Sunderland college student with ME launches his own business

FromThe City of Sunderland College website, 4 March 2011

An adult learner’s ‘powerful presentation’ has helped him scoop £3,000 to launch his Power tool, garage and construction equipment store at City of Sunderland College’s annual Dragons Den event.

Philip Reynolds, 29, originally from Liverpool, clinched the cash after pitching his business idea – powermart.co.uk to a panel of specially selected ‘Dragons’ from the North East business community.

The business will officially launch in May and claims it’s USP is to be the first online discounter selling Clarke Power Products to the market. Philip is currently studying at the College’s Hylton Skills Campus on a Level 1 Carpentry and Joinery Diploma.

He said: “I’m over the moon to have won the Dragons Den competition and it’s given me a great boost to help me launch the service this year. I’ve been researching the sector for around two and half years and I can’t wait to get started!”

Philip, who previously studied for a Criminology Degree at Liverpool John Moore University, decided to relocate to the North East with his Sunderland-born fiancé Chelsea, last September. While working as a taxi driver, he decided to take charge of his career path and set up his own firm.

He explained: “While I was studying at University I was diagnosed with ME, also known as CFS (Myalgic Encephalopathy or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). The illness had a serious effect on my studies and unfortunately delayed what I wanted to start after my studies. Now I’ve been given a clean bill of health, I’m fighting fit and raring to get the business up and running!

“Times are very tough for business set-ups but I’m positive that I have the determination and enthusiasm to take my company from strength-to-strength.”

As well as providing the cash prize, over the coming year the College will also offer Philip expert advice and support.

In total, seven groups made their pitches to the Dragons this year which is the fourth time the event has been held at the College’s Bede Centre.

Two pitches were also awarded £1,000 each in support of their entrepreneurial ventures which included a Smoothie business named ‘Smoooth’ and a Mobile Beauty Service.

Rob Whitton, Higher Education Manager at the College, said: “Here at City of Sunderland College, we actively encourage our students to be the best that they can be, and for some that means taking on the challenge of launching their own business or product.

“Even during times of austerity, the greatest entrepreneurs can come forward and the standard of the pitches made by our students this year was very high. Well done to everyone who took part and to our well-deserved winners!”

“Our staff work very hard to foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship and it works! Each year we have a cohort of students brimming with ideas and creativity.

“We have enterprise activities running throughout the College all year and the Dragons Den event allows our students to showcase their ideas as well as access advice and support from local business leaders to help realise their dreams.”

The contestants pitched their ideas to the panel of judges which was made up of: Jonathon Bruce, a financial consultant, Neil Price, Enterprise Talent Scout for the Business Innovation Centre (BIC), Alison Donaldson, Lecturer in Business at the College’s Bede Centre and Rob Coxan, a Regional Manager for British Gas.

Chair of the Dragons, Jonathon Bruce, commented: “It’s been a pleasure to come and judge the competition for a fourth year. The students each gave detailed accounts of their idea, market research and financial projections which were of a very high standard.”

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