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Jennifer’s Young Enterprise experience made her a Livewire business success

She started up her innovative children’s footwear brand, Skribbies

jennifer duthie

Jennifer Duthie

Jennifer’s passion for entrepreneurship began at a young age when she was awarded the position of director in her school’s Young Enterprise scheme.

The annual Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur Awards took place at Altitude 360 at Millbank Tower in London on 21 November, with local businesswoman, 27 year-old Jennifer Duthie from Blackpool, placing in the top eight out of an initial group of 48 candidates.

Shell LiveWIRE has been running in the UK since 1982, when it was launched in the Strathclyde region of Scotland to combat the high level of youth unemployment. Since then it has helped thousands of young people in the UK to explore the possibility of starting their own business and has spread to over 16 countries around the world.

Jennifer, a former Arnold School pupil, started up her innovative children’s footwear brand, Skribbies, in July 2013 and was the only female out of the eight finalists who competed for the crown.

Prior to the final, Jennifer had collected a £1,000 start-up grant as part of the monthly Shell LiveWIRE Grand Ideas Awards for Skribbies, who manufacture and sell customisable children’s shoes, which feature a specially formulated surface that can be wiped down and redrawn on with Skribbies pens over and over again.

Investing the money into a stand at a trade show, Jennifer was able to launch her product onto the market: “I used the grant to go to a children’s trade show at Bubble London, where I managed to make a lot of important connections,” explained Jennifer. “It allowed me to open up lines of communication with brands such as Nickelodeon and Disney, and Skribbies received incredibly positive coverage in The Telegraph off the back of the trip.”

The Grand Ideas Awards have been given to 48 budding young business people over the course of the last year. Out of this group, Jennifer and the other seven finalists were shortlisted for the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and its coveted £10,000 prize.

Following a thorough judging process by a panel of eight independent business experts, including Alex Mitchell, the co-founder and director of the Young Brits Network and UK President of the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance, and last year’s winner of the award, Ben Allen, it was decided that this year’s accolade would be awarded to Jermaine Hagan, a 23 year-old from London whose business, Revision App, aims to make education more accessible and improve students’ grades around the world.

But far from being disappointed with just missing out, Jennifer was simply delighted to be shortlisted, especially as the only female to make the cut: “I am absolutely thrilled to have reached the finals of such a prestigious award. The other entrepreneurs were truly world class and I am honoured to have been associated with such an amazing group of young talent.

“I hope to be able to inspire other young entrepreneurs, especially women, to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams, as one day they could be a Shell LiveWIRE finalist too.”

Jennifer’s passion for entrepreneurship began at a young age when she was awarded the position of director in her school’s Young Enterprise scheme. She decided to take her skills to the next level attending Aston Business School in Birmingham to study for a degree in Business.

“Studying at Aston set me on the best possible path to become an entrepreneur. The course included a year in industry, which helped me create fantastic business links, and I came away with a first,” said Jennifer, whose career later took her to New Delhi, India, where she worked in the banking sector. It was at this time that she came up with the idea for Skribbies.

“As a child I’d always had a keen interest in fabric paints and it dawned on me that it would be a cool idea to be able to draw on shoes, wipe off your design and start again. I researched the idea and discovered that I’d come up with an original concept,” explained Jennifer.

Using her location in Asia to her advantage, Jennifer began to look at the design and manufacturing process and the wheels of her fledgling business were set in motion.

Despite not benefiting from Shell LiveWIRE’s cash prize, the future looks bright for Skribbies, as Jennifer continues to raise the company’s ever-expanding profile: “Skribbies are available to purchase online and our website is receiving a lot of hits. I recently pitched the product to a large retailer who loved the concept and, all going to plan, the shoes will be available in stores from early 2014. We’re also set to launch Skribbies in Germany and France as part of a three pronged European campaign,” finished Jennifer.
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