Business partners Stefan Weniger and John Sweeney have been named as the first entrepreneurs to receive funding from Anglia Ruskin University’s Enterprise Fellowship Scheme.Anglia Ruskin’s Centre for Enterprise Development and Research (CEDAR) has received a £50,000 donation to provide support for business people within Cambridgeshire.
The Enterprise Fellowship Scheme was launched in June, and Stefan and John are the first to secure financial backing, having been awarded £10,000 to help the development of their Streetsight business.
Streetsight’s idea is to sell advertising on roadside telecoms cabinets across the country – a business that is already booming in Stefan’s native Germany.
The 31-year-old, who now lives in Cambridge, explained: “John and I have always said that we wanted to start a business together and we began to explore this idea properly in 2008.
“We assumed that the cabinets would be owned by local authorities but after some investigation we discovered that they are in fact the property of telecom companies.
“We were very fortunate to speak to a senior person at one of the big telecom companies who loved our idea and we’ve now signed a contract with them. Of the company’s 600,000 cabinets, we estimate that between 10-20 per cent of them are in prime locations suitable for advertising.
“Part of our contract means that we must maintain the appearance of the cabinets’ exteriors by keeping them clean and free of graffiti. Despite having signed the contract, the money we have been awarded by CEDAR is invaluable because there are substantial costs in getting the business up and running.
“We have to apply for permission from the local council to advertise on each individual cabinet, and this costs around £150 per application. The £10,000 is fantastic but we’re still looking for more investment as we are keen to grow our business as quickly as we can.”
Judging panel member Dr Walter Herriot OBE was impressed by the progress already made by Stefan and John. He said: “The business idea is great and to have a contract with a major telecommunications company is the real achievement.
“Now Stefan and John need to ensure they get the planning permission required for each cabinet and this is where the Enterprise Fellowship Scheme can help out by providing £10,000 towards the costs of planning applications and appeals.”
From a total of 30 applications, the panel decided to support five proposals. In addition to Streetsight, four other business ideas are receiving mentoring on aspects including sales, marketing, finance and business planning. The aim is to progress these ideas to a stage where the entrepreneurs will pitch again to the panel later this autumn.
Professor Lester Lloyd-Reason, Director of CEDAR and Chair of the judging panel, said: “To get such a positive response in terms of both numbers and quality was very encouraging and we will work with the finalists to help them turn their ideas into reality.”
In addition to Dr Walter Herriot OBE and Professor Lester Lloyd-Reason, other members of the judging panel include Peter Taylor of TTP and Dr Geoffrey Butlin of TrancenData Europe Ltd.