SPARK case studies

The following examples were all recently started by Leeds students with the help of Spark services & advice.

The LOT Leeds – Ayah Alfawaris

Ayah Alfawaris founded The LoT, a digital Library of Things that uses AI, AR & Gamification to allow people to borrow and lend others random things for a small fee. People can borrow tents, drones, lawn mowers or even a drill from lenders within their neighbourhoods. This does not only save people money, but it gives them exposure to do more and all by lowering the carbon footprint and improving the total cost of ownership.

Spark has been instrumental in the refinement and development of this idea through the entrepreneur exchange programmes, giving access to A-class experts and advisors in the field, and recently the professional business environment through the InTechnology incubator at Nexus.

Ayah believes using Tech for Good is essential to help Leeds and the UK meet the 2050 Carbon Neutral targets. Using shared economy to create social and environmental impacts can transform markets whilst growing the economy.

The support we get from Spark team is invaluable and the shared office space allowed us to create a family of like-minded brilliant entrepreneurs with a vast set of skills and expertise. Partnerships between different Spark start-ups take place all the time in a relaxed and friendly environment.

Oktaco – Mohamed Nabha

OKTACO is a branding studio, focussed on forging creative collaborations with businesses to produce the most successful brand solutions that deliver powerful content to the people. Founded in 2018, OKTACO has been working with innovative companies and start-ups, in particular those that use smart technology such as artificial intelligence and digital manufacturing, to make an impact and create growth in their industry.

Being a part of the Spark Community has helped the company flourish to where it is today. Beginning with the Proof of Concept grant that helped with the initial creation of the business, to developing and growing through taking interns on board with the Leeds Internship Programme, to now, being within the Nexus Hub which has introduced us into a thriving business community. After graduating from the University of Leeds with a Masters in Advertising and Design, Spark helped me to apply for a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa, allowing me to take the next step in turning my passions into a business.

Oktaco has employed a number of interns from the university and has recently taken on its first full time member of staff.

Sodada Ltd – Zach Pinfold

Zach Pinfold, 27, a Master’s graduate in Product Design, spotted a gap in the UK market for an alternative to sugary soft drinks for those who prefer not to drink alcohol.

Sodada is a business producing kombucha, a probiotic-rich soft drink. Kombucha is a fermented soft drink that uses tea as a key ingredient. It is rich in probiotics, has a depth of flavour and is naturally slightly sweet. Kombucha is popular in the US and Australia, and although you can find it in London, it’s not readily available across the UK.

Zach started producing his kombucha in December 2017, making his first sale at the Christmas Farmers’ Market in his home town of Holmfirth, West Yorkshire. Just eighteen months later, his company, Sodada, has a product range that is stocked in 60 outlets, including independent cafes, health food shops, gyms and fitness clubs, and even a Michelin-star restaurant in Ilkley.

We've infused our products with locally sourced flavours to give it more bite, a tart rhubarb, a fiery ginger and a delicate elderflower and we're about to launch two new flavours shortly, including one that's hops-infused to give the flavour of beer.

In 2018, Sodada won a Great Taste Award from the Guild of Fine Food, described as the ‘Oscars of the food and drink world’, which allows him to display a Great Taste logo on his products. 

Antonym – Revannth Murugesan

Antonym is a digital manufacturing business that focuses on premium high-performance motorsport components, by employing avant-garde technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Additive Manufacturing or Industrial 3D printing. The company was founded in February of 2018 and has since grown exponentially, both in terms of physical growth and growth in assets. Antonym now has a brand presence in Europe, North America and Asia and an extensive back-end R&D based in the Netherlands.

I came across SPARK in the autumn of 2016 and went to them with a single-line business idea that I had been conceptualising for quite some time. Right from supporting me in nurturing my idea, helping me write a professional business plan, mentoring me throughout the course of finalising my business plan and finally assisting me with the application for the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa, SPARK has been inordinately supportive in helping me turn my idea into the reality that I am proud of.