Student entrepreneurs praised

Ronald Katamba, studying Business Management at Kingston University, beat eight other students in a Dragons’ Den style contest after impressing the judges with his plan to offer online surveillance of public and commercial buildings. He joins 20 winners from round the country on a ‘business boot camp’ at Microsoft next spring and has the chance to win £2000.

Among the judges was Dragons’ Den winner James Seddon, who appeared on the BBC programme in 2006 and has since raised £100,000 to launch his Eggxactly water-free egg cooker.

Seddon praised the student presentations. “This event was a very good idea because it makes people think about  business in a positive way,” he said. His own television experience showed him that making a pitch can boost an entrepreneur’s confidence in their idea. Seddon admits his own product demo on TV was “disastrous” but he still got offers of investment from Dragons Richard Farleigh and Peter Jones.

After winning the contest, 19 year-old Ronald, from Newham, East London, took away a £150 prize. “I didn’t expect it at all. I’m really, really pleased,” he said. His Vigilant Force Security Service was founded with a fellow Kingston student.

The company was registered three months ago and has yet to start trading. But Ronald said he wants to invest up to £3000 in a set of four cameras to position around a building his company would be protecting.

He is planning to use his student grant and loan to pay for the kit when the funds come through in January. He said he wasn’t worried about not having money for his living expenses. “We’ll definitely manage. I’ll sell my car if I have to.”

It was that kind of attitude which impressed another of the judges, Donald Sweeting, a business development manager at Information Horizons, a London-based IT training company. “Ronald’s enthusiasm was infectious,” he said. “His chances of succeeding are only limited by how much he’s willing to put into the project himself.” Sweeting said he had been self-employed for over 20 years, and insisted, “there is no such thing as a bad idea. As long as you apply yourself, you can change your universe.”

The competition was organised by the business and Government-funded Make Your Mark campaign, with the roadshow sponsored by Microsoft and the final of the competition will be held in the spring.