First #Classof2020 Springboard Startup Fund winners announced

Springboard Graduate Internships 2020-21

The first winners of the Springboard* Startup Fund for University of South Wales (USW) Graduate Startups 2020/21 have been unveiled. 

Designed to give support to graduate entrepreneurs, and specifically to provide seed funding to USW graduates to start a new business, the awards also demonstrate USW’s commitment to supporting the Class of 2020 graduates, who are facing the most severe economic downturn in a generation, with a new Entrepreneurship Pitching Fund.

All those who entered the awards had to be 2020 USW graduates, to have completed one of three enterprise and entrepreneurship programmes provided by USW, or have completed one other eligible business support and start-up support programme, such as Big Ideas Wales, Prince’s Trust, Business Wales, or equivalent. They also had to be either at pre-startup stage, or within the first six months of trading.

The winners faced tough competition, with a total of 12 shortlisted applications from 14 graduates, seven of who are based in Wales, two in Kenya, one in Jamaica, and two over the border in England.

The judges were also eminent figures in their sectors, and included Professor Dylan Jones-Evam, Assistant Pro Chancellor at USW; Geryn Evans, founder of Project Blu; Mandy Powell; founder of The Goodwash Company; Sarah John: founder of Boss Brewing; and Kevin Mansell-Abell, USW graduate (MBA, 2020) and founder of That Media Group.

Professor Jones-Evans said: “We were delighted that 14 of our entrepreneurial 2020 graduates were shortlisted for the first springboard fund. Our highly experienced panel of Welsh entrepreneurs were blown away by the breadth and depth of the business pitches but were particularly impressed by the four winners who have received £10,000 between them to launch their ventures. We look forward to working with them through the Startup Stiwdio and supporting their development over the next 12 months” 

A second round of awards will be held in February.

The winners

Gareth Martinson - CheekyRub & CheekyCaress - Springboard Startup Award winner - November 2020. Neil GibsonGareth Martinson - CheekyRub & CheekyCaress

Established by International Business graduate Gareth Martinson, of Newport, CheekyRub & CheekyCaress is a brand of solid-vegan and sustainably-manufactured colognes and perfumes, made in-house by the founder. Gareth hopes to start trading in the next few months.

He has been awarded the maximum of £4,000 towards packaging, ingredients, cosmetic product safety reports, and other licences and trademark registration.

He said: “Thank you to the panel members for listening to my pitch. I have worked extremely hard on this business and pitch. To be judged as deserving the top £4,000 award means the world to me. Thanks to their award and future mentoring from Startup Stiwdio, it will help me unmeasurably moving forward as an entrepreneur.”

Judge Mandy Powell said: “Congratulations to Gareth in securing the top award. His presentation was excellent, Cheeky Rub’s brand of solid perfumes, with an eye on recyclability and veganism, is definitely one to watch for the future. Da iawn Gareth.”


Serentity Spa Wax Melts, entrepreneur Sasha Masters’, Springboard Starup Awards winner. November 2020. Neil GibsonSasha Masters - Serentity Spa Wax Melts

Despite having just started Serentity Spa Wax Melts, entrepreneur Sasha Masters’ wax melt and home fragrance company has already achieved significant sales and is building strong customer loyalty.

The Events Management graduate has been awarded £2,500 towards stock, new products, and marketing activities.

She said: "I am extremely grateful to have won this life-changing grant. It will have such a huge impact at Serenity Spa, giving me the ability to grow to new heights, expand my product range, and, in the near future, open my own workshop." 

Charlotte Blackmore – AnimalEd. Springboard Startup Award winner, November 2020. Neil GibsonCharlotte Blackmore – AnimalEd

Animal educational visit and events company AnimalEd, established by Charlotte Blackmore, takes rescued exotic animals into schools, care homes, and other locations, to teach people about the animals, including their welfare, habitats, and adaptations. It also highlights the destruction of many of the natural environments which are home to the exotic animals.

The International Wildlife Biology BSc graduate has been awarded £1,500 towards equipment, website development, uniforms, insurance, and licensing, Charlotte was supported by the Startup Stiwdio Entrepreneurship Summer School and by the Freelance Fast Track programme, run by USW Student Enterprise.

She said: “This money will help us continue providing amazing care for our animals, and pay for some legal aspects like insurance. I’m incredibly thankful for the grant and for all the other support I have received from the university helping me with my business. It's been absolutely invaluable.”


Rhi Hughes – beauty and treatment services

Particularly targeting men and the transgender community in the Torfaen area, Rhi Hughes’ business will use ethnical and vegan products to improve people’s overall well-being through spa and salon treatments. As a disabled person, Rhi requires financial support to pay for electric treatment furniture, which will allow her to work more easily. Rhi hopes to start trading as soon as she can buy the equipment.

The Animal Health & Welfare Level 5 Foundation Degree graduate has been awarded £2,000 towards specialist treatment furniture

She said: “After the wobbly year everyone has had in 2020, I was so happy to have a congratulations call the day after my business pitch. The funding will help purchase specialist equipment I greatly need to be able to provide services to prospective clients that have needs unable to be met by other businesses. I am really looking forward to this journey ahead now.”

*What is the USW 2030: Springboard Programme?

Specifically for Class of 2020 graduates, the Springboard Progamme is an employability initiative devised in direct response to the anticipated and actual challenges experienced by Class of 2020 alumni, as they enter the jobs market during this time of unprecedented change and instability.

An 'umbrella Programme' containing a number of initiates to support positive employability, Class of 2020 graduates can benefit from:

  • Springboard Graduate Internship Scheme, with over £10,000 worth of investment made in each graduate intern. 20 internships available over two cohorts throughout 2020-21. Cohort One interns were welcomed to their new roles on Monday 19 October. Register your interest ahead of Cohort Two vacancies going live.

  • Multiple opportunities and engagements to engage in enterprise education and skills training to support new business start-ups

  • #USWNextSteps campaign to bring together resources and opportunities online for Class of 2020, including assorted careers resources and engagement opportunities

  • 20% alumni discount on postgraduate study. 10% loyalty discount on professional training courses

  • Alumni mentor connectivity (2021)


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