Students’ Great Lockdown Idea Scoops £2,500 Investment

Enterprising Royal Agricultural University (RAU) students, Lily Grime and Mia Ashfield have used their time profitably under lockdown to come up with a fledgling business idea that has secured them a £2,500 investment from a panel of prestigious judges.

The Royal Agricultural University’s Grand Idea competition, sponsored by law firm Harrison Clark Rickerbys, was held virtually for the second time in its 14-year history, with students pitching their business ideas to a panel of experts in a Dragon’s Den-style event via Zoom.

Joining the event online, this year’s panel of judges were Retail Consultant and RAU Honorary Fellow, Christine Cross, Former Dragon’s Den contestant, food entrepreneur and RAU Honorary Fellow, Levi Roots, alumnus and finance broker, Jamie Rigby, developer and investor Andy Allen and RAU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Joanna Price.

Flatmates Lily and Mia, who both study International Business Management with Food and Agri-Business, impressed the panel with their business idea to sell functional and sustainable phone charms, and will use the cash injection to re-brand Bijou Beads and upscale the business.

Lily said: “Mia and I have always wanted to start our own business and we came up with the idea for Bijou Beads earlier this year in February during lockdown.

“Our aim is to use some of the investment to re-brand Bijou Beads, then launch our website in September. We’d also like to use the money on advertising, as well as to trademark our name and logo. We’ll also use some of the money to invest in more sustainable materials and packaging.

“All of this will support us in our aim of increasing our brand awareness and recognition to help scale our business and increase sales in the coming months.”

Chair of the judging panel, Christine Cross, added: “The Royal Agricultural University finalists always present us with ideas that are ‘of the moment’ and the Covid finalists have been no exception. Lily and Mia have turned a pandemic hobby into a good little business and their energy, acumen and commercial nowse could well turn it into more! They would have put many of the Dragons Den presenters to shame, an impressive duo that I look forward to following.”

Victoria Harrington-Groves secured an investment of £500 by winning the Best Rural Business, sponsored by the John Alliston Memorial Fund. Victoria, who studies Applied Equine Science and Business, has developed Lucky Soles, a start-up business producing and selling decorative, personalised horseshoes. 

“Thank you so much to all the judges for this prize, as a small business £500 is a lot of money that will be used to boost advertising and improve stock. This is a huge opportunity for Lucky Soles and I cannot wait to see what the future holds,” said Victoria.

The Grand Idea competition is part of the RAU’s award-winning Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Programme, which provides a supportive environment for students to develop and launch their ideas.