Chris Dawson judged the pitches of three BETA enterprise students and announced the winner at the Range store opening.

Budding business leaders have worked with one of Plymouth’s most successful entrepreneurs on a special competition to mark the opening of his 100th store.

Chris Dawson, founder and owner of The Range, agreed to team up with the Futures Entrepreneurship Centre at Plymouth University to judge a project designed to inspire its students.

The competition was open to those participating in Futures’ BETA Enterprise Programme, with the students having to write a one-page business plan based on a product or service they have been developing.

The top three students – Gideon Asamoah, William Cowie and Feyikunmi Ogunyeye – had to give a presentation of their plans to Mr Dawson at his company’s headquarters, with all three invited to the opening of The Range’s new store in Peverell, Plymouth, where he presented winner Gideon Asamoah with his prize.

Chris Dawson said:

“We asked the University to get involved with the launch of our 100th store as I was keen to have the next generation of budding entrepreneurs join me at this milestone opening. The three presentations were very professional and I could tell that each student was very passionate about their idea. Each idea had strong merits and I could see all three of them taking off in the next few years. I chose Gideon’s idea because I felt not only was it the strongest and most thorough pitch, but the concept has real potential to branch out into other aspects of their industry.”

Gideon, a BSc (Hons) Economics with Politics undergraduate, wrote the business plan for a personalised app or website designed to make event planning easier and more efficient, wherever you are in the UK.

After being selected as the winner, he said:

“The Range competition gave me the opportunity to showcase a vision which had been on my mind for over a year. I had started the groundwork but the competition allowed me to develop my presentation, networking and entrepreneur​ship skills. Meeting a billionaire and talking to him about my dreams, aspirations and goals made me realise anything is possible and that I will definitely be successful. I would recommend this competition to anyone who has an idea which they feel can change the world we live in.”

The BETA project initially provided a number of students with a grant of £1,500 to take an idea and explore avenues through which they might create their own small business. As well as the financial support, they receive individual mentoring to help them recognise and overcome potential pitfalls and develop enterprises with the ability to succeed and grow.

It is one of many initiatives created by the Futures Entrepreneurship Centre which aims to provide a creative and social space where entrepreneurship and social enterprise can flourish.

And in September 2015, it will launch a two-year intensive degree course – BSc (Hons) Business Enterprise and Entrepreneurship – focussed on giving graduates the expertise and experience with which to create and grow their own companies, or work effectively in larger organisations.

Dr Emily Beaumont, Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Programme Leader for the new course, said:

“The BETA Project and The Range competition are some of the many exciting opportunities that are available to students on the BSc (Hons) Business Enterprise and Entrepreneurship course. Through all this our aim is to provide students with the expertise to establish their own company, or confidently step into a range of entrepreneurial careers within organisations across the entire business world.”