The Mayor’s Entrepreneur Challenge promotes and celebrates student innovation, employability and entrepreneurship whilst helping to reduce carbon emissions. In September BA Fashion Design and Development student, Ashwini Deshpande, was made finalist of ‘Creative Industries’ category for “Art-Z” - her highly innovative software business that uses machine learning to reduce the amount of fabric wastage in the fashion industry. We caught up with Ashwini to find out her thoughts on becoming a finalist in the competition, the inspiration behind her business idea and her future plans for the business.
Hi Ashwini, firstly, Congratulations! A truly fantastic achievement. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your business idea?
As a fashion design student, I make clothes for various projects. I start by drafting patterns, laying them down as efficiently as possible, and cutting the fabric out. The amount of wastage when I do this is appalling! That’s why I became interested in zero waste pattern cutting methods but it didn’t take me long to realise that they are complex, manual, and time consuming. Hence I decided that I needed to find a simpler solution, using technology.
In industry, 15-20% of all fabric produced for fashion globally goes straight to landfills or incinerators. That’s about 60 billion square meters annually at this very initial stage
Art-Z is a software that simplifies zero to minimal waste pattern cutting, using advancements in artificial intelligence. This way, designers will be able to create beautiful garments, and then consult their zero waste expert, Art-Z, to reduce wastage drastically with the click of a button.
And, I know you also won the LCF Enterprise Challenge earlier this year! Congratulations on that too!.. How did the LCF Graduate Futures team support you and help you prepare for both Competitions?
They helped me strengthen my pitch for the LCF Student Enterprise Challenge, of which I was the runner up, the UAL Creative Enterprise awards, which I won for the tech category, and the Mayor’s Entrepreneurship Award, for the creative category. Before the Mayor’s competition, the graduate futures team organised mock pitches with industry experts, from which I got some very useful feedback and advice. It gave me a lot of confidence too for the pitch.
The LCF Graduate Futures Team has consistently supported me on my entrepreneurial journey over the last year and a half, from advising me on everything from partnerships, to giving me legal information. They always help me believe in myself, which helps me compete and move forward!
That’s great to hear. How do you feel about the judge's feedback?
I wasn’t expecting it because I was up against a lot of very strong competitors, all of whom are at a higher educational level than me. Knowing that the judges were excited by my idea and believed that I could make a change, gave me a lot of confidence to take Art-Z forward.
Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring LCF entrepreneurs?
Don’t start a business for the sake of starting a business. Do a lot of research and take time to come up with a brilliant idea that is unique to you – and anyone can do this, because each person has a different background, different experiences, etc.
Learn to sell your idea and communicate it effectively. Work hard on a meaningful pitch and work 10 times as hard on being prepared to answer tough Q&A questions.
Don’t doubt yourself. Entrepreneurship is actually not as hard as it seems if you stop being afraid.
Always be more prepared than you think you need to be. This will take you a long way
Don’t be afraid to apply to contests, to reach out to people who might be able to help, to take a step forward- whatever that might mean for your business.
It was a pleasure talking with Ashwini and we wish her every success with her future aspirations and the development of Art-Z!