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Big Venture Challenge Winners Announced



The winners of this year’s Big Venture Challenge have been revealed today. Big Venture Challenge (BVC) recognises those who are tackling the problems we face as a nation through social projects and schemes. Each winner will receive a year of business support, connections to help them grow, and access to a £20,000 non-repayable grant to help them raise investment.

Winners include the chefs behind Papi’s Pickles, a catering service helping Sri Lankan women into employment, Cycle Systems, a cycle shop offering training for ex-military service men and women and Canvas Coffee Shop, who employ people in recovery from addiction.

Mark Norbury, Chief Executive of UnLtd of the Foundation of Social Entrepreneurs, said: “I’m delighted to introduce this year’s Big Venture Challenge winners – a set of incredibly passionate and talented people who are enabling some of the most vulnerable people in our society to find work. These social entrepreneurs are doing more than providing jobs – they are developing these individuals’ life chances. We believe that given the right support and access to funding, they have the potential to dramatically improve the employment landscape.”

The programme is run by UnLtd and funded by the Big Lottery Fund England. This year’s cohort has a special focus on social ventures providing access to education, training and skills, and contains many social entrepreneurs broadening access to the job market – categorised by UnLtd as Impact Employers.

The 20 winners of this year’s challenge will be publicly announced today, at a drinks reception at Hogan Lovells law firm in London. Other winners include Nottinghamshire based Textocracy, enabling public services to more effectively canvas citizen’s opinions and Year Here, which offers postgraduate courses in social innovation, working to build smart responses to poverty and inequality.

Since 2013, the Big Venture Challenge has supported entrepreneurs to raise over £8.2m of investment and scale their social impact, with ventures on average reaching 42% more beneficiaries each year. The programme has attracted over 40 new angel investors to social investing and many of the graduates of the previous years are now going on to raise Series A investments of over £1m.

Previous winners of Big Venture Challenge who raised investment through the programme include London’s first full time outdoor nursery that offers place to vulnerable children, Little Forest Folk, Goodwill Solutions, a logistics company employing people from disadvantaged backgrounds and Oomph! a provider of fun, inclusive and effective exercise classes for older adults.

About the BVC 2016 Winners

The full list of BVC 2016 Winners are as follows:

  • Abi Ramanan, Papi’s Pickles, London; Restaurateurs working with unemployed women to provide South Indian and Sri Lankan food.
  • Beverley Dean, Special iApps, Durham: building educational apps for children with Special Education Needs.
  • Cemal Ezel, Change Please, London: employing people with a history of homelessness to work on mobile coffee vans.
  • Cherie White, Think For the Future Ltd, Nottingham: offering Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship (PSHCE) education and mentoring to young people.
  • Damian Payton, Hive Manchester, Manchester: creating young digital talent and linking to employers.
  • Elizabeth Shassere, Textocracy Ltd, Worksop: enabling public services to more effectively canvas citizens.
  • Jack Graham, Year Here, London: offering postgraduate courses in social innovation, working to build smart responses to poverty and inequality.
  • Jemma Phibbs, 2JEvents, Oxfordshire: a venue management service letting service for schools, enabling them to rent out unused spaces and bring in income.
  • Julia Lally, Cycle Systems, Devon: providing high quality training for ex-military service men and women in bicycle maintenance.
  • Louise Allen, Essential Safeguarding: training for children and teachers on abuse in intimate teenage relationships.
  • Pravin Isram, Canvas Coffee Shop, Hampshire: a speciality coffee shop supporting those in early recovery from addiction to develop skills and confidence.
  • Ruth Anslow, hiSbe Food CIC, Brighton:  an independent supermarket focusing on stimulating the local economy:
  • Sandra Green, Green Revolutions CIC: enabling people to have access to transport.
  • Sarah Wallbank, Yes Futures London: running extra-curricular personal development programmes to improving young people’s confidence, resilience and access to successful futures.
  • Sarah Marie Taylor, Green Scene Education, Nottingham: offering horticultural classes which align to the primary school national curriculum, delivered on school grounds.
  • Shaun Fox, Legacy Sport, Huddersfield: offering sport and health programmes to schools.
  • Stacey Jade Mason, Creative Optimistic Visions, Coventry: supporting young people to be safer and better equipped around safeguarding.
  • Steve Hodgkins, Jobs Friends & Houses CIC, Blackpool: job creation and training to prevent re-offending based around building trades and letting.
  • Tara Ashkham, Infused Learning, Nottingham: providing post 19 qualifications through blended learning.
  • Will Jackson, Zephx Ltd, Cambridge: app helping people suffering from chronic lung diseases to do their physiotherapy.