SJL Foundation announce names of the 8 finalists that will pitch their start-up business idea in the House of Commons on Tuesday 22 October 2019.

SJL Foundation also announce the launch of the

SJL Pay It Forwards movement.

The 8 finalists are from London, Nottinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Worcestershire, Devon and Bristol


16 October 2019, UK: Today, the SJL Foundation announce the 8 finalists who will present their start-up business pitch in the House of Commons, to a judging panel of 4 entrepreneurs including Rachel Elnaugh the Dragon from BBC Dragons’ Den and the founder of the SJL Foundation, Simon Lancaster. There could be between one winner up to eight winners depending on the pitches, with all 8 finalists vying for the prize of a £2,000 start-up business grant and one year’s free mentorship with the SJL Foundation’s network of industry contacts. The event will be hosted by comedian Matt Green.

The 8 finalists are:

Jennifer Jia, EmPads, 25, Canadian Cambridge University PhD student – Jennifer has invented a sanitary towel made from fast fashion clothing which accounts for 8% of the global climate. Millions of women in India and other countries cannot afford to pay for a sanitary towel so during their periods they are choosing to stay indoors missing school and work. Jennifer’s EmPad will retail at a more affordable price of approximately 1 pence each. 43 million women in India can’t afford a menstrual product so are using leaves, rags and ashes that cause urinary tract infections. EmPads want to produce the sanitary pads on a mass scale that will make them the cheapest on the market, be hygienic, and finally provide a mass market solution to reach all 43 million females. Then EmPads will expand into other countries.

Worldwide, 500 million women are going without adequate sanitary products as they do not have access to affordable menstrual hygiene products. It is projected that by 2030, climate change impacts from the fast fashion industry will increase by 49% from 2016. In the EU, fashion ranks 4th in combined negative environmental impact, after housing, mobility, and food.  Thus, Jennifer’s invention is combatting two problems with one solution, and will stop tonnes of clothes going to landfill which will protect the environment.

Janice Holmes, Janice Rose Lingerie, 55, Newark-On-Trent, Nottinghamshire. Bra-fitter Janice started a bra appeal for donations of unwanted bras to send to Gambia. Thinking she’d get a few hundred bras; she was positively overwhelmed to receive over 10,000 bras. In Gambia many women can’t afford to buy underwear which is seen as a luxury item.  Wearing underwear in Gambia raises the social status of women, which in turns helps reduce the number of rapes and sexual assaults and helps prevent the spread of disease. Janice will be going to Gambia on the 25 November – 2 December 2019 to ensure the women are fitted with the right bra out of all the donated bras, and to train some of the women how to measure the bra size on other women. Business wise Janice has recently set up a showroom that sells bras and her main business is a mobile bra fitting service predominately focusing on elderly patients in care homes, and they buy their new bras from Janice.

Marvin Onu, RunTrack, 27, London. RunTrack is an online sporting platform which makes it easier for young people to find sports in their local area. RunTrack specifically target socially deprived areas where crime rates are highest, and they are forcing more sporting activities into these communities and hope to include primary schools one day. They aim to use sports and education to effectively combat youth crime, change the mindset of today’s youth and help set them on the right path in life. RunTrack is using sporting events to focus on early intervention. For London, they want to imitate successful youth crime combating strategies used in other cities that overcame a youth crime epidemic such as Glasgow. In terms of the sport, they aim to have over 40 sports sessions running weekly and to organise the sporting sessions for 10 primary schools.

Samanta Bullock (pronounced Samantha), SB Shop, 41, London  Age 14, in her native Brazil, Samanta had an accident with her Dad’s gun and has been in a wheelchair ever since. She was a model from age 8 and then again from age 26 to now but the second time around has been in a wheelchair.  She has set up the SB Shop which has fashionable clothes designed to be inclusive for anyone whether they are able bodied or disabled, but the clothes are specifically designed to also include people in a seating position, which includes all people in wheelchairs or someone sitting down for a long time. Some of the range also fits people with prosthetics too, which is why the range is inclusive clothing for all.

Lucy Willoughby, Good Things Gifts, 32, Near Totnes in Devon, This company sells only sustainable and ethical toys and gifts from around the world. One company Lucy buys from gets plastic milk bottles picked up off beaches where there is no recycling and manufactures them into toys such as a beach play set. Lucy believes she owns the only eco-friendly and ethical shop in the UK to sell children’s toys and gifts due to who they buy from which is largely charities. She has pledged to donate 20% of her profits to charity. Lucy’s background is fortunately in digital marketing.

Heather Thurlby, 42,, Worcester – Heather is offering a concept which will provide customers with female workers in a traditionally male dominated industry. Research has shown some customers would prefer a female trades person to enter their homes. Female Trades Person will offer anything to do with plumbing, construction, labour, mechanical engineering and electricians. Heather has worked for Bosch for 14 years as an admin assistant.

Victoria Winterson, Mindrun4girls, 43, Cleveden near Bristol – A new group that targets the 9-12 year-old girls to encourage them to start running and mixing that with offering mindfulness techniques too – something which usually only adults learn about and wish they’d known about when they were younger. MindRun4Girls will offer discounts to schools wanting to provide the programme to girls in less affluent or disadvantaged areas.

Monique Jacobs, MDJ Walls, 28, London – Monique is in her first year at university and has a two year old son with her boyfriend. Monique uses plastic meshing and silk flowers to create aesthetically beautiful backgrounds at events, weddings and other locations. The plastic is used over and over again.

The 4 judges on the panel are:

The event host is Robin Walker MP for Worcester and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State serving jointly between Scotland, Northern Ireland and the UK Government, who says: “As a large employer in Worcestershire – I have enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Simon and SJL, having worked with them on supporting apprenticeships and other initiatives over the years.  It is my pleasure to now welcome the exciting official launch of the SJL foundation to the House of Commons on the 22nd October. It is fantastic to see a successful local entrepreneur help people across the UK get going in business and also to provide financial and physical support to our local children’s hospices.


“It is a wonderful example of business creating opportunities and strengthening communities. It is great to see the SJL Foundation’s founder Simon Lancaster, also starting the SJL Pay It Forwards craze. Not only is he helping people with their own start-up, he is starting a movement by asking the winners once they’re a bit more established to also pay it forwards to other start-up entrepreneurs, and they’ll ask them to do the same, and so the Pay It Forwards movement grows exponentially.”


Simon Lancaster, Founder and Trustee, SJL Foundation said: “I started SJL Insurance Services 18 years ago with two grants with the combined value of £500. I’d like to help others set up their own business, so I am launching the SJL Pay It Forwards movement, so that the story comes full circle.


“Each finalist had to agree before we accepted them as a finalist, to Pay It Forwards so that they also help another start-up entrepreneur too.  Before they help them, they must first get that start-up entrepreneurs agreement that they too agree to Pay It Forwards, and before that entrepreneur mentors their future mentee they must get their mentee to also agree to Pay It Forwards beforehand. From thereon in that is the pattern to be repeated in the future – and so the SJL Pay It Forwards movement grows and grows for the good of communities across the nation.”


The SJL Foundation plans to raise £100,000 in year one. 45% of proceeds will go to the SJL Foundation Start-Up business fund, 45% will go to Acorn’s children’s hospices and 10% will go into a staff pot to be match funded for SJL staff’s own charity endeavours.


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Press enquiries

To put your interview bid in with Simon Lancaster or a finalist, please contact:

Kerry Hopkins, communications director, Baron & Hopkins

Kerry @ baronhopkins . com (no spaces, this is written like this to stop bots) t: 07900 981 751 w:


About the SJL Foundation

The SJL Foundation was established in June 2019 and is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) registered with the Charity Commission. Simon Lancaster is the founder of the SJL Foundation and one of the trustees. It has the Registered Charity number 1183875. The SJL Foundation hopes to raise £100,000 in year one, of which 45% will go to the start-up business grant fund, 45% will go to Acorn’s children’s hospices and 10% will be match funded for staff’s own charitable pursuits.


About Acorns Hospice

Acorns Children’s Hospice provides specialist palliative care for babies, children and young people with life limiting and life-threatening conditions, as well as support for their families. In the past year, Acorns has cared for over 780 children and young people. They have also supported for more than 1,220 families, including those who are bereaved. The charity needs £27,000 per day to run its services and relies on donations and fundraising by the community and local businesses for 70% of this amount.

Contact us for more information.