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Meet the cohort of Incubate UAL 2022

Digital illustration of geometric figures
  • Written byAnnika Loebig
  • Published date 10 June 2022
Digital illustration of geometric figures
© Jimena Cieza De Leon

For the second year running, Incubate UAL (previously called Graduate Incubation Programme) is giving graduates from Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon Colleges of Art the opportunity to develop their entrepreneurial skills and turn their business idea into reality over a 6-month period. This year’s cohort includes:

  • Arina Isaeva, BA Interior and Spatial Design graduate (2020), co-founder of a multi-disciplinary collective which focuses on providing research and creating temporary spaces for a range of cultural institutions. Together they transform the notion of pop-up spaces into a more sustainable nature.
  • David Reason, MA Interior and Spatial Design graduate (2021) and founder of David Reason Studio, specialised in creating cinematic sequences in virtual spaces combining elements of architecture, motion design and sculpture for the metaverse.
  • Foroozan NazariMFA Fine Arts alumna (2017) and founder of PuzzleYar based in Tehran, working on the design and development of mobile apps to help people with autism. So far, they have developed two apps: a visual communication assistant and a gaming platform for improving cognitive skills.
  • Jimena Cieza De LeonBA Spatial Design graduate (2017) working as spatial and 3D designer in the events industry.
  • JoJo CannBA Textile Design graduate (2021) and fashion brand owner proposing a sustainable alternative to luxury fashion through upcycling practices.
  • Rebekah GuoMA Textiles Design graduate (2021) and founder of sustainable fashion and textiles design studio UNUM.

We spoke to Jimena, David and Rebekah about their business ideas and what they’re hoping to get out of the programme.


Virtual Spatial Piece - Walkthrough

© David Reason Studio

Hi all! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative practice?

Jimena: Although I started working in the events industry as a spatial designer after university, my real passion is VR. During university, I joined the Digital Maker Collective where I discovered new technologies and how to apply them in my creative practice. In 2020 I started working as a 3D and spatial designer for the metaverse, working for companies from events to the arts in virtual reality.

Rebekah: As a sustainable fashion and textiles designer, my practice focuses on sustainable craftsmanship designs, which involves upcycling production waste and utilising sustainable fabrics, such as vegan leather and bio-materials, into uniquely designed fashion accessories. My business aspires to contribute to the sustainable fashion and textiles industry and raise awareness in the circular economy, including upcycling, minimising waste, recycling and emotional attachment strategies.

David: I am a London-based visual artist and spatial designer with a background in architecture. Shortly after graduating with an MA in Interior and Spatial Design at Camberwell in 2021, I founded my own studio, an interdisciplinary art practice and research unit operating within the intersection of the virtual and the physical, technology and art as well as visual arts and design.

Why did you decide to apply for UAL Incubate?

Rebekah: I was thrilled to find out that UAL provides us with the opportunity to join a business incubation programme for early-stage entrepreneurs. Their quality webinars and 1-1 tutorials with a professional business coach were the main reasons I decided to apply. It is crucial to actually take action with a business idea as a start-up entrepreneur. Also, as part of the UAL Incubate cohort I'm able to access the UAL libraries, which is very helpful for me as it provides me with a space to work on my projects.

David: I decided to apply towards the end of my MA as I was seeking support to turn my creative practice idea into reality. Like most students, my focus throughout my MA was on creating and developing my body of work as opposed to learning business skills. This programme helps me to better understand marketing, finance, intellectual property, legal frameworks, how to search and apply for grants, amongst other essential skills for anyone setting up their own practice. Also, meeting and connecting with like-minded creatives with shared interests and aspirations has also been a great opportunity.

I've had this business idea for a while but I always left it aside. When I came across UAL Incubate, I thought it could be a good starting point to develop my business plan. The timing also just felt right, as I believe our current situation since the pandemic has accelerated the expansion of virtual reality technologies, so I had to take the opportunity.

— Jimena Cieza De Leon

What can you tell us about the business idea you're developing?

David: My studio functions both as a service-based business and an art practice, producing works in the fields of visual arts, animation, installation art, digital fashion and interior and spatial design. David Reason Studio makes use of game engines, 3D modelling, immersive technologies, 3D printing as well as metalwork and other mediums to create immersive experiences, cinematic sequences, virtual worlds, and physical sculptures and objects for the purpose of eco-storytelling and political activism.

Jimena: My business idea is to create a Web XR platform for the retail industry. The platform will focus on small and medium businesses and help them sell their products in the metaverse. Our aim is to create an easy-to-use platform that encourages more users to join the metaverse while giving creators different options to customise and upload 3D versions of their products.

Rebekah: UNUM Studio is an interdisciplinary, sustainable fashion accessories brand based in London. We specialise in designing bags using deadstock materials to make handmade, unique products. Collaborations are at the heart of our brand — each collection is co-designed with emerging artists, which allows us to create limited edition items. We want to produce a catalogue of products that sits between merchandise and artwork.

Children attending a session in a garden
Climate Studio participants gather at the Paper Garden | Photographer: Lara Salinas

How do you think UAL Incubate will help you progress with your businesses?

Rebekah: With the help of 1-1 tutorials with experts and other entrepreneurs, my business idea is steadily becoming a reality. So far, the overall programme and tutorials have been very valuable for my creative work and my start-up business, providing guidelines and opportunities to accelerate my creative practice into a mature business. Also, the Incubate community has been really supportive of each other.

Jimena: The main things I hope to achieve are to learn the administration behind a business, marketing skills and how to present my idea to future investors. By the end of the programme, I hope my business will be officially established!

The knowledge and support provided by the programme will help me to turn my idea into a self-sufficient and sustainable business. I also hope to further develop the concept behind my practice, feeding off the inspiration and energy that comes from interacting with my peers and tutors.

— David Reason

Would you like to join Incubate UAL? The next round of applications is now open — and we have 24 spaces available for the 2023 cohort!

If you need more inspiration before applying, check out the business ideas developed by the first cohort in 2021.