Student entrepreneur wins pitch judged by Dragon’s Den star

Emily Collins

Judges of the Business Start-Up Journey final

Recently, student entrepreneurs from across the University had the rare opportunity to deliver a Dragon’s Den style pitch to an actual ‘Dragon’.

Entrepreneur, investor and star of the BBC’s Dragon’s Den, Touker Suleyman, was one of five successful business leaders on the judging panel at the final of the ASPIRE Business Start-Up Journey organised by Kent Business School.

Students pitched ideas for start-ups ranging from cold-pressed soaps to online text editors, but it was first year undergraduate student, Oleksii Tyslenko who won with his plan for a self-serviced coffee station business, Fast Coffee.

Izzy Cornelius-Merrell who grew up in Canterbury was one of the runners up. Her gluten-free play dough business ‘Dough Creations’ was praised by judges for solving a problem faced by nurseries who need to be mindful of gluten intolerances in young children. Pawanraj Shetty and Dheeraj Karamballi were also runners up with their biodegradable cutlery business, Leafy Dine.

The event marked the end of an inspirational 15-week programme open to all Kent students which provided budding entrepreneurs with a step-by-step guide to starting a business with mentoring from real businesses along the way.

Business leaders judging the pitches alongside Touker Suleyman were:

  • Daniel Rubin, Founder and CEO of Dune London
  • Debbie Zaman, Angel Investor and mentor for the Innovation RCA incubator at the Royal College of Art
  • Nadia Simpson, KBS alumna and founder of beauty brands Amora Ouds and NuEleFa
  • Emay Enemokwu, KBS alumnus and founder of streetwear brand Jehucal

Judges listening to pitches

The winner and two runners up were awarded £1,000 and £500 respectively to develop their businesses further, supported by further mentoring from Touker Suleyman. Kent’s wider entrepreneurial community also benefitted from the chance to showcase their start-ups at a pop-up market in Kent Business School.

When presenting the students with their awards, Touker Souleyman said: ‘I am very impressed with the calibre that is coming out of Kent. And I think that’s a lot to do with you, your teachers, professors and I think you should all give yourselves a round of applause because it’s fantastic.’

Winner, Oleksii Tyslenko, said of the experience: ‘The ASPIRE program has opened opportunities for us to talk to the right people at the right time which has contributed a lot to our improvement. We have gained many valuable insights on the difference in approaches between our experience in EU and the UK and had the chance to speak with a leading specialist from the coffee industry and digital marketing.’

Runner up, Izzy Cornelius-Merrell, said: ‘The Business Start-Up Journey pushed me to continue with my business idea alongside studying. It gave me structure and a goal to achieve to develop my business idea into more of a business.’

Business Start-Up Journey winners 2024


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