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A taste of happy and helpful innovation

International Hospitality Management Student Jemma Stephen won an Inspirations Student Prize as part of the COVID-19 Student Innovation Challenge for shifting her business model online to supply delicious treats to people during the pandemic.

Run by the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group, the COVID-19 Student Innovation Challenge awarded five student projects that helped to ease the effects of lockdown with a package of support and £500 funding from the RGU Foundation. 

Jemma set up her own bakery – The Cupcake Stop – and adapted her business to an online model offering weekly treats, which sell out in minutes. Find out more about Jemma and her work in this Q&A. 

Why did you decide to set up your business?

I actually set up my business as little part-time thing – on the side – just to make a little money while I study.  

How did studying at RGU contribute to your business?  

It helped me to understand basic business knowledge through all of my modules as well as allowing me to complete my food hygiene certificate through my course. I study Hospitality Management so it’s very fitting to my business.  

How has COVID-19 impacted your business and personal life?  

COVID-19 has had a surprisingly positive impact on my business as a whole. Although it’s been harder to get the products to people, the demand has gone up hugely, allowing me to get my name out there to a much wider audience. In turn, this allowed me to take the plunge and sign the lease for my new bakery/coffee shop! I don’t have much of a personal life at the moment. Everything is about the business, but the only way to get it to where I want it to be is to put in 100%. 

What does winning this award mean to you?  

Winning this award is a real achievement for me. I think the award makes everything I’ve been doing feel a bit more real, and makes me feel really proud of what I’ve achieved so far. I have worked super hard – particularly in the last few months – so it’s so nice to be recognised. I really appreciate all the help and support RGU is able to provide with letting me focus on my business and understanding it's my number one priority. 

What do you hope to do next?  

I want to focus on getting the bakery/coffee shop ready for opening. Hopefully, that will be in the next few months. I really want to open and for it to be perfect. I don’t want to rush anything, and I want to get as much advice and fully understand what I’m doing before I jump into opening up. While this is all happening, I am going to continue to get all of my orders ready and fulfilled. 

Judges’ thoughts on the project 

Jemma Stephen has drawn upon her creativity and entrepreneurial spirit to pivot her cupcake business online, providing a delivery service and developing her product range to meet the changing needs of her customers. In doing so, she had grown her customer base while staying true to her values of excellent customer service. Facing external pressures, she has stepped out of her comfort zone and embraced the opportunity to experiment.  

You can find out more about Jemma’s business at You can also subscribe to free updates from the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group using the Innovation@RGU email subscription form.

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