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Agency connecting empty nesters with working families wins £4000 GradVenture prize


The runner up prize was won by SoJo, a Deliveroo-style start-up, for clothing repairs and alterations.

Photo of Gradventure winner, Adele Aitchinson

A revolutionary childcare agency, GrandNanny which employs mid-life empty nesters to provide working families with childcare scooped the £4000 prize in the University of London’s (UoL) version of Dragon’s Den for student entrepreneurs – GradVenture.

Led by King’s College London (KCL) MSc Gerontology student Adele Aitchinson, the agency addresses the 2021 competition themes of building community and supporting wellbeing, which was open to students from across UoL’s 17 member institutions.

Explained Adele: “One of the biggest difficulties for working families where both parents work is finding reliable ‘wrap around’ childcare for pre and after school. At the same time the pandemic has heavily impacted working women over 50, especially those only wanting to work part-time.

“GrandNanny addresses a number of issues. Families want long-term reliable childcare and loneliness is a big issue for our employees.”

The judges loved the intergenerational aspect of the agency and that while it was a mission-driven business it also raised revenue.

Runner-up and winner of £1,000 to invest in the business was KCL graduate Josephine Philips who leads SoJo – a Deliveroo-style start-up, but for clothing repairs and alterations.

Customers download an app which puts them in touch with a local tailor and garments are picked up and returned by cycle courier.

The judges praised the well-designed app and rated it a great way to engage younger consumers with more sustainable fashion. The service is already proving highly popular in London’s zone one and two with further expansion expected this year.

The judges panel consisted of: Brigette Bard, founder and CEO of Biosure; Sharmadean Reid MBE, founder and CEO, Beautystack; Anna Brailsford, CEO, Code First: Girls; Kate Daubney Director of The Careers Group, University of London.

University of London Vice-Chancellor, Professor Wendy Thomson, said: “It was a pleasure to see the great entrepreneurial ideas pitched by the finalists at Gradventure.  They stood their ground in the face of the judges’ challenges.”

Professor Michael Hayman co-founder of Seven Hills, who moderated the virtual event added: “Entrepreneurship used to be something students talked about and studied. Now it is something they do.”

Kate Daubney said: “The future is in socially conscientious hands with these innovative, resilient and enterprising students, and the diversity of our group of finalists continued to challenge the perception that successful entrepreneurs are from limited profiles and backgrounds.

“Events such as GradVenture also serve to demonstrate that entrepreneurship is a viable and exciting career choice for young people and graduates, both as a first choice and as part of a portfolio of employment activities, despite the economic fallout of the pandemic which has affected this demographic disproportionately.”