graduation was speaking at a primary school to inspire students to start their own businesses. By talking to them about my business experience, I realised just how much I had learnt and how much confidence I had gained during the course.

Emma: Honestly, every time I get a new pallet of stock and see my gorgeous products in real life it makes me so proud. I also really love seeing my products featured on websites and in online articles. Though I didn’t win the NEOTY award, it still makes me proud to remember taking part – such a great experience to practice pitching and so much fun!

Q: What exciting plans do you have coming up in the next year?

Yolanda: Well, I am hoping to get EBONY off the ground and to go ahead with some other small projects too. I have a few other tricks up my sleeve, but I can’t say too much!

Gemma: In the next year I will be going to Plymouth University to study Event Management for 4 years. 

Emma: As my exams at the University of Sussex will be over in early June, I will have the whole summer to work on Vanity Decay. Right now, the business is really growing, even whilst I’m also focusing on other things, so I’m looking forward to seeing what happens when I can go full steam ahead. 

Q: What advice would you give to students who are thinking of applying for National Entrepreneur of the Year?    

Yolanda: I wouldn’t even hesitate to do it. If you’re nervous or thinking too much – don’t! It gave me the confidence to reach out to anyone to help me with my business. I now feel I can apply for any pitching competition – which is exactly what I have been doing. If you want to be in business it’s all about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. This is the only way to make progress, so don’t hold back. what’s the worst that could happen!? I always say that life is short – and how many people can say that have pitched their business idea to Peter Jones?

Gemma: I would tell them to do it. It’s all great experience and it really does lead to amazing opportunities. I loved having the chance to meet such inspiring people from the business world.

Emma: My advice to students would definitely be to go for it – you have nothing to lose!

If you’re at a PJEA college and would like to apply for the National Entrepreneur of the Year award, or any of the other awards, please speak to your tutor or BEM for more information. The deadline for entries is Friday 5th May. 

Award categories include:

  • Level 2 Student of the Year
  • Level 3 Student of the Year 
  • Inspirational Student of the Year 
  • Tutor of the Year 
  • Business Enterprise Manager of the Year 
  • National Entrepreneur of the Year