July 22, 2022

SDS x HSBC Student Incubator Pilot Programme

SDS x HSBC Student Incubator Pilot Programme
'Scroll Down' text written on a circular path.Bright blue, right facing arrow.

In response to the 2021 Race and Ethnic Disparities Report, there was a palpable need to readdress the social mobility and career prospects of those younger, underrepresented members in our society.

The Commercial Banking Team at HSBC UK, led by Duncan White were keen to establish HSBC within the wider startup ecosystem to provide opportunities. From this the HSBC Incubator Pilot Programme was founded as a way to empower and support aspiring entrepreneurs by taking them through a 3-month programme designed by Startup Discovery School. It involved trainer-led workshops that were centred around evolving the start-ups through launching, growing and scaling their business ideas. The accompanying mentors selected for the programme sat within the diverse and innovative SDS network, carefully mentoring the startups through 1-2-1 sessions alongside the workshops.

We worked in collaboration with 5 UK universities: Kingston University, DeMontfort University, Aston University, University of Bedfordshire and University of East London. They carefully selected 2 entrepreneurs, finishing their academic journeys and entering the next phase of their personal and professional lives. This was a distinct choice, to ensure the impact and engagement of the incubator was high.

Our founders and their startups covered a range of sectors, tackling a variety of issues across social, environmental and creative sectors. 💡​

  1. Themis (Muhammad Omar Hijazi) - a social enterprise which raises the aspirations and ambitions of students from deprived backgrounds through its services of talks, workshops and mentoring- promoting equality.

  1. PeeTee (Peace Edomwony) - Pee Tee is a restaurant that provides indoor services and delivery of healthy meals for those that are health conscious.

  1. Blackout Dance Camp C.I.C (Levan Peart) - A recognised emerging community dance educational provider in the field of Caribbean, Diasporic and Commercial dance.

  1. Cconnect (Michael Tetteh) - A creative platform (app) that aims to give different types of creatives accessibility to matching with different clients in and around the users’ area.

  2. Sadia’s Gems (Sadia Lira)  - Recycles plastic waste into usable bespoke products such as earrings, necklaces, mini cars and coasters have been created.

  3. Excel Learning (Melita Benoy)  - A tutoring service offering affordable prices and unique teaching methods for all students especially for those from underprivileged and BAME backgrounds.

  4. CRMSN Jewelry (Ashvini Jayanthan) - A space where culture meets creativity, inclusivity, and style; CRMSN Jewelry provides high-quality and ethically laboured jewelry to be accessed at an affordable price.

  1. Linxful (Luis Pereira) - Optimises & writes SEO content for bloggers, allowing them to save time and get quality SEO data to help them rank to the top of google.  

  2. Atls•Blk (Melvin Riley)  - A social media app for black and mixed black students at universities in the UK, that aims to make their university experience easier.


The workshops were designed to accommodate the students who sat across different stages in their business journey. The topics covered were the following:

  1. Discovering customer pain points
  2. Knowing your niche
  3. Establishing the Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
  4. Designing captivating pitch decks
  5. Incorporating business metrics in the brand story-telling
  6. Practicing pitch delivery and enhancing the communication

The session leaders were selected carefully from SDS’s own network of industry experts, having innovated and created their own successful businesses in varying industries.

Cassian Opara - Founder of Makette

Daniel Tuitt - Founder of Developed Thinking

Gosbert Chagula MBE - Cofounder of Startup Discovery School

Mandy Nyarko MBE - Cofounder of Startup Discovery School

Stacia Keogh - Founder of StoryPrez

The 1-2-1 sessions were led by mentors who were also carefully selected to deliver personalised guidance and advice to the founders to ensure accountability and bespoke strategy for their own business plans. The mentors were the following:

Chenelle Ansah - Consultant, early-stage investor and advisor sitting at the intersection of FinTech and Diversity.

Imelda Fossu - Business consultant and CEO of Drip Drop marketing agency.

Pamela Sharpe - Business founder, Investor relations advisor and investment business investor.

Programme success

The successes of the programme were clear to see with the quality of the workshops. By assessing the needs of the cohort and relevant gaps in knowledge, the material facilitated knowledge-based and action-based learning which was effectively applicable to the founders. With inspirational speakers from underrepresented backgrounds and quality one on one mentors to support, relatability was a successful outcome of the programme. The founders were able to feel supported and heard through the journey. Amongst the founders they also found support amongst themselves, with their own communication channels used to provide resources and lean on each other when experiencing personal challenges. Supplementary material was also provided from SDS with bi-weekly emails connecting them to wider current affairs within the startup ecosystem, proving a great success in delivering further insight.

Demo Day

On the 6th of July, we held our HSBC Demo Day, culminating the 3-month incubator programme. From this we saw the startups pitch to the panel of judges for the varying prize funds. Witnessing the evolution of the businesses and their founders was incredible, as they demonstrated their learnings and prospective business plans. We saw the following founders take the 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes:

  1. Blackout Dance Camp C.I.C, Levan Peart - £2500
  2. Excel Learning, Melita Benoy - £2000
  3. Atls Blk, Melvin Riley - £1500

We congratulate all the participants for engaging with the programme and commend HSBC for spearheading tangible change by providing opportunities for those underrepresented in entrepreneurship. We look forward to bringing the programme back and continuing our mission to help the next generation of diverse founders!

Startup Discovery School logo.