Newcastle University Business School

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Graduate’s foodbank app recognised with entrepreneurship award

A Newcastle University graduate has won an award for his social enterprise project helping connect foodbanks with the communities they support.

Masitano Sichone received the Duke of York Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Spareable – an app that lets community foodbanks send out notifications when essential items are low in numbers, helping them optimise their stock.

The platform allows foodbanks to notify people who install the app which essentials are low. Donors, supporters and volunteers can then make a donation by purchasing items, which are delivered directly from the retailer to the foodbank.

Through the app, people can also find volunteering roles with a foodbank.

Digital Startup with Lean Innovation

Masitano, from Zambia, who graduated from Newcastle University Business School with a Master’s Degree in E-Business, said: “I am really excited to get this honour but even more ecstatic that our work, its potential and impact has been recognised. Together we can end hunger for good.”

Masitano studied Newcastle University’s enterprise module Digital Start-up with Lean Innovation on the MSc E-Business programme which encourages students to set up their own digital business idea. As such, students have a lived experience as they face the challenges of creating and setting up a business.  Thus, this immersive experience supports ‘being and becoming’ an entrepreneur.  For students, this type of module also supports a skill set suitable for the future world of work and incorporates a host of global graduate skills (such as critical thinking, communication, interpersonal skills, problem solving, collaboration/team-work and pitching) for an alternative career as an entrepreneur. To be an entrepreneur is to take advantage of opportunities, learn from mistakes, and turn your vision into new projects that impact and help the world. 

Dr. Janette Young, Lecturer in Enterprise and Innovation, Director of E-Business Programmes said “I am absolutely delighted to hear about the success of our student Masitano in the digital start-up arena.

“The Digital Enterprise modules we teach prepare our students for the future of work due to emphasis in creating a digital business that helps create global graduate skills.”

Support for entrepreneurs

Masitano came up with the idea before his graduation in 2017 and pitched it at a bootcamp event, run by START UP, Newcastle University’s support for students and recent graduates looking to become self-employed and start new businesses. His idea won the competition and the budding entrepreneur was given backing to develop Spareable.

Following endorsement from the START UP Team, Masitano successfully secured his Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa which gave him two years to establish and scale his business in the UK. Masitano was awarded a Foundership, a Newcastle University programme that offers recent graduates support and funding to help them commercialise their innovations. The Foundership has helped him to push through proof of concept to launch within six months.

Masitano has recruited two Newcastle University student interns to work with him on the marketing strategy and software development.

He said: "It's almost surreal where Spareable has got to. From an idea coined at a bootcamp hosted by START UP, to invaluable guidance from the University’s START UP Team and some remarkable mentors, research into the ways technology can combat food poverty with one of the biggest foodbanks in the North East, to this honour and recognition from HRH The Duke of York."

Two years after pitching his idea, Masitano launched Spareable after months of volunteering and working with Newcastle West End Foodbank to build and test the app.

John McCorry, Chief Executive, Newcastle West End Foodbank, said: “We recognised at an early stage there was significant potential in Masitano’s concept for Foodbanks to use the Spareable App to source much needed food-donations. Foodbanks are reliant on the general public donating food items in a traditional manner either directly to our Food Distribution centres or via local shopping stores, their churches or places of work. 

“The Spareable App is a welcome and easy to use addition to the way people can make a donation and help support their local Foodbank. The Spareable App is easy to use, helps people identify what stocks are needed most and sees their purchase delivered directly to the Foodbank ready for distributed. Reducing hunger in today's society is the central aim of our Foodbank and the Spareable App, Masitano has created, is an innovative tool to help us tackle food-poverty and enable hungry people to better access sustainable food supplies.” 

Growing ideas into Successful ventures

The Spareable app

Newcastle University has been ranked in the UK’s Top 10 for graduate prospects and among the best in the country for the revenue and investment generated by graduates’ start-ups.

The Complete University Guide 2020 University League Tables, rank Newcastle University in the country's top 10 for graduate prospects - a measure of how employable a student is after graduating with their first degree.

The University is placed third nationally for graduate entrepreneurship, based on the combined revenue of its trading start-ups in the latest Higher Education Business & Community Interaction Survey​ (HEBCIS). The same survey ranks Newcastle third in the UK for the amount of external investment raised by its graduate start-ups, demonstrating their quality and growth potential.​

Celebrating budding entrepreneurs

The Duke of York Young Entrepreneur Award is an annual award presented to students who have displayed remarkable entrepreneurship whilst at university. Students or graduates who have created a business or social enterprise demonstrating commercial or social impact, and have potential for sustainability and growth are celebrated. The awards, in their seventh year, are hosted annually at The University of Huddersfield and businesses from 18 institutions in Yorkshire, Lancashire, Durham and Northumbria received an award.

Duke of York Award
Masitano (left) receiving the award from HRH The Duke of York

published on: 25 July 2019