The Growth Stage: Entrepreneurial reflections and why you should enter

The Growth Stage of the New Enterprise Competition (NEC) is just around the corner, with applications open until Friday 5 May.

It’s an incredible opportunity for any new business, with a prize of up to £20,000 of funding.

A headshot of Beverley Samways.

We caught up with Beverley Samways, one of the runners-up from last year’s finale, who shares some of her insights on the NEC, and her thoughts on what it means to be an entrepreneur!

Beverley’s company, Unique Connections, provides innovative programmes and services to empower young people with disabilities and support them to help them thrive in their communities.

What have you been up to since taking part in the Growth Stage of the New Enterprise Competition (NEC)?

Finishing my PhD, doing a bit of teaching for UoB, and… launching my business!!!

How did the Basecamp team support you during the New Enterprise Competition?

They supported me so much and are continuing to do so.

The training sessions were helpful. I was also assigned a mentor, who is still sticking with me as I continue to build the business. But more importantly, the Basecamp team were genuinely interested, excited and supportive of my business. This was very helpful for building my confidence in my idea and believing that it was a viable business.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting their own business?

Absolutely go for it, but don’t go it alone! 

What has been the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur?

The uncertainty – there are so many things you can’t control.

What are your core values as an entrepreneur, and how have these helped shape your journey?

I now have a value and missions policy which means I can just copy and paste from there – this is the sort of thing you learn on NEC! – these values probably only make sense in the context that we work with organisations supporting young people with severe learning disabilities and autism who self-injure.

  • We believe that everyone is made for connection, regardless of how they present.
  • We operate from compassion and empathy.
  • We believe in the intrinsic value of each person’s unique story, and work hard to understand this as fully as possible.
  • We believe in collaboration and dialogue, and seek the views and perspectives of those we work with, beginning with the person self-injuring.
  • Our service is embedded in hope, and we will interact from the position that there is a way forward to be found, even if it is not immediately apparent.

Who has been your biggest influence in the entrepreneurial world, and why?

I follow Dame Stephanie Shirley online. She built a women-only tech company, in a time when women could not have a bank account without their husband’s signatures. She made multiple millions and spends her latter years strategically giving away as much of it as she can. This is all directed into research and practice related to autism, in response to her son’s diagnosis of autism. She founded Prior’s Court with £37 million of her own money, which continues to provide excellent care for those with autism and complex support needs.

A woman in a blue dress (Beverley Samways), delivering a presentation.

What advice would you give to something thinking about entering the NEC?

It’s really worth it. I found it an amazing experience and it was hugely instrumental in boosting my confidence, settling my vision, and learning to pitch in a way that felt authentic and grounded.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

Find out more about entering the Growth Stage on mycareer, and if you have any questions or concerns (no matter your level of experience!), please email

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