A YOUNG up-and-coming entrepreneur secured a prize worth more than £50,000 as the winner of the Gatwick Diamond’s most exciting business competition.
Toby Gillett, 18, from Crawley Down and a pupil at Imberhorne School in East Grinstead, said he felt shocked and described it as unbelievable to be selected as the winner of Young Start-up Talent 2012.
His electronic book library business Sobiblio, which aims to be the Spotify or Netflix of the ebook world, was unveiled as the winner at a black tie event at Gatwick’s Copthorne Effingham Park on Thursday March 29.
The business competition, for 16-21 year olds who either live or study in the Gatwick Diamond, will give Toby a range of business tools, from free advertising space to mentoring, banking, accountancy and marketing services, to help grow his company.
Proudly holding his trophy and still wide-eyed after clambering off stage, he said: “I was so nervous up there on stage and it has not really hit me quite yet.
“You can probably tell from my face how shocked and happy I was to win.
“It is totally inspirational. Winning has given me so much confidence to carry my idea on,” he added.
After battling through the initial stages, Toby and the other four finalists had to pitch their ideas to the panel of judges, facing a dragon’s den style grilling from some of the area’s leading business leaders.
He explained: “You could see how nervous I was in the video and I thought afterwards that I had blown it.”
While he is excited to launch his business, it will have to wait a few weeks as he is busy revising for his Economics, Law and Politics A-levels, in between which he squeezes in rugby and working part-time at Waitrose.
Matthew Tyson, one of the judges and a director at Richard Place Dobson accountants, said: “I think Toby’s idea surprised us in that we had not seen anything like it before. The others were good ideas but Toby had something which I said to myself ‘why have I not seen that before?’
“It is very ambitious and could be the next Spotify or Netflix, so we will wait and see.”
While the four other groups of finalists were disappointed, university duo Sam Brown, 19, and Katie Furmston, 20, who pitched an anime and manga costume service, expressed their delight at getting so far, emphasising what they had learnt from the experience.
Sam said: “We have got exactly where we wanted to get. It was all a little bit nervous, but also quite exciting.”
Timothy Armoo, 17, from Christ’s Hospital School, whose online peer-to-peer student tutoring service did not make the cut, is one to watch in the future as his youth magazine encouraging entrepreneurship, Entrepreneur Xpress, launches next month.
Amy Potts, 18, from Burgess Hill and studying at Collyer’s College, and the trio of Steven Magazi, Francis Mutyaba and Omar Kabali, all 20 from Crawley, were the other two finalists.
The trio hoped to launch their Dream High record label, while Amy’s business idea offered bespoke printing and designing of sports day t-shirts.
Gary Shipton, editor in chief of this newspaper and one of the judges, said: “The range and quality of the ideas and presentations from all those who took part was extraordinary.
“We were all immensely impressed by what we saw and heard - this event serves to emphasise the great wealth of talent among young people. This newspaper has been proud to play its part in supporting them.”
Henry Smith, MP for Crawley, said: “It has been both a pleasure and a privilege to be part of such a valuable community based project such as Young Start-up Talent which brings together both business and education. I would like to congratulate all sponsors and supporters of the project.”
Young-Start up Talent, the joint brain child of Matt Turner and Lorraine Nugent, managing directors of Creative Pod and Media Word Waves respectively, made its debut in 2011.
Their success has led to an endorsement from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and further expansion, as they will be running a YST in Brighton and Hove, running concurrently with the Gatwick Diamond competition in 2013.
Two of the judges, Jane McGill, HR business partner for British Airways, and Marion Broughton, VP of avionics, training and simulation for Thales UK, both gave speeches during the event.
Last year’s winners James Seear and Tom Williams, whose business Recyclabook invites students to cash in on unwanted textbooks, were also on hand to share positive experiences from their first year.
Giving encouragement to all the finalists, James said: “The best thing to see is the finalists from last year who have decided that they’re going to go ahead with their ideas anyway.”
Other sponsors include McDonalds, Crawley Town Football Club, Heart Radio, Lloyds TSB, West Sussex County Times, Mid Sussex Times and the Crawley Observer.
For more information on Young Start-up Talent visit www.youngstartuptalent.co.uk