Two women crowned winners for their businesses designed to help and inspire children
As a serial entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson knows a thing or two about the challenges facing start-ups and the self-employed, which is why he launched the Voom awards six years ago – to help businesses grow. And today, he, alongside a panel of well-known judges, crowned two women who set up their businesses to help and inspire young children, as winners of Voom 2018.
Junior Einstein, a science club founded by Tracey-Jane Cassidy, which makes learning science fun and hands on for children, took home the Spark & Start award – a category specifically for start-up companies.
Speaking after the awards, which took place at Tobacco Dock, London, today, Cassidy told Modern Work how her business was born not just out of her passion for science, but out of being “frustrated that her children weren’t doing enough”.
She said: “I was a single mum at the time and I was left in a position where I needed to use the skills that I had and try to make a living. My passion has always been science, and I love my kids, so to marry the two together seemed like the obvious.
“I just thought that if enough science isn’t happening in schools and elsewhere, I am going to make it happen, so I created a facility for it.”
Rebecca Bright, founder of Therapy Box was the winner in the Scale and Grow category. Therapy Box has designed technology which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to diagnose speech and language disabilities.
Speaking about how why she set up the business, Bright said: “I found there was real need in healthcare to develop a good solution to help diagnose difficulties children might have. This was before I had kids, so I knew I could take the risk, I just thought if this doesn’t work then I could always go back to my job.”
Now a mother of two, Bright’s technology has not only been adopted by the NHS but saved it more than £6 million.
Both Cassidy and Bright will take home a share of the £1 million prize fund, which includes a five-figure cash sum, an out-of-home advertising campaign and an extensive mentoring service which will help them grow their business.
The winners were announced after all six finalists pitched their business idea live on stage in front of a panel of five judges including Sir Richard Branson; founder of Innocent drinks Richard Reed; TV presenter Sophie Morgan; founder of Tropic Skincare Susie Ma; and managing director at Virgin Media Business, Peter Kelly.
Branson said: “I’m blown away by the quality of the pitches and the incredible passion today’s finalists have demonstrated. Congratulations to the fantastic winners and to our runners up, who worked extremely hard to get here. I hope they’ll go on to inspire others.”
Talking about self-employment in general and whether or not the government is doing enough to support this thriving sector, Branson added: “The government did introduce a loan scheme for small businesses a few years which we campaigned for, for many years.
“The start-up loan campaign means that very small businesses can get loans that they may not have done before and help them grow and that is making a big difference.”
Voom is one the UK and Ireland’s biggest pitching competition, hosted by Virgin Media Business.
Among the other winners on the day included a special award for going the extra mile, which was awarded to Heroes4Hire by Olympic gold medallist Sir Mo Farah.