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Textile designer in retail talks

Alex gets on her bike and builds new venture

Alex FeechanAfter a twenty year career in fashion and textile design Alex Feechan wanted to branch out and run her own business. And she found her inspiration in the great outdoors.

By combining her skills with her enthusiasm for mountain biking she developed a company that now makes women’s apparel.

Just three months old, her Findra business has already been approached by an online sports retailer about selling her garments. If she can secure a deal it would accelerate her growth plans.

“I just found that there were so few garments available for women bikers,” she said. Most offerings were an “after-thought” which fell into the the “shrink it, pink it” category – scaled down versions of menswear with a “patronising” feminine touch.

She has designed lightweight seamless tops, as well as shorts and accessories which are being made in the Borders where she used to work and where she still lives.

Ms Feechan told the Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE) student summit in Edinburgh that her ultimate plan was to have a chain of outlets.

She said many women dislike going into bike shops which tend to be male domains. For that reason she sells online and direct at shows. She is thinking of organising Tupperware-style home parties for women, but if she can pull off the deal with the undisclosed retailer it will provide her with a huge distribution outlet.

Finance for the venture came in the form of a bank loan from Royal Bank of Scotland and she is now seeking equity.

Ten entrepreneurs shortlisted from hundreds of entries in SIE’s Fresh Ideas and New Ventures competitions were awarded prizes ranging from £500 up to £10,000 for their business ideas.

University of Strathclyde graduate, Christopher McCann, scooped the SIE New Ventures top prize. Christopher, also a winner at the 2014 Young Innovators Challenge, will use the £10,000 prize fund to develop ‘snap40’ – a wearable patient health early warning system.

The device monitors a wide-range of health indicators, analyses the information and sends on signals if there are any deteriorations. The wristband aims to help cut the number of unnecessary admissions to hospitals, helping the NHS reduce waiting times and bed-blocking.

Edinburgh University graduate, David Hunter, was awarded £1,000 for his invention ‘Shot Scope’ which automatically records data for golfers, helping them improve their game.

Another winner, Andrew Robertson of Glasgow School of Art, was awarded £1000 for his idea, winning first prize in the Fresh Ideas competition. Working with Scotland’s Mountain Rescue teams, Andrew designed a light-weight stretcher which can easily be carried alongside a rescuers backpack and other equipment.

Throughout the day, attendees heard from inspirational Scottish businesses including Brewdog and MBN solutions, as well as Scottish based tech start-up Malzee and past New Venture winners, Swipii – a company that has since gone on to bring its loyalty scheme for local businesses to market and now employs 11 people.

There was also an employability panel at the event, allowing guests to ask questions to a group of experts on what businesses really look for in their staff and how enterprise skills are valued by employers.

Fiona Godsman, chief executive of SIE,  said: “It’s of huge importance that we recognise and inspire young entrepreneurial talents in Scotland. We have to give the next generation of business people as much support as possible in order to succeed in this increasingly competitive global economy.

“Equally, we want to demonstrate the importance of having an enterprising skillset, not just for those wishing to go it on their own, but to the organisations who employ people every day.”

Sammy Jo Gardner, area manager, customer acquisition at Bank of Scotland, said: “Scotland has a rich heritage of entrepreneurs and innovators who’ve made a mark not just in Scotland, but across the world. The Bank of Scotland is proud to be able to give our support and play a role in helping foster and encourage Scottish entrepreneurial talent by sponsoring the New Ventures competition.”

SIE aims to increase the number of students in Scotland who pursue a career in entrepreneurship by providing them with support, and funding through a variety of competitions and events. For example, The Young Innovators challenge is currently open for entries, and looks to reward and encourage young people with a business idea which will help tackle a social issue.

Competition winners:

FRESH IDEAS

OVERALL WINNER: £1000 

Andrew Robertson  – MEng Product Design Engineering, 5th Year

Glasgow University and Glasgow School of Art

Andrew has designed a new mountain rescue stretcher, to address the issue that standard rescue stretchers are bulky and difficult to transport.

RUNNER UP 1: £500

Jordan Smith – Glasgow School of Art.
Designed a new reliable and efficient packaging product which should reduce the cost of sending items for the user.

RUNNER UP 2: £500

Michael Harkins – Pharmaceutical Chemistry MChem, 4th Year
Heriot Watt Edinburgh

Has designed Turtle Pack products to help revolutionise the learn-to-swim market. The Turtle Pack is a next generation floatation device which will help children learn to swim at a faster rate, develop the correct swimming position, and have fun.

 NEW VENTURES (SPONSORED BY BANK OF SCOTLAND)

All the New Ventures finalists will be given a free Annual Membership of the Entrepreneurial Scotland Future Leaders Group.

1st prize: £10,000

Christopher McCann – 3rd Year Medical Student – University of Dundee.
snap40 is developing a wearable patient health early warning system, ‘snap40’,  which will monitor a wide range of indicators, analyse the information, and bring appropriate clinical attention to the patient earlier. The intention is to save lives, reduce the length of stay in hospitals, and cut down the number of unnecessary admissions to hospitals.

2nd Prize: £5000

Victoria Hamilton
Strathclyde University, Product Design Engineering Masters Graduate
VH Innovation Ltd – Recoil Kneepads
One of the winners of the Young Innovators Challenge in 2013 (Videos + case study available)

VH Innovation is a product development business with it’s first product being the Recoil Kneepad, the world’s first spring-loaded kneepad. The product significantly reduces peak pressure on the users knee, offering a more comfortable and protective solution for manual workers.

3rd Prize: £1000 JOINT WINNERS, each receiving £1000

David Hunter – Edinburgh University Graduate (2013)
Shot Scope Technologies

Shot  Scope

Golfers collect scoring and statistical data to improve their game but this can be time consuming and problematic. The Shot Scope wearable wristband solves these issues by automatically collecting this data while a golfer plays and has been approved by the R&A (Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews)  for golf competitions at all levels.

Amanda Day – Strathclyde University Graduate (2014) – Product Design and Innovation
All Day Designs has designed a range of child travel product concepts, the first of which is The Caterpillar travel-system. The Caterpillar is a four in one travel product designed for children from birth up to 4 years which can be altered according to the child’s needs.

Enterprise Campus Award for best idea from postgraduate research. (This is a new award within New Ventures sponsored by Enterprise Campus). £2500 and a package of support from Enterprise Campus.

Dr Mallika Punukollu, Specialist Registrar in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, MBBS Imperial College School of Medicine (London), Honorary Lecturer at Glasgow University. Member of Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Dr Fiona Mitchell, Specialist Registrar in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, MBCHB University of Aberdeen. Member of Royal College of Psychiatrists.

SafeSpot

SafeSpot is a mobile app designed to support children and adolescents in times of stress and difficulty. The app provides a safety plan, which would enable them to add personalised coping strategies, distraction techniques, easy access to crisis numbers and emergency contacts. Dr Punukollu and Dr Mitchell plan to extend the app with a Safe-Spotters Programme in Scottish Secondary Schools with the overall aim of providing the opportunity for every child to access the skills to develop positive coping skills.

Steve Broadfoot Award: £500

Paul Morton – University of the West of Scotland

Band Together
Final Year, MA Music: Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Band Together

Networking app for musicians and music professionals. The aim is to allow people who find themselves without access to local music connections and business contacts the ability to make worthwhile connections.

SIE winners

Pictured: Sammy Jo Gardner, Victoria Hamilton, Christopher McCann, Amanda Day, David Hunter, DR Mallika Punukollu

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