11 Sep 2008 00:00:00.000
September 11 2008
Two University of Nottingham students have proved that there’s more to be gained from your time at university than academic qualifications alone.
Chris Skilton and Jonathan Francis have both won titles in the Real World Awards — an annual competition that recognises the work of talented students across the UK, and that there is more to university life than academic achievement.
Chris, a 22-year old Finance, Accounting and Management graduate who begins his Masters in Entrepreneurship at the Nottingham University Business School later this month, is Socially Responsible Student of the Year. Jonathan, who is taking Management Studies with French at the Business School, was named Entrepreneur of the Year.
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Chris Skilton, a former President of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) Nottingham, has been involved in community outreach projects throughout his degree. He created Beevelop, a project in Ghana which sets up community beehives to give families an income. This went on to bring together beekeeping co-operatives from across Ghana, enabling them to triple the price of their honey and encouraging them to use beeswax — which had previously been thrown away — in lip balm and candles. Bee Enterprising followed, allowing secondary school to run beekeeping businesses and generate income for their schools alongside developing their business skills. Also while at University, Chris worked with Wheelbase, teaching vulnerable teenagers the skills to get them into education and employment, and with Brightwaters Laundrette, a community business featured on Channel Four’s The Secret Millionaire.
The standard of entrants was so high in this category that the judges chose two winners for the award. Chris shares the prize money with Laura Sterling from the University of Birmingham.
Chris will use his £2,250 prize money to launch a micro-finance fund and brokerage in Ghana, giving poor people access to funds that will allow them to develop their own businesses. He is also in the process of setting up his own business in the UK, a business network which will link up workers and students wanted to do voluntary or pro-bono work with the small and medium-sized businesses who are looking for their skills. He hopes to eventually develop at system of standards which will make this easier for both volunteers and organisations.
“I’m really passionate about the idea that business can be used to help people, not just to make money,” Chris said. “It can be used to empower people socially as well as financially.”
Jonathan Francis joined a local business development network within two weeks of starting university and has been working with them on various projects, from a fledgling software venture to a Student2Business troubleshooting service. His flagship business — www.dinkysite.com — evolved this year and is popular site for trading Dinky toys. He will be investing his £3,000 prize money beck into his business projects.
“Any money that comes my way is invested into my businesses at the moment,” he said. “With the website, cars are my passion — I’m really into Formula One — and the engineering of Dinky toys has always fascinated me. When something is your passion any time and effort you put into it doesn’t even feel like work.
“Business is my life, it’s what I love doing. It’s brilliant to have been recognised by the judges.”
Darius Novell, founder of Real World magazine, the award’s organisers, said: “The calibre of the students who have made it to the final list are exceptional. While making the most of their time at university they have developed new skills that can only benefit them in the future. They share a confidence and determination to succeed that defies the lazy student stereotype.”
Chris Mahon, Director of the MBA in Entrepreneurship at the Nottingham University Business School, said: “On behalf of everyone at the Business School, I would like to say how proud we are of both Chris and Jonathan for winning these awards. Their achievements and abilities inspire us all, and quite clearly demonstrate the value of the Business School’s ongoing commitment to entrepreneurship education.
In last year’s Real World Awards, the Student of the Year title was taken by University of Nottingham alumnus Alexander McLean, founder of the African Prison's project — a charity which raises money to refurbish clinics and libraries in maximum security prisons in sub-Saharan Africa.
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 70 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THES) World University Rankings.
It provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy).
Its students are much in demand from 'blue-chip' employers. Winners of Students in Free Enterprise for four years in succession, and current holder of UK Graduate of the Year, they are accomplished artists, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators and fundraisers. Nottingham graduates consistently excel in business, the media, the arts and sport. Undergraduate and postgraduate degree completion rates are amongst the highest in the United Kingdom.