SparkUp entrepreneurs first winners of The Social Experiment

A group of entrepreneurs from Liverpool’s business accelerator programme, Spark Up have been successful in securing start-up funding at a unique business networking event aimed at engaging and supporting young people in business.

Spain in a Box, a start-up which celebrates real Spanish produce and cuisine and supports the craft of artisan producers, won the £500 cash funding prize at the first ever The Social Experiment networking event. The entrepreneurs won by audience vote, following a head-to-head funding pitch, with four other start-up businesses.

The Social Experiment has been created by young entrepreneurs Emily Karatay and Robyn Dooley after recognising a need for networking opportunities, focusing on the needs of start-up businesses rather than just well-established companies.

Around 70 entrepreneurs attended the networking event, which was organised with assistance from Liverpool City Region, investment charity One Ark, who provided the funding prize as well as an additional £500 worth of marketing and branding support for the winners.

Spain in a Box was founded by Enrique Diaz, originally from Granada, Spain, in early 2014 after recognising a gap in the market, for the distribution of high quality artisan Spanish produce. He was joined by fellow Spaniards Xavier Bravo and Felipe Gimenez just a few months later.

The trio developed the business concept which would offer a way to sell artisan produce on a wider and individual scale, helping craft producers find a route to market and negotiating with distributers on their behalf. They now supply artisan foods to some of Liverpool’s acclaimed restaurants, as well as on online, where people can order hampers or individual items straight to their door.

Spain in a Box recently enrolled on Spark Up, a 20-week programme set up by the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce to encourage and inspire entrepreneurial thinking.

Enrique said:

“This is the first time we have taken part in a competitive pitching event and to win is a great feeling. As part of our training on the Spark Up programme, we learn all about the power of the pitch and how important it is to sell yourself and your business effectively – and this really does prove the point.

“We really enjoyed the evening and spending time with other like-minded entrepreneurs. Networking can be a bit daunting when you first start out as business, but the fact that many people at The Social Experiment were in the same position as us, made the whole experience more relaxing and it was easier to talk with people and share stories and ideas.

“The funding from One Ark will help us to develop the Spain in a Box business and the marketing and branding support will be invaluable to us. Thank you to Emily and Robyn for giving us the opportunity to take part and become the first ever winners of The Social Experiment.”

A well as the pitching competition, The Social Experiment offered mentoring via a series of master classes from other inspiring Liverpool businesses, who offered best practice advice on launching a new business. These businesses included Liverpool online agency PH Creative, baby product manufacturer Izzy Melody and software development company WorpCloud.

Organiser Emily Karatay, 29, also runs New Collective, a consultancy which supports businesses and organisations helping them to collaborate and co-create business solutions through focus groups, testing labs and consultancy sessions with young entrepreneurs. Event co-organiser Robyn Dooley, 18, recently launched Innovators Hub, a talent agency for young people looking to break into the creative industries.

Emily said:

“We succeeded in providing a laid back, friendly atmosphere and a safe environment in which the businesses could pitch and people could exchange ideas and be inspired.

“The world of business can be a scary place for a new start-up and as a young entrepreneur it is even more challenging. We want to see more young start-up’s exploring their ideas, because ideas are great.

“In this day in age we need new thinking for the new challenges that the world faces and we believe young entrepreneurs have the key, they just need the confidence!”

Jenny Stewart, CEO of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce and founder of Spark Up, said:

“It’s great to see our Spark up entrepreneurs putting what they have learned on the programme into practice. It is also wonderful that young entrepreneurs like Emily and Robyn, are working to help others who were once in the same situation as them, succeed in business.”

Helen Wills, executive director at Liverpool City Region investment charity One Ark, said:

“Much of our work is based on inspiring young entrepreneurs to make their business dreams a reality, which is why we are keen to support likeminded projects such as The Social Experiment.

“The event’s winner, Spain in a Box, is a fantastic example of a start-up effectively utilising mentoring to grow, a service which we also offer to social businesses. We look forward to seeing how the talented trio from the company use the capital awarded at the event to develop even further in the future.”

Following on from this success Emily and Robyn hope to hold another The Social Experiment event later this year and more information on this can be found on twitter @soclexperiment and facebook

More information about Spain in a Box can be found at

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