Archives for category: inspiration

Our Intern at University of Strathclyde, Stephanie Warne recently caught up with SIE Entrepreneur, Victoria Hamilton for an insight into the life of a young entrepreneur. 

Victoria is the founder of VH Innovation Ltd. and the product Recoil Protective Kneepads   Since meeting SIE back in 2013, the business has gone from strength to strength, and Victoria has just won the New Entrepreneur of The Year award at the 2016 Business Woman Scotland Awards.


What have you been up to since we last spoke to you in summer 2015?

When we last spoke I was just about to place the order with our local manufacturer in Edinburgh. It took about 6-7months to actually get the moulds ready for production – there was a lot of trial and error there because one of the moulds was pretty complicated to manufacture. We finally managed to get them ready in March 2016 and I gave the OK to print off a batch of 500. We got the website updated and finally launched on the 15th of June this year. Then Toolstop, which is a Glasgow based distributor, came on board in mid-August and started retailing Recoil through their online website. We are now also on amazon and currently negotiating with a DIY chain so fingers crossed that takes off!

Having just recently launched Recoil Kneepads officially, what has changed in the day-to-day work that you do?

The biggest thing I would say is responding to customer emails -I try to reply as soon as possible. That’s what I tend to use my mornings for. Another thing as well, which is actually quite funny: McLaren Plastics is the manufacturer that did our first 500 sets but then being a start-up, I decided that I would assemble the full 500 sets myself because I didn’t properly trust anyone else. I wanted to make sure they were perfect and that I fully understood the process myself. So I got 500 sets sent to my mum and dads garage and I’ve spent a good couple of week assembling them! I do now fully understand how they are assembled and I make sure the quality of each and every one single one sent out is spot on so if something goes wrong I know it’s not down to an assembly mistake.

Product Designer Vicky Hamilton from Gourock, Inverclyde who has revolutionised kneepads with her patent pending double-layer shock absorbing kneepad 'Recoil'. Hamilton is pictured at her Dad's workshop with the prototype kneepads. Photography by Julie Howden

What has been the highlight over your past 3-year journey with Recoil Kneepads?

It’s a really difficult question to pin down to just one particular event. See when everything is so new you just think “oh wow that’s amazing!” for everything. Like when I did all the testing right back at the start I was like “oh wow that’s amazing it actually worked!”, and then seeing the moulds ready for production I was again like “wow that’s actually my product” and again getting the first sample off the tool. It’s so difficult to pin down to one moment but I’d probably say getting the first product off the mould was extremely cool.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

I love the fact that everything in the business is a direct output of you so whether your business succeeds or fails really comes down to your own determination and drive. It is hard work and not for everybody but you just have to push on and what you put into it is what you’re going to get out of it. So if you don’t put a lot in, you’re not going to get much out. If you put everything into it then you’ll get a fantastic amount of achievement and self -worth and it’s just a really good feeling when things work and you know it’s worked purely because of you. I did a summer placement once in a corporate firm and you wouldn’t get that same feeling if something worked well– yes it’s a good feeling but it’s not just down to you, it’s down to loads of other people, a process and people above you whereas in a start-up if something works well it’s all down to you.

Final Question, what does the future hold for VH Innovation?

The plan at the moment is to continue to increase distribution networks in the UK. Then we’re also looking into starting to sell in the US and Australia, hopefully next year!

If you want to find out more about VH Innovation or get your hands on a pair of Recoil Kneepads, visit Victoria’s website.



Our enterprise competitions are back for another academic year, today we’re looking at a real success story…from entering our Fresh Ideas competition to running a successful business.

If you have an idea, then FRESH IDEAS is for you. From October to January EVERY MONTH you’ll have the chance to win a cash prize to help you develop your idea into a real business venture.

Toni Roddie, founder of womenswear label, Saunt & Sinner entered Fresh Ideas in 2012, whilst studying Fashion Design at Gray’s School of Art. During the competition, she took part in Start-Up Day which provides an opportunity for competition finalists to learn from experts on how to improve ideas and develop valuable skills including how to successfully pitch. Toni went on to win third place in the competition was also introduced to SIE’s Business Innovation Advisor, Dawn Shand. Dawn helped Toni to write a business plan and acted as a mentor.


Following her Fresh Ideas win, Toni was given additional support from Robert Gordon University’s business incubator programme, and secured £10,000 of seed money from a private investor.

Toni participated in the pilot year of Fashion Foundry, a programme of events, workshops, advice and bespoke mentoring for Scottish fashion designers run by Cultural Enterprise Office. She also took part in Entrepreneurial Spark’s business accelerator which includes free office space.

Toni launched her first capsule collection, The Broken Doll in March 2013. Since then, Saunt & Sinner has been worn by celebrities such as Emeli Sandé, Paloma Faith and Sophie Kennedy.  Toni was also nominated for a Scottish Fashion Award in 2013 in the Young Scottish Designer of the Year category.

Do you have a business idea and fancy following in Toni’s footsteps?  She has this piece of advice:

“Just go for it. There’s so much opportunity in Scotland. There are so many people out there who want to help and support you. Network as much as you can. Seek out funding and mentoring”.

Don’t worry if you don’t know a lot about business. That’s what we’re here for! The process is designed to help you develop your business know-how and show you how to turn a good idea into a successful new business. So even if you’re not a winner, you’ll still benefit from our help and be in a great position to take the next steps.

Monthly winners and highly commended entrants will have the chance to participate in Exploration Day (worth £150) in February and enter the next phase of the competition. The final top 5 entries, each winning up to £1000, will be announced at a special Awards Event in March 2017.

New this year, there will also be special awards recognising the best ideas meeting Scottish Government priorities. For 2016-17, these include: Healthcare, Food & Drink, and the Creative Industry. Apply online here.

Want the full story? Read Toni’s case study here.



We’ve come to the end of the 2015-16 academic year and what a busy year it’s been! This week we’re reflecting on the past year and rounding up the highlights in preparation for the year ahead.

The new SIE interns started in September 2015 in institutions all across Scotland including six of Scotland’s colleges. They were busy championing entrepreneurship, promoting our enterprise competitions and hosting local events throughout the year.

Also in September, we invited students to join us at RNIB’s Techshare Europe 2015 along with 300 attendees including Samsung, Google and Apple! We ran a live innovation lab over the two days, where students worked directly with blind and partially-sighted people and industry experts to generate creative solutions to challenges.

Our competitions kicked off for another year with Fresh Ideas launching in October. There are four chances to win with prizes of £500, £250 & £100 each month (Oct – Jan). All monthly winners & highly commended entries had the chance to attend Exploration Day in February 2016 and pitch for a top prize of £1,000

fresh ideas

In March we held our Student Enterprise Summit in Edinburgh with hundreds of students, entrepreneurs and members of the support community coming together under one roof.  It was a day packed with inspiration and advice! We heard real-life business stories and put questions to the entrepreneurs who have been there and done it. Throughout the day, students were invited to browse our enterprise fair and pose for selfies in the photo booth.


The Summit also incorporated the SIE Annual Awards where we crowned our Interns of the Year and announced the winners of Fresh ideas and New Ventures.

This year also saw the launch of our brand new social enterprise competition, I’m an Innovator. We launched back in February, with students entering their ideas online, and being selected by judges and invited to a one day workshop, and then to a residential Bootcamp where they had the opportunity to improve their enterprise skills and pitch to judges for £1000.  Read more about the I’m an Innovator Bootcamp and winners here.

We also launched four new case studies in the ‘I’m an Entrepreneur’ series. You can see videos from MindMate, Toni (Saunt & Sinner), Amanda (All Day Designs) and Geared App as well as posters and written case studies here. All are packed full of inspiring stories of how they transformed their ideas into business ventures.

IAE 2016

Phew, It’s been a busy one! As this academic year comes to an end, we are reflecting on all that’s been achieved by SIE entrepreneurs and looking forward to welcoming our brand new team of interns in the coming weeks – make sure to look out for them on campus!

Eilidhblackandwhite.jpgEilidh Price graduated from the University of Dundee in 2014, with a degree in Product Design. She won the Young Innovators Challenge 2014 which is run by SIE on behalf of the Scottish Government. Her winning idea was ‘Glow’ – an early warning alarm system to detect low blood sugars in children with diabetes.  She now works for Filament PD, a Product Design Engineering company based in Glasgow. We caught up with Eilidh to find out how she went from Young Innovator to a graduate career.

Coming out of University, the Young Innovators Challenge (YIC) was one of the best experiences that I could have asked for, and probably how I got my graduate job. It introduced me to the real world of design and business – which until then, I had chosen to bury my head in the sand about.

I learned a lot from YIC that I can apply to my job every day – for example patents and IP, available funding avenues and how to network. When it came to getting a job in the ‘real world’, I think the most valuable skill I learned was how to pitch an idea, as it boosted my confidence. I used to be terrified of public speaking  – shaking, stuttering, even forgetting to breathe – which once led to me nearly passing out whilst standing at the front of a class…

This unhealthy cycle continued until University, when I realized something – I know what I’m talking about. It gets much easier when you remind yourself that this is your product, this is your idea, your dream. You are the most knowledgeable person to talk about this, so just tell people what you know! You also have to remember that it all happened in some sort of order, which helps when you come to pitching your idea because you can tell a story. You just need to structure your pitch to tell the story in the most effective way. Explain the process; where your inspiration came from, what the problem is, how you are going to solve it, you already know the answers.

Pitching gets easier the more you do it, so keep practicing. Remember to keep it short and sweet, and pause in between each ‘chapter’ of your story to let your audience soak up what you have said. And most importantly, please remember to breathe…


Learning how to stand up and pitch my idea really helped when it came to interviews. Similar to pitching a product, I was pitching myself. I told my story and how I could solve their problem and why they should choose me.  The project I pitched at YIC was my most professional portfolio piece, so I took the prototype I had built with me and I pitched my project in the interview. I felt confident and that is invaluable when you are in an interview situation.

I am now studio manager at Filament Pd, and I love my job. We get a huge range of projects through the door, from multinational companies to local start-ups and SME’s.  We offer a broad range of services to take customers from ideas to finished products and have had the pleasure of working with SIE Alumni, such as Amanda Day (All Day Designs), Michael Corrigan and David Kellock (Trtl) and fellow 2014 Young innovator Challenge winner Chris McCann (Snap 40).

Interested in what Eilidh and the team at Filament Pd are doing to help entrepreneurs? Visit their website –

filament pd strap

Want to know more about how SIE can help you to get some all-important skills which are handy for securing a graduate job? Visit our website –

Innovator Logo_solid black compressed

Last week, we started a new blog series looking at what the SIE Interns get up to once they’ve finished their internship with us and university/college life ends. This week, we’re sharing an update on former University of Strathclyde intern, Rebecca Pick who is now the Founder of Pick Protection. Our current Strathclyde intern, Vanessa, spoke to Rebecca to find out more…



When were you a SIE Intern?
I was an intern during my 3rd year at the University of Strathclyde and I heard about it from the previous year’s intern. She said that it was a great opportunity for those wanting to get started in entrepreneurship so I was eager to apply for the position. I would always see her dotting around campus in her orange t-shirt and thought it would be great fun to give it a try.

What did you do as an Intern?
I did a whole range of things whilst being an intern. Probably the best one was when I teamed up with the Glasgow Caledonian intern to organise a pub quiz. It was really good because we managed to get people from both our universities to attend. We also got the people that were just at the pub anyway. It worked really well and was loads of fun.

What was the best thing about being an SIE Intern?
The best thing about being an intern was getting to talk to people. Whenever you were promoting SIE you would hear people’s ideas and it was really interesting and started sparking my own thinking. Also, I got to know the people at Strathclyde Entrepreneurial Network and if it wasn’t for SIE that never would have happened. That has led to lots more opportunities. Being an intern also looks really good to future employers as it shows you’re proactive during your time at university.


What have you been doing since?
When the internship finished I was then eligible to apply for competitions within SIE so I applied and managed to win the Young Innovators Challenge. That gave me enough money to start my business, Pick Protection. Since then I’ve really been focusing on getting my business up and running.

So, what exactly is Pick Protection?
Pick Protection is bringing a new personal attack and lone working alarm to the market. It’s basically a really small, discrete alarm that, once activated, can send the police your exact location, send a text to your friends and family letting them know. It means everyone knows about the situation and can get to you as quickly as possible. It also records the dialogue, which can be used in court to get a conviction if necessary. We have managed to raise investments and are hoping to launch the product in late spring.

Rebecca Pick speaking

What’s the best thing about running your own business?
I think the main thing is that it’s really exciting. There is so much potential and I don’t know what’s going to happen whereas in a graduate scheme that wouldn’t be the case. I get to do whatever I want, when I want. No one really tells me what to do so that’s quite nice. It’s also given me the freedom to bring something to market that I’m really passionate about and that will make a difference. It definitely takes a lot more time but it’s a lot more rewarding.

Would you encourage other students to apply for the internship/become an entrepreneur?
Yes! Definitely, I would tell them to do both. Being an SIE intern creates a really good platform for you to launch your own business. You build a great network and you have lots of people to go to for advice. It also makes you aware of all the resources available to you because you have been telling everyone else about them. All that together gives you the confidence to go start a business. So, go and do both!

If you would like to become an SIE Intern for the next academic year, visit our website for all of the details! For more on Rebecca’s story, visit her case study on the SIE website. 

This article first appeared in Ignite Magazine, Issue 14.


Last week, we held our 2016 Student Enterprise Summit in Edinburgh with hundreds of students, entrepreneurs and members of the support community coming together under one roof. We invited our friend, Christopher Sladdin, to join us and blog about his experience of the Summit. Christopher is a student at The University of Edinburgh and is the founder of The Startup Interviews.

When was the last time you saw students so animated and concentrated at the end of an afternoon of talks? This was the case at last week’s Student Enterprise Summit, hosted by the Scottish Institute for Enterprise at Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms. Exactly as I remember it from last year, the day made for an inspiring day of learning, networking, and supporting each other for the three hundred or so student entrepreneurs who gathered from across Scotland’s university scene. Today, I want to recap on some of the day’s highlights, from the guest speakers to this year’s competition winners.


The afternoon’s first speaker was an engineer, chartered accountant, and entrepreneur – quite the combination. Becky Woodhouse, who runs PURE Spa & Beauty described her experience of setting up her business in Lothian Road, and her subsequent expansion into Ocean Terminal, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and beyond. Today, the business operates from six locations around the UK, but Becky’s ultimate aim is to take her business global (and she’s going to make that happen, apparently), an ambition which was sure to tell the assembled crowd that, should they put their minds to it, they can accomplish anything as entrepreneurs. “Have a vision and a plan,” she said, “but remember there’s always something better coming round the corner.”

Second up at the summit was Christopher McCann, winner of SIE’s New Ventures Competition in 2015 and founder of snap40. As I’ve already interviewed Chris, I’m not going to regurgitate his story (you can read it here), rather I’m going to highlight what I learnt about Chris and his startup which I didn’t already know. Since I first met Chris, he’s relocated his business into new offices in Edinburgh, and begun clinical trials of snap40’s revolutionary medical technology which, he hopes, will save countless lives by predicting whether or not patient health will deteriorate in the near future, before it deteriorates. He shared ten things which he learnt, many of which you’ll find by searching for #SIEsummit2016 on Twitter, but perhaps of greatest importance was his view of advice, something any entrepreneur will agree is in abundant supply;  “Everyone’s advice applies to their very narrow experience, and everyone’s experiences are different. So listen to advice, and trust yourself to agree with or disagree with bits of what they say.”


Half way through the afternoon’s activities, the Scottish Institute for Enterprise announced this year’s Fresh Ideas and New Ventures Competition winners, always a highlight for the assembled crowd, and the end of a nervous wait for those awaiting the outcome of their applications and pitches. This year saw Anna Renouf, a third-year student at the University of the Highlands and Islands take the £1,000 top prize in the Fresh Ideas competition for her design of a new horse saddle, designed to improve comfort, safety, and performance.



In the New Ventures competition — which focuses on more developed business ideas — a series of awards were presented to both undergraduates and postgraduate students. This year saw Sandy Enoch win the Innovation Forum Award as part of the category for his business, Robotical, which designs affordable robots for education. He was followed by the teams from MindMate and EuroBiotix, both firmly established SIE start-ups, who took home £1,000 and £5,000 for their ideas respectively. And taking the top spot at this year’s awards, worth £10,000 thanks to the Bank of Scotland, was Paul McGinley, whose Pyramid WiFi product is the world’s first plug-and-play unblocker. The recent University of Strathclyde graduate believes that he can offer a simpler, faster, and more accessible way to unblock the internet and legally access subscription content from anywhere in the world.


After a short break, the afternoon’s sessions resumed, with keynotes by Andrew Dobbie of MadeBrave and Carol Smillie of Diary Doll. Andrew stressed the importance of developing your own brand through which to tell your story and sell your product. In what was a laughter-filled session, he shared his own brand at MadeBrave, a Glasgow-based design branding agency which he started with just £1,000 in savings and a newborn son, who features heavily in the company’s marketing. Whether it was stunts involving helicopters, or photoshopping Richard Branson on his son’s body to stand out from the crowd before an awards ceremony, it was instantly clear from his keynote as to the type of company MadeBrave aspired to be, something all startups should make clear, but which many fail to do.

To close this year’s summit, after a short employability panel took students’ questions on entrepreneurship and careers post-graduation, Carol Smillie, the TV personality and now the co-founder of the award winning startup Diary Doll took to the stage. Now, as a male, I have no use for her product — women and girl’s pants with a waterproof panel which prevents embarrassing leaks caused by periods or urinary incontinence — but that isn’t to say her presentation was any less interesting. Quite the opposite in fact; Carol told of how she had first come to develop her product, breaking down conversational barriers about women’s needs below the waistline, and how she’d wrongly assumed that showcasing her product to the world would be easy for a former television presenter. She also discussed the fantastic support she’s received from the Scottish business community, including working within Entrepreneurial Spark’s hatcheries, which proved a major source of determination and advice.

Carol Smillie.jpg

Bang on the dot of 5pm, the 2016 Student Enterprise Summit came to an end and the three hundred or so students left to catch their buses back to the far reaches of the country, inspired and with a renewed sense of confidence to go out and develop their own ideas. It’ll be fascinating to see who returns next year with a chance of winning SIE’s competitions.

If you want to see all of the pictures from the day, visit our Facebook page. You can find all of the tweets from the day on our Storify board. For more from Christopher, follow him on Twitter: @SladdinCJ.


In February, our Enterprise Programme Director, Ann Davidson, opened the LEVEL-UP! Conference at the University of Aberdeen. She challenged attendees to think about future proofing their degrees and what skills they would need to impress employers. Ann also facilitated an afternoon workshop looking at “what innovation will look like in the future?”. 
We asked Berit Braun, a 1st year IR and Spanish Student and part of the conference team, to give us an insight to what happened at the event.

Initially set up to supplement the professional and personal development services in place at the University of Aberdeen already, LEVEL-UP! soon evolved into an intense two-day practical skills boot camp with talks, workshops, networking activities and a panel discussion.

About 120 delegates attended the event and benefited from the expertise that our speakers from all over the UK and Europe shared with them. Specific workshops with a lot of direct interaction between speakers and the participants allowed the conference to provide everyone attending with functional tools and hands-on techniques rather than generic advice.

The perfect start was given on the Saturday morning with a talk by SIE’s own Ann Davidson, who provided some answers to a seemingly insoluble dilemma: If the jobs we will have one day don’t even exist yet, how can we prepare for them? It turns out, simply being ‘adaptable’ is not enough anymore – it is all about being ‘agile’, prepared and ready for everything. With this in mind, delegates went into the first workshops, which included the Benefits and Practicalities of Mentoring, Mindfulness and its Role in Everyday Life, How to Develop Confidence and Establishing a Business. Further guidance and inspiration on how to motivate oneself and set goals was given after lunch by amputee mountaineer Jamie Andrew – a talk that a great number of delegates mentioned to be a highlight of the conference. For the second workshop session, delegates chose from the following topics: Pitching, Written Communication, Preparing a Winning CV, Intercultural Communication and finally Future Proofing your Degree/Skills held by Ann Davidson.


The second day began with an interactive talk on body language and voice management by Mike Carter, one of the UK’s leading experts on the topic, after which delegates felt prepared to attend their third and final workshop – on offer was Improvised Speech, Pitching, Problem Solving, Personal Branding through Social Media and Career Development. Rounding off a successful weekend, the panel discussion featured three young entrepreneurs who tackled the issue of how to be successful and execute ideas. Panelists shared their personal experiences and it became clear that two things are needed: courage to actually act on ideas and a humbling willingness to fail. Encouraged and with a strengthened set of skills, delegates re-entered ‘the real world’.

Someone labelled LEVEL-UP! as the “most useful weekend of my life”, but the success of the conference made another thing clear: PEOPLE ARE AWESOME! – And when they get together, share ideas and collaborate, magic happens!

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For more on the SIE Innovation and Education programme, visit our website.

We were delighted to sponsor the University of Glasgow’s second TEDx event last month; TEDxGU15 Conference. SIE Informatics Intern for the West, Tomasz Sadowski, attended the event on behalf of SIE. 

The build-up to the event started with a successful launch party at The Grosvenor in Glasgow on the 25th February with keynote speakers, entertainment, food and drinks.

The main event took place on the 7th of March at the University. This year’s theme was ‘Crossing the Rubicon’ and was attended by around 100 people. Speakers included;

  • Adrian Buzatu (ATLAS experiment, CERN)
  • Mairi Damer (founder of WORD UP Communications)
  • Peter McGinty (Asteroids and Space Debris Researcher)
  • Miriam Wilson (People & Planet)
  • James Schmidt (Digital Project Officer, Wheatley Group)
  • Debora Buba Feza Kayembe (Lawyer and Human Rights campaigner)
  • Chris Moore (Director of Trick Creative)

TEDxGUPhoto credit: Official TEDxUniversityOfGlasgow Facebook page

Speakers spoke about unpredictable situations where they had to use creativity and intuition when taking the next step; a situation often seen when people create their own businesses. Chris Moore delivered a fantastic talk on entrepreneurship and how important determination and effort are when you start up a company.

The day was a great success with an inspirational atmosphere. Attendees were curious about the topics and it was a great opportunity to spread the word about the work that SIE does.

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