3 June 2016

It was a double prize win for Loughborough College student business EZ Fitness and Louis Summers at the national finals of the 2016 Young Enterprise Start-Up competition this week.

The prestigious event, held at the Royal Society of Medicine in central London, saw the start-up go head-to-head with the nine winning businesses from across the country with 21 year old college degree student and team member Louis awarded the top individual title - the Jools Award for Enterprise and Innovation – and EZ Fitness took the crown for Best Trade Stand award.

Louis, brothers Ben and Jack Pons, Jacob Fields and Matthew Macpherson delivered an elevator pitch and presentation and faced tough questions on their product and business plan from a panel of judges before discovering they had been shortlisted in the final five start-ups and would need to repeat the process – but this time for an audience of top industry names gathered at the exclusive venue in Wimpole Street.

EZ Fitness aims to provide innovative solutions to problems which exist within the fitness industry. The EZ Loader, their first product, is a barbell rack incorporating a unique loading system which allows gym users to load and unload weight plates on to barbells with ease – saving time and offering health and safety benefits.

“I wasn’t even aware that an individual award existed until just before we travelled down to the final when my tutor Iqbal told me he had nominated me,” said Louis who, along with the other members of his team, is in the final year of a BSc in Sports Science and Management at Loughborough College.

“I was up against nine other individual nominees from the UK and was interviewed by the judges. I had to talk about what I had brought to the group, what my role had been and what I felt I had achieved individually through the process.

“It was actually a big shock when it was announced I had won but I also felt very, very proud.”

EZ Fitness was also thrilled to be named Best Trade Stand winners.

“We had produced a short video demonstrating our product which we invited delegates to view on iPads at our stand and we had designed dedicated pop–up banners and posters. It was really important to us to actively engage everyone. It was amazing to be called on stage as winners,” added Louis.

“This has been such a fantastic experience. I never expected I would learn so much. We all have this brilliant sense of having created and now owning something.

“It is incredible to think we are now having meetings with lawyers, securing UK and European design rights, that we are talking to venture capitalists and charities about raising funding and registering at Companies House – and getting a business bank account!

“The support we have had from Loughborough College, particularly from Iqbal Ullah – who has been just as dedicated as we have through this – and from Tina Smith at Young Enterprise, has been outstanding.

“It has been very hard work to do this alongside our final degree year but I would not hesitate in recommending students do this. The rewards really are amazing.”

Loughborough College Curriculum Manager for Higher Education Sport and Business Chris Cockerton said:

“It was a very proud moment watching EZ Fitness present in the National Start Up finals of Young Enterprise 2016 and to see them scoop the awards for Best Trade Stand - and the Individual Jools award for Enterprise and Innovation being awarded to Louis Summers was the icing on the cake.

“We were disappointed that they didn't win overall but I am confident that they have a strong idea and a great product so, with the commitment and professionalism that they demonstrated so well at the final, I am sure we will see more of EZ Fitness.

“All of the students have gained so many skills from the competiton and I congratulate everyone who took part. Iqbal Ullah has done a fantastic job with all of the students. We are grateful also to everyone at Young Enterprise.”

HE business, management and professional lecturer Iqbal Ullah added:

“The Jools Award for Enterprise and Innovation was awarded to Louis Summers in recognition of his leadership and his personal journey of development.  The judge who presented the award to Louis said, ‘You have one exceptional young man here’.

“The Best Trade Stand award was not just awarded for a nice display, but rather how it was used to engage with the audience and how the team members utilised the stand to showcase their journey.

“The judge described the EZ Fitness team as ‘an outstanding group of young people with a fantastic product. I have no doubt they will go on to be very successful as group or individually.  A true credit to everyone involved, the college, the business volunteers, and Young Enterprise’.”

The idea for the EZ Fitness product came from a conversation the team had in their kitchen one day.

“We all regularly use the gym and had struggled to with adding and removing weight plates on barbells. When we did some market research at the gym and discovered 87.5% of people had had the same problem and that people would use a product along the lines of the idea we had we knew we were on to something,” said Louis.

“We have thrown ourselves into research and development, speaking to gym users and managers, investigating health and safety and looking at other products and potential materials, as well as costings. Ben put his drawing skills into action as we all collaborated on the design and we used some connections in the steel industry to make up a prototype.

“This is a unique product because although other fitness manufacturers have products which do a similar job ours has a system and applications which none of the others do.”