The ten entrepreneurs shortlisted for the #VOOM Impact Award, sponsored by Virgin Unite, made their way to Virgin HQ this week for pitching day.

Armed with coffee and croissants our expert judging panel listened as each entrepreneur give a three-minute pitch before being asked five minutes of questions. They then put their heads together to deliberate on who would be making it through to the final... The judging team consisted of: Holly Branson, Special Projects Manager at Virgin Group and Chair of Virgin Unite, Alison Fort, Acting CEO and MD Europe of ToniicJude Ower, Founder/CEO of PlaymobMichael Lynas, CEO at National Citizen ServiceAnna Jones, Entrepreneurship Director at Virgin Unite and Ed Muuls, Investment Director at Virgin Management Ltd.

We had 2,489 entries to the #VOOM Impact Award. The judging team analysed each entry, scoring the answers, the pitch videos and all supporting campaign information. The final shortlist included:

  • Excel Martial Arts was founded by a black-belt fighter, Liam Richards, who was bullied during his early years. Liam believes passionately that learning martial arts can improve self-confidence, counter depression and provide a fun and collaborative exercise for a healthier and happier life. Liam wants his business to expand its academy and develop its franchise model.
  • Extremis Technology has designed disaster relief shelters that take less than two minutes to erect and that don’t require specialist skills or tools. The business started after the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and their creations can also be modified to become clinics, classrooms, stores or workshops. 

Virgin Unite, VOOM, Impact Award

Virgin Unite, VOOM, Impact Award
  • The Creation Station’s educational business inspires young people to express their unique creative potential through discovery-based arts and crafts. They have 97 franchise owners that hold 1,000 creative experiences each week, reaching 250,000 families and children in the UK and Ireland. They want to expand to 10,000 weekly experiences and extend their services to adults and the elderly to address dementia and loneliness.
  • Paint360 Ltd  re-engineer waste paint into premium paint for government and large construction companies (as well as Travis Perkins and Buildbase).Their paints are made from a minimum of 80 per cent recycled paint and they provide permanent jobs for the long-term unemployed. It’s estimated that the UK generates 50 million litres of waste paint each year and each litre of Paint360 paint saves enough carbon to drive a van for five miles carbon-free.
  • Seable Holidays specialise in trips for the visually and physically impaired. They offer affordable and stimulating holidays that build confidence, challenge the perception of disabilities and foster independence and skills for life. Accessible tourism is a growing market and Seable wants to become the leading tour operator of accessible holidays in Europe.
  • Cheeky Panda turns unused bamboo (not the type Panda’s eat) into bamboo luxury tissue products, which are more sustainable and environmental friendly than tree-based alternatives. Bamboo grows 20-30 times faster than trees, produces 30 per cent more oxygen and absorbs 35 per cent more carbon. It’s kinder to the skin as it’s BPA-free. It doesn’t use de-inking agents and is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, odour resistant and hypo-allergenic. Cheeky Panda want to take their toilet tissue worldwide and develop the product range.
  • Den offers a next generation light switch that works like a normal light switch, but which can also be remotely switched on or off using the Den app. The business aims to reduce the amount of energy wasted from lights left on unnecessarily and electrical goods left on standby. Leaving appliances on standby adds 16 per cent to our energy bills and we're wasting £1.3b in energy every year in the UK – enough to power almost 2.5 million homes. They are looking to scale worldwide.

Virgin Unite, VOOM, Impact Award

Virgin Unite, VOOM, Impact Award
  • MacRebur Ltd  has developed a unique and patented technology that allows them to mix waste plastic with bitumen for an innovative, patented road design that is more durable and cheaper. The material is called Plasmac and is 60 per cent stronger than traditional asphalt and reduces potholes and rutting while increasing lifespan. In the UK, 56 per cent of waste plastic goes to landfill and MacRebur’s product uses waste plastic bags, bottles, film wrapping and cups.
  • Virtuebrush  wants to disrupt the plastic toothbrush industry with a 100 per cent plant-based alternative, made from biodegradable bamboo. Each toothbrush lasts three months and they run a subscription model for replacements. The company want to reduce the number of plastic toothbrushes in circulation and reduce the amount of plastic waste in landfill. The toothbrush has bamboo fibre bristles infused with activated bamboo charcoal, which is naturally antibacterial, effective at fighting plaque and clinically proved to whiten teeth.
  • Thriva sells a mail-order kit that delivers a personalised health report following receipt of a cheek swab. The kit currently tests for cholesterol, liver and kidney function. Thriva will also offer specific tests for people worried about Vitamin D deficiency and female fertility. The business is designed to help people to be more proactive rather than reactive to their health disorders. With an ageing population and health data analysis, they aim to reduce preventable deaths through the kits.

Virgin Unite, VOOM, Impact Award

Virgin Unite, VOOM, Impact Award

Pitching is difficult so take plenty of time to prepare your story and bring your best, upbeat self to the opportunity. Here’s our top advice for delivering your best pitch:

  1. Tell the story - Don’t assume the judges have watched all of your videos or read all of your background information. Remember to explain who you are, how you began your entrepreneurial journey and why you are passionate to be an entrepreneur.
  2. Explain the business model – Go through the route to market, pricing strategy, market research insights, competitors and partnerships.
  3. Share your vision – Give a clear roadmap of how you will scale, what investment and support is needed, the impact you are aiming for and how you are going to measure it.
  4. Name the source – if you use data, make sure you can explain where it comes from.
  5. Don’t dodge – If you are asked a question that is difficult, always be open and transparent. If you don’t know the answer, say so and offer to follow up after the pitch. It looks evasive and suspicious if you ignore or bluff your way through.
  6. Be respectful – You may have presented loads of pitches in a short time frame but remember the people in front of you are giving up their valuable time, so be polite, professional and alert.

Virgin Unite, VOOM, Impact Award

Stay tuned to find out who the finalists are that we’ll be sending to the VOOM live final on June 28.

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