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The Great British Entrepreneur Awards – Entrepreneur for Good Award winner Julie Anne Parker

Our ULaw Business School is the proud sponsor of the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards for the second year. Originally founded in 2013 to acknowledge the hard work and inspiring stories of British entrepreneurs and businesses throughout Great Britain the annual event includes awards such as Creative Industries Entrepreneur of the Year, the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award and Entrepreneur for Good Award.

The winner of the Entrepreneur for Good Award in The North 2018 was Director of Million Stars Sustainable Events, Julie Anne Parker. We caught up with Julie Anne to discover her inspiration behind Million Stars and how sustainability has been the driving force behind her business.

We initially started Million Stars as a camping business, organising pop up camps in urban locations. Our camps were underpinned by environmental education and enabled businesses, schools and families to embrace a ‘tech detox’ in our outdoor classroom during the day and sleep under a million stars at night.

We didn’t have enough tents to meet demand as a bootstrap start up business, so we went to a couple of festivals to recover abandoned tents. It was whilst we stood next to a man-made mountain of tents, airbeds and sleeping bags we realised that the leisure industry had a big problem.

23,500 tonnes of waste is generated at UK music festivals and thus a star was born…a Million Stars Sustainable Events.

We are an environmental business first and foremost. Caring for the environment has always been the value that underpinned our business. We have progressed to deliver a more specialised education offering, working with venues, event organisers and festivals to help them work towards ISO 20121, the international management standard for sustainability in the events industry.

Care and protection of and engaging people with the environment remain our primary motivator. This year we recovered hundreds of tents abandoned at UK music festivals which are currently being made into eco fashion items in 2 UK prisons. We pride ourselves in not only providing preventative solutions but taking direct action to divert waste from landfill too.

We strive to be an ethical company. We align our business plan and direction of travel to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and we are committed to becoming a B Corp (a business that meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose) in 2019. Our core values, which are embedded throughout the organisation, are to be entrepreneurial, be bold, and take risks. We were the first company to champion urban camping utilising city green spaces as opposed to more traditional rural locations. We were the first company to achieve clearance to deliver overnight camping “contact visits” within prison grounds and we were the first company to take festival waste to UK prisons for repair or upcycling. We knew that being vocal about the vast amount of waste generated within the events industry would ‘ruffle feathers but, ultimately, we took a risk to raise awareness and in turn foster positive change within the sector.

This year we will be launching our eco-fashion collection made entirely out of festival waste and will be developing new products made out of old and damaged wetsuits, punctured inflatables and hospitality waste too. We eagerly await the Government’s new waste and resources strategy for the UK, hopefully building on the current EU’s Circular Economy Package.

Being named “Entrepreneur for Good” at GBEA North and reaching the national finals is definitely a highlight of my career so far. Another achievement was reaching Venturefest NW finals in 2018 and pitching to an audience of 1000 people.

However, being an entrepreneur, you’re often working in a silo which can not only be lonely but can affect focus and self-motivation too. Identifying opportunities to network and learn with fellow entrepreneurs has been critical to our success. It’s important to remember that they are not your ‘target customers’ but your tribe. Partnerships may arise naturally but first and foremost you are there to support each other.

I’ve been involved in several ‘business accelerator’ programmes including School for Social Entrepreneurs and Natwest Accelerator Programmes. It’s always my fellow entrepreneurs who I’ve met through these programmes that prove to be most influential. There is certainly truth in the saying ‘surround yourself with those on the same mission as you’. Peer to peer support with those who understand the highs and lows of business is invaluable and shouldn’t be underestimated.

My advice to entrepreneurs is to embrace the ability to pivot. If something isn’t working, as a small business, you have the luxury of being able to implement changes quickly. Always be forward thinking too. We stay abreast of legislation and social trends and have positioned ourselves accordingly. We know that legislative changes are coming in and we are now best placed to make some significant improvements within the leisure and fashion industries.

There are lots of organisations who can provide tailored support for business start-ups. My advice is take that support. Listen to others who have already gone through the process and network. Every ounce of business acumen I've attained has been developed through engaging with business accelerator programmes and listening to my peers.

There will be lots of volunteering opportunities throughout the summer as we scale up our festival waste recovery operation at some of the UK and Ireland's biggest music festivals. To express an interest or get more detail you can email the team at info@millionstars.co.uk . We commence recruitment in early 2019.

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