GCU graduate and entrepreneur Isatou Njai has been awarded a prestigious Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellowship.
The fellowship recognises promising science and technology researchers and supports their development into successful entrepreneurs by awarding them a year’s salary, training and access to mentorship from RSE Fellows and other successful entrepreneurs, allowing recipients to focus solely on refining their own business ideas.
Isatou, co-founder of drinks firm Hippo & Hedgehog alongside her partner Paul Blackler, said: “I am delighted, incredibly excited and grateful to have been awarded a fellowship. It’s been an incredible journey for us so far and this is overwhelming. The fellowship will support my personal development to grow as a female entrepreneurial leader and will make a huge difference as we look to launch and scale our product, Baotic, across the UK.
“I can’t thank GCU, UHatch, Profesor Bruce Wood, Professor John Lennon, Professor Cam Donaldson, Professor Doreen McClurg and Professor Kofi Aidoo enough. Their support has been fundamental to this achievement. I also hope it inspires other GCU students to secure their own RSE awards.”
Pro Vice Chancellor and Vice Principal (Research), Professor Cam Donaldson, said: “We are delighted to see GCU capturing such prestigious awards at the interface of research, innovation and social benefit with talented GCU graduates who have come through our UHatch facility at the heart of it.”
UHatch Academic Director Professor Bruce Wood said: “We are thrilled and incredibly proud of Isatou’s latest fantastic achievement. This prestigious award will allow her to focus entirely on further developing the business.
“Seeing individuals and start-up companies that we are supporting at GCU flourish inspires the confidence of the other exciting fledgling companies we are supporting at the University though UHatch.”
The fellowship is the latest in a series of successes for Isatou. She won £5,000 for her company and a meet-and-greet with Sir Richard Branson after triumphing in a Virgin Media business event. Isatou impressed the judges with a pitch as part of the Virgin Media Voom Tour.
Hippo & Hedgehog produces Baotic, a drink made from the African super fruit baobab and has also been awarded a £1,000 grant from Santander Universities and Scottish Edge Wildcard funding of up to £10,000.
Since 1997, more than 200 individuals have benefited from the RSE Enterprise Fellowship programme.