Posted: Wed 1st Feb 2023
In the second phase of Small Business Goes Big, our competition in partnership with Adobe, hundreds of small businesses were vying for the chance to showcase their brands to retail buyers and industry experts.
To enter, the business owners created a short pitch video using Adobe Express – a free web and mobile app that allows anyone to make exceptional content in minutes without the need for any design experience.
Judges whittled down the entries to a shortlist of 15, then picked the five finalists who would pitch live to a panel of judges from top UK retail brands and outlets, including Boots, George at Asda, TikTok Shop and Rude Health.
All hoping to win a share of a £10,000 investment pot, the five brands delivered their pitches at the StartUp Show on 28 January in front of hundreds of entrepreneurs.
The two start-ups that impressed the most, each winning a £4,000 prize, were skincare brand Yendy Skin and portable menstrual hygiene company Cup Squared (Cup²).
Yendy Skin – £4,000 prize
Founded by London-based Julian Boaitey, Yendy Skin is a sustainable superfood skincare brand that sources its ingredients from female farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.
Julian launched the brand in 2021 with a mission to create high-performing skincare products by combining Africa's most powerful and nutrient-dense superfoods (such as shea butter and baobab) with scientifically proven active ingredients like hyaluronic acid – all while paying female farmers a living wage.
His products, which include Super Shea Butter moisturiser and Antioxidant Power Serum, are all made in the UK.
"I’ve worked in early-stage tech start-ups and also been involved in the social impact charity sector. Yendy Skin came from those two passions. Our key mission is about revolutionising the global beauty market with beautiful products that pay attention to their impact and pay a fair price to the communities that produce the raw ingredients.
"Pitching at the event was an amazing experience that means Yendy now has some useful investment and incredible advocates, including buyers from top retailers that will help us to grow our brand.
"Experiences like this are vital for brands like Yendy and we look forward to building a global brand and pitching to more buyers using Adobe Express and the tools and support from Enterprise Nation."
Kerry Murray, head of category development at Boots UK, said:
"Yendy Skin has an amazing ethos. We loved the packaging, the product – it just feels so good and it smells amazing. Skincare is one of the fastest growing categories… it’s so exciting. We really believe in Yendy’s brand and purpose."
Cup Squared – £4,000 prize
Electrical engineering graduate Kira Goode, 23, from Milton Keynes, is the co-founder of portable menstrual hygiene solution Cup Squared (Cup²). She developed the brand with Monica Wai while studying at the University of Bristol Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
There, the pair conducted research on the barriers that were preventing people who menstruate from taking up the menstrual cup as a solution. They developed their product in collaboration with Kira's 700,000 social media followers, and expect to begin manufacturing in the UK later this year.
The company's mission is to improve the daily experience people who menstruate have with their period products, while at the same time having a positive impact on the environment.
Cup Squared's portable cleaning and sterilising tool makes cleaning the cup in public toilets and sterilising the cup at home quicker, easier and more discreet.
"The pitching event was a really fun day and I was really surprised how many people were there to watch. As we're very early stage, this was about building connections so that when we launch, we have everything in place, including stockists."
Bertel Haugen, head of innovation and sustainability at Rude Health, said: "Cup Squared identified a really key, specific market and we think there's a good opportunity there for the brand."
Though Yendy Skin and Cup Squared emerged with the top prizes, they were up against tough competition on the day from technical netball short brand NETU, healthy breakfast delivery service Oatsu, and sustainable water vessel firm Breakbottle.
NETU – Lucy Harris, co-founder
Although netball is the UK's largest female team sport, with 1.4 million women and girls playing every week, kit options are few and far between. The male-dominated sportswear industry has failed to recognise their generic, often poor-quality male garments aren't fit for purpose and actually prevent women and girls from being active and playing sport.
NETU is a brand made for women, by women, to combat these problems, empowering women and girls from puberty to menopause to play the sports they love. We're passionate, resourceful and hard-working co-founders who have self-funded and grown the brand ourselves.
We've developed a sports short with anti-leak gusset technology for peace of mind, and sticky silicon bands to keep the shorts in place. The garment comes in different lengths to give women a choice. And in the current climate, we believe sustainability is non-negotiable, so we use recycled ghost fishing nets as the main material for our sports short.
Oatsu – Lauren O'Donnell, founder
In 2019, Lauren O'Donnell left the corporate world to start her plant-based breakfast delivery business Oatsu after struggling to find delicious, plant-based breakfasts in the stores near her office.
She launched the brand to help busy people enjoy a healthy, filling, convenient breakfast. Since 2020, she's made and delivered over 20,000 breakfasts to more than 2,000 customers across the UK.
Oatsu also demonstrated success in rapid grocery – it was Jiffy's top-selling breakfast ahead of Kellogg's, Weetabix and Belvita – and it's launching into more retailers throughout 2023.
Lauren's breakfasts have featured in the Metro, the Guardian and the Sun, and been endorsed by celebrities including Dragon's Den's Steven Bartlett.
Breakbottle – Jonny Cottom, founder
I'm a friendly, first-time founder pairing my passion for reusables with a problem-solving, entrepreneurial mindset to bring a new, practical reusable bottle to market. With a background in accounting, but a real passion for people and problem-solving, the leap to entrepreneurship felt very natural.
At Breakbottle, we want to make it easy for people to drink sustainably on the go. We make a high-performance reusable bottle that cleans easily and stays fresh, which means no more crazy clean-up routines, no more smelly bottles and no more single-uselessness.