Norma scoops awards at the 2018 IDEAFEST Student Business Idea Competition

30 April 2018

Norma scoops awards at the 2018 IDEAFEST Student Business Idea Competition

Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship (HCfE) hosted its fifth annual IDEAFEST Competition, aimed at finding the student with the best business idea capable of being commercialised, at Henley Business School on Wednesday 25 April 2018.

This year not only saw last year’s record of applications matched but there were more cash prizes for best overall business idea, best innovation idea and best non-technology business idea. Like last year six finalists were selected and they all presented with great credit and professionalism, leaving the judges again with difficult decisions to make.

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After much deliberation the judges were unanimous in their choice, voting Norma the winner. Described as a new food innovation, Norma’s first product is a veggie brownie that is available as a brownie mix and a ready-to-eat veggie brownie snack. It proved to be a big hit, helped in part by the fact that the judges got to taste a sample, and it is already on route to commercialisation.

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The recipe, which the team is a trade secret, uses a combination of vegetables (but no milk or eggs) and results of scientific research to deliver a great brownie taste and a healthy snack high in fibre and minerals. “What’s not to like?” said one of the judges!

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Norma collected £1,000 for the Best Business Idea category and a further £1,000 for Best Innovative Idea category, as well as an automatic selection as the University of Reading’s nomination for the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards Competition 2018, giving them the opportunity to win a further £25,000.

On winning the Competition a proud and excited Sirada (Si) Chokwareeporn, Norma’s CEO, said: IDEAFEST was more than prizes, it gave us experience and made us know that this is not just us who see the opportunities in Norma and desire to push it to be a real product. I can’t wait for the launch in the UK now! Thank you for supporting us.”

Tom Metalle and Rowan Taylor came in second place with LifeMaate, a platform that hosts all the best information, uploaded by users, to create a community where information is shared. This serves to help users like students answer the questions which can be difficult to find answers to. Reddit watch out!

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Delighted by his second place finish and £500 prize money, Tom said: IDEAFEST was an extremely valuable and enjoyable experience for our business development. The competition allowed us to contextualise our idea and work towards creating a viable market entry strategy, thereby launching our product effectively. We are excited to move forwards with the support we will gratefully receive.”


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Following close behind and placed third by the judges was Outfit Exchange, a fashion resale retailer that buys and sells new and pre-owned designer clothing, shoes and accessories through an eshop and bricks and mortar stores. The idea had real traction already, as its originator Elliott Chard is a self-confessed trader with experience in buying and selling such items and making money, something the judges admired.

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After receiving his award of £250 for third place, Elliott said: “As a Business student, entering IDEAFEST was a must for me. The practical entrepreneurial skills gained from developing and pitching an idea to industry professionals is something that complimented my course extremely well. Simply entering this competition is a great feeling of self-accomplishment that could become a catalyst for one’s future entrepreneurial journey.”

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The other IDEAFEST finalists had similarly positive things to say about their experience of participating. Timothee Dubuc, founder of academic search engine Acamesh, stated: IDEAFEST was, to me, a very valuable exercise. Not only did it gave me the opportunity to better shape my ideas and formally present them to an audience, but it put me in contact with people that already have walked the entrepreneurial path. The feedbacks and interactions that came with the event are by themselves worth the time I dedicated to it.”

Chilli Moon founder and South Africa campus-based MBA student Anna Chelnokova, who had the idea of a web and mobile based platform that provides couples with a range of themed romantic holiday destinations, said: “The IDEAFEST experience was interesting even for a seasoned professional like myself. I was pitching a business idea which was completely different to my sphere of expertise and I was really excited that I made it to the final. I was very proud to represent my campus in the competition for the first time and I hope that there will be more students from South Africa entering IDEAFEST in the future. It was great to experience Henley Business School’s Whiteknights Campus in the UK and I am looking forward to revisiting it for my graduation.”

Giftified founders Ross Hood and Lucy Taylor, who had the idea of a gift card which is pre-programmed with money that can be redeemed through scanning a QR code inside the card and entering your bank details to transfer money direct to the recipient, were equally as effusive: IDEAFEST was a great opportunity and learning experience to be involved in. Seeing your idea transform into a real business and have potential was amazing to experience which we would definitely recommend for anyone who wants to pursue entrepreneurship.”

On announcing the winner, Stephanie Perry, Partner at Pitmans and member of the judging panel, said: “It was a pleasure to judge the finalists of IDEAFEST again this year. Pitmans are delighted to play a key role in an initiative that supports entrepreneurialism, especially in the younger generation. The creativity and innovation shown by the students in their business ideas was extremely high and the winners this year, Norma, in particular, have created an innovative product with great commercial potential.”

The audience also heard the announcement of the winners of the Best Business Idea for China from MBA students, which was judged Prof Andrew Godley (Academic Director of Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship), Andrew Gaule (founder and CEO of Aimava and Henley alumnus) and Savio Kwan (formerly COO of Alibaba). Congratulations to the winners Peter Chigada (Flexible MBA student) with InnoAdapt and Leyi Zhang (full-time MBA student) with Designers Solution. Each receives a £3,000 bursary to help them research the market for their idea in China (with a little help from Savio) and hopefully in time launch a business in the region.   

In addition to the cash prizes, the top three all receive mentoring from HCfE and Pitmans Law and all finalists also received a copy of the recently published book titled ‘Little Wins: The Huge Power of Thinking Like a Toddler’ by Ella’s Kitchen founder Paul Lindley, featuring a foreword by Sir Richard Branson. Already hitting the best-selling book chart on Amazon, Paul describes the behaviours of toddlers that adults have forgotten and which they should relearn. The book is now on the HCfE recommended book list for all students!      

The Competition also saw the audience vote for their winner enabled by Poll Everywhere, a web based interactive audience response service. The result, shown below, showed that the audience agreed with the decision made by the judges.

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Congratulations to all winners, runners up and all the finalists from Pitmans Law, the IDEAFEST Competition judges and the Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship.  

Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship would like to extend a special thanks to the judges:  

Joanna Abeyie, Managing Director of Hyden

Stefano Ciampolini, CEO and co-founder of Renal Services Ltd and HBA member

Alan Donegan, co-founder and Director of the PopUp Business School

Philip Huthwaite, CEO of Blackcurve

Norbert Morawetz, Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship and co-founder of Potential.ly

Stephanie Perry, Partner in Banking, Finance and Corporate at Pitmans Law

Magnus Ronning, IDEAFEST Winner 2017

Jurek Sikorski, Executive Director of Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship  


For further information about the IDEAFEST Competition, please contact:  

Jurek Sikorski

Executive Director

Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship

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Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship

Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship is part of Henley Business School at the University of Reading and provides a hub for teaching and research in the subject, inspiring students from across the University to embrace, develop and apply their entrepreneurial abilities.  

E: jurek.sikorski@henley.ac.uk

T: 0118 378 8188

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Pitmans Law has a wealth of experience in supporting entrepreneurs. Their Kickstart service has been designed specifically to provide advice and support to start-ups. For more information, visit www.pitmans.com/kickstart or email kickstart@pitmans.com