£10k prizes for winners of University of Leeds enterprise contest

James Wilkinson and Marie Stenton
James Wilkinson and Marie Stenton
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A textiles graduate and product design student have received £10,000 of prizes as winners of the 2015 Sir Peter Thompson Enterprise Award at the University of Leeds.

Marie Stenton, 24, and James Wilkinson, 23, received £5,000 each from entrepreneur and angel investor Sir Peter in a contest run by the University’s start-up service Spark.

Ms Stenton, who graduated in 2013, runs a high-end women’s fashion and accessories label bearing her name. The designer now plans to work full-time on the venture, having launched while working for a lingerie firm.

She said: “It’s a nerve-wracking decision to leave the security of paid employment to concentrate fully on your own venture, but knowing that such a renowned entrepreneur like Sir Peter Thompson believes in me has given me the confidence to take that step.”

Mr Wilkinson won Spark’s 2015 business plan competition with a product for the event production industry. The prize money will be used to refine the technology.

He also secured an entrepreneur fellowship from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and attended the 2015 MIT Global Startup Workshop.

Sir Peter, who has backed the award since 2009, said: “When I see how hard these bright young people work and the brilliant ideas they generate, and see the drive they have to run their own businesses, it’s a great feeling to be able to give something back.”