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Worcester Student Nominated for Prestigious National Business Award

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A Worcester Business School student will compete with some of the other best young entrepreneurs in the country for a prestigious Business award next week.

Rowena Simmons, from Droitwich, runs Black & White Boutique, an online jewellery company which she co-founded as an 18 year-old and which had a turnover of £86,000 in its first year.

Having already won a regional heat, Rowena and her business partner are in the running for the national Best Digital company prize at the 2014 Lloyds Bank Enterprise Awards, the final of which will be held in Birmingham on Wednesday.

The 19 year-old, who has just begun the second year of her Business, Finance and Entrepreneurship degree at Worcester, grew up as part of a business-minded family – her father also owns his own company – but she says she is still surprised at her early, extraordinary success.

“I have always had the ambition to start my own business, probably since I was around ten years-old,” explains Rowena. “I grew up with business knowledge and experience in the family, and it is something that I am used to.

“However, I have definitely been surprised with my success so far for Black & White Boutique. We specialise in female costume jewellery; I started out by selling a couple of bracelets to friends at school, and we are now selling to 35 different counties with a turnover of £86,000 in the first year.

“Since actually starting my own company and seeing it grow so quickly, I realised the potential. Over the past couple of months I have been looking at setting up multiple companies and it is something I would like to do full time, after I finish university.

Worcester Business School’s Business, Finance and Entrepreneurship course offers students the chance to engage with employers and undertake a variety of modules geared towards developing job-ready career skills. Rowena says that the course has allowed her to develop as a businesswoman.

“When I was researching courses, I found that Worcester was one of the only universities to offer Entrepreneurship, whilst allowing you to study Finance or other related modules.

“The course has allowed me to research further into my business market and, through the Business Law module, gain an insight into the legal aspect of things and how to apply that to the business.

“The University has been very supportive regarding my commitments. It isn’t easy studying full-time and running a business; in fact, everyone else at the Lloyds Enterprise Awards has already graduated, and they couldn’t believe what we had achieved whilst juggling our time between studying and running the business.

“My lecturers are also a great help. Communicating with people who are experts within their field has allowed me to develop my knowledge.”

The Lloyds Bank Enterprise awards attract thousands of entries from across the country each year. They are designed to recognise and reward the best emerging businesses and business people in Britain.

Black & White Boutique was one of nine companies shortlisted for the Central region’s Best Digital business award, and will compete against the other regional winners for the £10,000 prize at Edgbaston Cricket Club next week.

Rowena believes that, whatever the outcome, this achievement is just the start of what promises to be an extremely successful career.

“The Lloyds Bank Enterprise Awards have opened up lots of new avenues for me,” she says. “I have met with some great people with different business ideas and made lots of new connections which will help me in the future.

“After the Central region ceremony, one of the judges told us that we won the award because of the way we had taken such a simple idea and created something so different. Our web presence represents a large company, not just a small business operation out of a bedroom.

“Within the next year, we would like to open pop-up shops and hire someone full-time to help our offline presence. We are also planning to employ an intern, to provide them with an insight into the every-day running of a business.

“The idea of being my own boss is what drives me. Also, the feeling of achievement I get from knowing that people around the world are wearing my designs and know who we are, is what makes it all worth it.”

To find out more about Black & White Boutique, visit http://blackwhiteboutique.com/

Photo courtesy of Hayley Masom.