RAU student’s “Grand Idea” nets her £10,000 investment in her start up businesses

Enterprising RAU student Imogen Burgoyne has won this year’s Royal Agricultural University (RAU) Grand Idea competition and secured a massive £10,000 investment, as well as mentoring, for her fledgling businesses from a panel of prestigious judges.

Twenty-two-year-old Imogen, from Haywards Heath in Sussex, is studying for a BSc International Business Management at the RAU and is setting up not one, but two, businesses – a course which prepares young people for adulthood and a private, secure, dog walking facility in Sussex.

Receiving the award, she said: “A large part of my decision to come to the RAU was based on the exceptional support it offers for enterprise and entrepreneurship. I'm incredibly grateful to have studied here and to be offered such valuable opportunities as being able to enter the Grand Idea competition.

“I have two exciting businesses. The first is a three-day residential education course, teaching school leavers basic fundamental life skills such as cookery, finance, and household and car maintenance, which are currently not really taught much in schools.

“The second is a private dog pen facility, equipped with agility equipment, training aids, benches, and undercover areas, set in three acres of beautiful grass and woodland where dog owners can take their dog off the lead without worrying. The location also offers a veterinary practice, hydrotherapy centre, and even a coffee shop!

“I am delighted to have been selected as the winner of this year’s RAU Grand Idea competition and am really looking forward to utilizing both the mentoring and the generous £10,000 investment to get both my start-up businesses properly off the ground. Here's to the future!"

The runner up, who received a prize of £500 investment in her business, was RAU Postgraduate Business Management student Camilla Cummins from Bath. Her company – The Cummins Co – produces high quality, sustainable British beef from a herd of Dexter cattle.

Camilla, 23, who is running the business with her father, said: “As a result of the prize money we will be able to invest in producing more products to sell to consumers and start building a loyal customer base.

“It was a real pleasure to take part in this year’s Grand Idea competition and I was up against some fantastic entries. The support I received during the application process was invaluable and I am grateful to the Enterprise team for its commitment to helping students make their ideas a reality.”

Now in its 15th year, the RAU’s Grand Idea competition is part of the University’s award-winning Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Programme which provides a supportive environment for students to develop and launch their ideas.

The competition invites RAU students to pitch their business ideas to a panel of experts in a Dragon’s Den-style event. Due to Covid restrictions, last year’s event was held virtually, via Zoom, but this year the judges and contestants were delighted to be able to meet in person at the University’s Cirencester campus.

This year’s judging panel consisted of Retail Consultant and RAU Honorary Fellow Christine Cross; Former Dragon’s Den contestant, food entrepreneur, and RAU Honorary Fellow Levi Roots; Dr Lorraine Thomas, RAU Pro Vice Chancellor (Education and Students); Sam Pullin, founder of clothing retail brand Beaufort & Blake; and John Pickering, Managing Director for Miele in Great Britain, Ireland, and South Africa.

Chair of the judging panel, Christine Cross, said: “It was delightful to have the Grand Idea competition back in full flow again this year, post-Covid, and with an all-female entrepreneur line up. We will strive for more diversity next year!

“The extent to which social purpose and sustainability is driving the passion of our entrepreneurs was also evident and the judges were particularly impressed with the standard of submissions, especially considering that two of the five finalists were in their first undergraduate year, so we look forward to seeing them again.

“The endeavours of the RAU in supporting enterprise is a key motivator in attracting students but also in showing just how much intelligent thinking can give back to society. Congratulations to all who took part, they were all commended by the judges.”