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How winning a Creative Enterprise Award could help your business

A table with plates and a cooking pot
A table with plates and a cooking pot
Image courtesy of Li-m studio
Written by
Careers and Employability
Published date
11 May 2020

Our annual Creative Enterprise Awards exist to help business ideas from UAL students and graduates to develop and grow.

Each winner receives £5,000 in funding plus support such as industry mentoring or specialist business training. The awards are open to final year students and graduates (up to 2 years out) from all UAL Colleges – including international students.

This year there are 7 different categories (Maker, Global, Social Enterprise, Community Project, Technology, Freelancer and Innovation) and our award partners include Google for Startups Campus, The Dots, Holition and Cockpit Arts.

We caught up with 2 of last year’s winners to find out how winning a Creative Enterprise Award helped their businesses…

Eugene Tan graduated from MA Communications Design at CSM in 2017. His business Unbound is the world’s first mass-produced web connected book, integrating print with emergent technology.

Which award category did you win?

I won the Technology award in 2019; £5000 in funding as well as mentoring from Holition who have been incredibly helpful. Oh, and also a fancy trophy that proudly hangs out on the shelf!

How did winning the award help your business?

The prize money has helped towards the technology and materials needed to work on further prototypes of Unbound. The mentoring provided by Jonathan from Holition has been invaluable; my team and I have learned so much from his wealth of experience in technology. We have also benefited from the expertise within the different teams at Holition.

A book and a mobile phone on a pink background.
Image courtesy of Eugene Tan Caption
A book and a laptop on a black background
Image courtesy of Eugene Tan Caption

How has your business changed in the last year?

The business has evolved in a way that allows us to be flexible for different purposes and industries. The technology from Unbound has been applied to forms outside of a printed book. We’ve had the opportunity to create an interactive art piece using elements of Unbound tech at London Art Fair and are working on a printed zine version alongside Furtherfield gallery (which we have attained further funding from Arts Council England).

What would you say to students/graduates thinking of applying for the awards?

You have to absolutely do it! You miss 100% of the shots you don't take (Wayne Gretzky quote). You have nothing to lose by trying and this is an incredible springboard for your product or company as it opens a whole new set of doors for you. Plus, you get to be in control of your own future; it may be a bit daunting but you get so much and learn so much more from this experience than you would expect.

Andrea Li and Michelle Lim graduated from BA Graphic Communication Design at CSM in 2019. Their business li-m studio is an experiential design studio that designs workshops, installations and performative experiences for brands and cultural institutions.

Which award category did you win?

We won the Freelancer award in 2019, which gave us £5,000 to help start-up our business. The award was supported by Google for Startups, so we also had the amazing opportunity to be mentored by very lovely people from Google Campus as well as the chance to use their co-working spaces when we needed.

How did winning the award help your business?

The prize money has helped to fund important equipment as well as essential logistical costs like registering our business and consulting accountants. We’ve also used the money to invest in our community building workshops (including interactive props and set dressing).

Being mentored by the people at Google has really allowed us to hone our business skills. We’ve had opportunities to practise pitching and develop pricing models for our work with their advice. We’ve also been introduced to a lot of new productivity tools like OKRs and Gantt charts to help streamline our design process — which was really exciting!

We’re also very lucky because Google for Startups has been really supportive and given us the opportunity to develop and beta-test our community building workshops with their co-working members.

A hand flicking through a book
Image courtesy of Li-m studio Caption
A hand with a purple light
Image courtesy of Li-m studio Caption

How has your business changed in the last year?

Our transition into business has been really interesting, because we started our studio straight out of university. Talking and presenting work to clients is very different from talking to tutors. We’ve changed the way that we show ideas and talk about our process to have a stronger focus on storytelling and selling a great narrative to our clients.

Our business model has also changed a little bit. Our community-building workshops were meant to be a secondary part of our experiential design practice, but the last few months of working with Google for Startups has shown us that there’s so much potential there!

What would you say to students/graduates thinking of applying for the awards?

Don’t be put off if you feel like you’re not a traditional entrepreneur! While it’s important to show the judges on the panel that you’ve considered the financial aspects of your business, passion for what you’re doing and an innovative idea definitely speaks more. A lot of what we know now was learned through our journey post-winning the award.

Definitely apply if you’re thinking of starting your own business, or just have a really fantastic idea! The opportunities that you get from this experience are really, really great.

Interested in UAL’s Creative Enterprise Awards? Find out more and apply online by 1 June 2020.