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Textiles student wins prize worth £5,000 in NUA enterprise competition

Year Two BA Textiles student Katie Whitton’s personalised fabrics that allow personal mementoes to be drawn then screen printed to make a unique fabric has won Brainchild 2012 – a ‘Dragons’ Den’ style enterprise competition run by Norwich University of the Arts (NUA).

The competition, now in its fourth year, provides a series of workshops on professional business skills to NUA students and recent alumni, before inviting them to submit their business ideas for judgment by a panel of business mentors. Katie was one of six applicants shortlisted from a number of entries into the competition to pitch to the panel. Originally from Cambridge, Katie will use the fabric to make cushions, aprons, tea towels and other items that can be given as a wedding gift or present for another special occasion or can be bought by the metre.

Judges Panel Chair Bev Hurley, Brainchild 2012 winner Katie Whitton and Professor John Last, Vice-Chancellor of NUA

Katie’s prize consists of £1,000 cash to help her develop her business and dedicated mentoring from each of the competition’s mentors valued at £4,000 including a year’s free membership to networking organisation Norfolk Network, one of the sponsors of the competition. Other sponsors are: chartered accountants Lovewell Blake, Farrows design agency, web design agency Selesti and solicitors Steeles Law. Also joining the panel of judges was last year’s winner Sue Foster who could offer students entering this year’s competition the benefit of her experience of taking part in the competition and how winning has helped her to develop her own business.

Chair of the judging panel Bev Hurley, founder of Norfolk Network, announced the winner in a ceremony held in NUA’s Duke Street Building Foyer on Wednesday 21st March. She said: “We’re always impressed with the creative talent and imaginative proposals that are presented to us during the Brainchild competition. This year we felt that there were some really good ideas pitched to the panel that all have business potential but Katie’s idea stood out as being ready to take to market. I hope the other contestants will learn from the experience, go away and work on their ideas and re-enter next year.”

Katie also plans to expand her business by creating a series of items using a non personalised fabric which could consist of iconic buildings and places relating to a particular city. She is currently working on a design for Norwich which she hopes could be sold to tourists visiting the city. Katie explains: “There are two elements of my business, the personalised fabrics which may include places, objects, people and anything else that the client wishes and non personalised fabrics to appeal to the same market as a gift to reminisce on a time in a certain city, holiday or honeymoon but could also be sold through gift shops, at special events and other tourist outlets.”

Entering the competition has been a rewarding experience for Katie. She says: “The workshops held during the competition were really helpful and inspired me to put myself forward. Winning the competition hasn’t quite sunk in yet but I am really excited and I am so pleased I applied. I encourage other students to enter the competition next year and to have a go! I plan to use the prize money to make new fabrics and to help with the cost of my website and marketing. The chance to receive one-to-one support from the business mentors is invaluable and I aim to make the most of my mentoring sessions and use the expertise on offer to take my business forward.”

Professor John Last, Vice-Chancellor of NUA, comments: “I am impressed by the standard of business ideas from students entering the competition this year and I am encouraged to see entries from across all year groups at the University College, especially from first year students. We are extremely grateful for the time and support our sponsors give to the competition and to students in creating business ideas which will have a strong chance of success in the creative industries.”

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