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Royal Dutch Shell Plc .com: Bikeshed design a winner for young entrepreneurs

By Jonathan Guthrie,Enterprise Editor

Published: June 22 2006 03:00 | Last updated: June 22 2006 03:00

Two twenty-somethings have created a business worth just under £1m after 10 months’ trading by turning the traditionally dilapidated structure that is the bikeshed into an elegant piece of urban design.

Last night this feat of reinvention also won John Steward and Natalie Connell the title Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneurs of the Year, in one of the UK’s best-established contests for precocious wealth creators.

The brainwave of Mr Steward, 24, was to create an aluminium stand shaped like the bell of a trumpet, sporting grooves into which cycles could be slotted vertically to save space. Judges said the product represented British industrial design at its best and had scope to sell worldwide. Rachel Lowe, a board games entrepreneur and judging panel member, said: “The business, Built from Scratch, has turned a need into a work of art.”

Mr Steward, who invented the Cyclepod as part of a final year project as a design student, said: “Bill Gates’s vision was to put a computer on every desk in the world. My vision is to put a Cyclepod in every town in every country of the world.” The product is targeted at style- conscious architects and town planners, who are also under pressure to encourage cycling to reduce pollution and road congestion.

At a cost of £3,250 for a unit storing eight bikes, Cyclepods are hardly cheap. Cash-strapped schools may continue to provide traditional bikesheds, both for cycle storage and as sites for illicit snogging and smoking by pupils. However, Built From Scratch, based in Beckenham, Kent, has made a strong start, generating sales of £140,000 in 10 months. The founders have sold a minority stake to an experienced business figure, valuing the company at just under £1m.

The second-placed company was Crafter’s Companion, the brainchild of Sara Johnson, 22, from Bishop Auckland, Durham. Despite being a full-time student Ms Johnson deployed an innovative turn of mind and tenacity as a saleswoman to create a substantial and profitable business. Crafter’s Companion, in which Ms Johnson’s 17-year-old sister Helen participates, is active in the arcane world of crafting, a hobby dominated by middle-aged women who make cards and gift items for friends and family.

James Murray-Wells, a judging panel member and owner of Glassesdirect, an internet optician, said: “Sara has been on a rollercoaster ride, generating huge volumes of sales and showing she is a real livewire.”

Fivez, an amateur football league in Scotland run as a profit-making business, won a separate social enterprise award.

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