A Devon entrepreneur who creates women’s swimwear from marine waste has won the latest Soup event brought to Plymouth by GAIN at the University of Plymouth. The cash prize will help Helen Newcombe, founder of start-up business Davy J, launch her debut collection in March 2017.
Pitching against three other innovative start-up businesses, Helen won the highest number of audience votes at the sold-out crowdfunding event at the University on Friday 18 November. Part of Plymouth Enterprise Week, the seventh Soup event was attended by University staff and students, as well as members of the business community.
Helen returned to South Devon to launch Davy J after a career as a development economist in London and East Africa. A keen sportswoman and triathlete, she has always been frustrated by the lack of hard-wearing active swimwear on the market. Helen says the concept for Davy J came to her “because a lot of women’s swimwear isn’t really suitable for swimming in!”
After discovering an Italian company that regenerates recycled nylon out of old fishing nets and other marine waste, she saw the opportunity to build a business that looks at resources in a different way. Helen came up with the idea of creating beautiful and technical swimwear that is sustainably sourced and produced.
Described by Helen as “real swim wear”, Davy J products are made in the UK and are tough enough for any watersports, including diving.
Speaking of her success, Helen said:
“This was a great event and I’m delighted to have won, but the most important thing for me was to have the chance to share the prototypes with so many new people. Getting such positive feedback is what’s kept me going as a start-up business over the last year so Soup was a great opportunity.
"The prize money comes at an important time as I’m aiming to send 50 sample pieces to buyers before Christmas. The investment will help me achieve that aim, which will give us a boost when we launch our debut range in March.”Helen competed against three other entrepreneurs at the Soup event. Alex Printer has designed MeeBe, a new fashion app, Lisa Lessware and Philippa Doyle have created the Bshirt, which is designed for breastfeeding mums, and Tom Pavelle is the inventor of CAZMAT, which provides a kneeling surface and safe treatment area for patients pre-hospital.
University of Plymouth Corporate Projects Manager Rich Adams said:
“Fittingly for Plymouth Enterprise Week, all four pitching businesses were really innovative and a testament to the creativity in the South West. We’re delighted that all of our Soup events have drawn such large crowds, including our Business School students who have had the opportunity to learn from inspiring local entrepreneurs like Helen.
“The University of Plymouth is home to the largest marine research institute in the UK, with state-of-the-art facilities and world-leading experts who are helping further our understanding of our seas and how we can care for them. Discovering a start-up business that is pioneering a new way of working with recycled marine waste is an exciting opportunity for the University and we look forward to working with Davy J.”Soup became an international crowdfunding phenomenon after starting in Detroit. Audience members pay £5 to see new businesses pitch their ideas an over a bowl of soup before voting for their favourite with their spoons. The winner earns the takings to support their venture to grow, as well as a package of business support from the University of Plymouth and Devon Chamber of Commerce.
This Soup event was sponsored by University Commercial Services Plymouth Ltd.