THE founder of a subscription box service with a mission to empower and inspire women received a prize worth £10,000 to help develop her business at the StartUp Sussex awards.

The annual enterprise programme, delivered by Sussex Innovation for students and recent graduates from the University of Sussex, reached its climax with the announcement of several prize winners.

The 2017-18 competition was the biggest ever with more entrants, finalists and winners than ever before.

The 2018 StartUp Sussex winner is final year undergraduate student Molly Masters.

Her business, Books That Matter, was inspired by reading for her English literature degree.

The book club and subscription box service is designed to empower women and girls through literature, delivering and debating great works of fiction every month.

A prize of £10,000 was also awarded to the enterprise with the most potential to bring about positive social change.

The winners were Joanna Kmiec, an MA student reading for a project management degree, and co-founder William Halle.

William is diabetic, and designed their product, Deadline.Live, as a safety net for people living alone with serious illnesses.

It combines an app and a Bluetooth bracelet and acts as a “dead man’s switch”, alerting friends and family when the owner doesn’t check in regularly.

As well as earning the title of Sussex Student Entrepreneurs of the Year, the winners received a £10,000 prize consisting of a cash award and ongoing membership, consultancy and marketing from Sussex Innovation.

Molly said: “I’m thrilled, it’s completely overwhelming. I was completely shocked when my name was read out because of the calibre of the other finalists.

“Winning the prize means that I’ll be ready to launch Books That Matter in September, which feels amazing.”

Joanna and William said: “We’re very excited, it’s a dream come true for us to start making our idea a reality. It feels unreal – the next step for us is to launch a crowdfunding campaign to build our wearable so we can’t wait to start using our marketing support from Sussex Innovation.” The winners emerged victorious from an initial pool of more than 80 students, who began the programme all the way back in October.

The ten finalists each presented their business plans in a pitch to the StartUp Sussex judges, a Dragons’ Den-style panel consisting of local investors, entrepreneurs and representatives from the university.

As well as one-to-one mentoring with the Sussex Innovation support team, the finalists were advised by previous winners Chris O’Hare, Nick Musto and Darren Tenkorang, received presentation skills coaching from improv troupe The Maydays, a social enterprise workshop from The Platform, and financial guidance from Santander Universities.

In second place in StartUp Sussex 2018, Julian Bourne and co-founder Matt Pritchard received an £8,000 prize for their idea, Waffle.

The chatbot that recommends real-time restaurant deals also won the people’s choice award in the nationwide Pitch@Palace event just last week. In third place, Portia Cronje received a £6,000 prize for her enterprise, Beauty By Me.

Her product is a web application for self-employed beauticians and small salon owners, helping them to manage bookings and administration. In second place in the social impact prize, Hlanganiso Matangaidze received an £8,000 prize for his idea, renewable energy development.

The project will distribute low cost alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power to rural communities in Zimbabwe. In third place, Dinda Jelita, Conor Kelly and Camilo Castañeda received £6,000 for their enterprise, Vorteil, a sustainable consumer technology brand developing products, starting with a solar-powered bike light.