Two Forest School students from Horsham finished as runners-up in a business competition for 16-25-year-olds in the Gatwick Diamond last week.
Freddie Seagrave and Lewis Harvey, both 16, were the youngest ever finalists of Young Start-up Talent, and at the competition’s showcase event at Lingfield Park Hotel last Monday they spoke of the skills they had gained from taking part.
Freddie said: “The business world is a lot more competitive and a lot more difficult to generate interest.
“But we have definitely improved in terms of talking in front of people in pressurised situations.”
Lewis added: “Win or lose it’s the experience that counts.”
The winner was Henry Rogers, from Edenbridge, Kent, a pupil at East Grinstead’s Sackville College, who beat off four other ideas to secure a prize of £50,000 worth of business tools.
His idea ‘Hot Iron’, a blacksmithing business producing products from gates to ornamental heart hooks, impressed judges to win the competition.
After receiving the trophy Henry said: “It’s just amazing. I loved the process and what a fantastic thing to participate in.
“Tonight has been nerve-racking, but it was just a great competition and I’m just amazed I could be a part of Young Start-up Talent.
“My family have been incredibly supportive throughout and they have helped me a lot with the presentation and speeches.
“I look forward to increasing the business and networking with lots of other people and seeing the business grow.”
He started out at 13 by completing a City and Guilds Welding course after school, and attended taster days at Plumpton College to pick up the basics.
He then contacted a blacksmith to help him get set up and saved up to buy his own equipment.
Henry’s mum Helen Rogers said: “I’m very proud of him. I was proud of him just entering and the idea of him winning it’s just amazing.
“He showed an interest and went to the night classes and was the youngest there by about 30 years and did the eight week course.
“The mere fact he had got to the final five was amazing and to win is just incredible.”
Asked why they chose Henry, Matthew Tyson, one of the judges and a director at chartered accountants Richard Place Dobson, said: “He took an opportunity presented to him and made the most of it and he showed his creativity which really shone through.”
A video of the five groups of finalists pitching to judges in a Dragons’ Den environment, presented by Crawley MP Henry Smith, was shown at the final before the winner was announced.
Other ideas that fell short included Alex Redfearn’s bespoke skateboard business and Ashlie Regan’s company selling perfumes.
The last runners-up were Peter Ross, 21, from Southgate, Nathaniel Hill, 21 from Tilgate, and Nick Jackson, 22, from Horsham, whose business Cite.ac aims to simplify the process of academic referencing through easy to use software.
Peter said: “One of the big things is speaking to influential people. We have talked to accountants, to the MP of Crawley.
“It’s those conversations and that’s what we will take from this.”
All the finalists were given a free overnight stay at Bloc Hotel, a new hotel opening in Gatwick later this month.
Young Start-up Talent was founded in the Gatwick Diamond four years ago by Matt Turner and Lorraine Nugent, managing directors of Creative Pod and Media Word Waves respectively.
It has branched out to run parallel competitions in Brighton and Hove, East Kent, and West Kent, and later this year will launch in Surrey and Manchester.
Matt and Lorraine also received a ringing endorsement from the Government’s Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills last year, and will also appear in an eight-part fly in the wall television documentary, with filming set to start in July.
Last year’s Young Start-up Talent winner Sam French hailed Henry’s success, but also encouraged the runners-up to continue to develop their ideas and attend the YST events to build up a network of contacts.
He added: “It’s not all about the winners, it’s about the people who did not win as well.”
The Crawley Observer, Mid Sussex Times and West Sussex County Times are among the competition’s sponsors, which include British Airways, Thales UK, McDonalds, Crawley Town Football Club, Young Enterprise South East, and Gatwick Airport.
Video contributed by Young Start-up Talent. Credit Josh Smith and James French.