Jan Lloyd Nicholson
From mature student and mother of 7, to Entrepreneur and creator of a brand-new product to help children with autism communicate feelings, Jan has achieved a lot over the last few years. Through support from the Enterprise Hub @ M-SParc she has received funding, been on television to promote her product, and is now in production! Read the full story of Henry’s cushion, below.
Jan Lloyd-Nicholson, a mature student studying Psychology at Bangor University, has come a long way over the past year. This is all thanks to her passion for what she does, help from the Enterprise Hub, and her son, Henry.
Henry has difficulty communicating, and in particular, communicating his emotions. This is something many people struggle with, but for Henry it is made that much more difficult because he has autism. This means he relies a lot on non-verbal communication, which can be isolating. Jan and Henry wanted to work to combat this.
Together, they worked on a solution, and Henry himself designed the communication cushion – ‘Henry’s Cushion’. This acts as both a comfort to Henry, who can hold it and carry it around with him, but also features images depicting basic emotions such as joy and sadness, which Henry can show others to communicate non-verbally. It’s simple enough that anyone can understand what he is communicating and requires almost no instruction on how to use!
Jan came to pitch at the Enterprise Hub @ M-SParc’s Pitch Perfect event in March of 2019, one of many events set up in order to help start-ups learn new skills and make new connections, and was awarded a cash prize for the idea. This also gave her the opportunity for publicity via social media, and to appear on Radio Cymru’s Gary Wyn show, who was present to record the event!
Jan described the experience as being one of her proudest moments in business. “I could see my presentation on the giant screen at M-SParc, and seeing Henry’s face on there was really important. Winning the competition was an amazing feeling and gave me so much confidence.”
From there, Jan was able to go on to work with a seamstress to design a number of these cushions, and they are becoming increasingly popular in schools. The intention is to develop the product in order to be able to produce it faster, and more cost-effectively.
Recently, Jan also appeared on S4C, introducing the cushion to a Welsh audience. The Enterprise Hub shared this on social media and saw immediately the enquiries for the product come in!
Sara, co-ordinator of the Hub, said “We’ve supported Jan with finance, growth, and advisory support, and continue to do so. We’re very proud to see her pushing forward with this business, and how quickly we’re beginning to see success. This really is the reason the Enterprise Hub was established, and we hope this story encourages others thinking of starting a business so approach us, and see what support we can offer.”
Jan’s advice to others hoping to follow in her footsteps is to take each step at a time, do your research, and accept all the support you can – you can’t do it alone. Bangor University’s B-Enterprising team has also provided Jan with invaluable support, leading to being selected to represent the University at the Santander Emerging Entrepreneurs Programme.
Less than a year ago, Wyn took the leap and left his job at a University to set up ‘Wyn Griffith - Freelance Design and Prototyping.’ Within a few months, the COVID19 pandemic meant that Wyn had to adapt or face his business potentially failing. He created a prototype no-hands door handle, volunteered to create PPE visors, and is now involved in a new contract to assist with the COVID19 pandemic.
Wyn’s journey began 8 months ago, when he left his job in order to follow a long-term ambition – to set up his own company. He specialises in freelance design and prototyping, making use of everything from CAD drawing, 3D modelling, CNC cutting to quick prototyping.
Wyn had already applied his creative skills and wealth of prototyping knowledge both as Technical Lead for the University’s Product Design department and latterly as Head Innovation technician at their arts centre.
The Enterprise Hub @ M-SParc was the best place to start, as he was able to access the Ffiws maker space, attend events to meet like-minded people starting their own start-up journeys, and access a business advisor who could help navigate the tricky roads of setting up a business.
With the unexpected arrival of COVID19, Wyn didn’t hesitate to use his skills. He designed a forearm door opener which can be temporarily retrofitted, meaning there is less chance of contamination. This design was made available for free, and has been downloaded hundreds of times around the world to be 3D printed, and was featured on BBC Wales News. He has also contributed to the huge community effort of 3D printing face visors. In addition to running his own and the M-SParc 3D printers around the clock at home, he has also contributed to the coordination and distribution of free visors for front line workers from M-SParc. This was done on a voluntary basis made possible by a sharp downturn in client work. However due to his skills, ability to adapt and exposure from his voluntary community projects Wyn has also secured a contract to undertake COVID-19 related prototype engineering.
Wyn said “I knew it was time to take the leap and start my own company, but of course I couldn’t have foreseen what was about to happen. However, I’d advise everyone to always be ready to adapt to any situation. As my business is all about being innovative, I’m lucky to have the skills to adapt, and I’ve been proud to help in this difficult time. It’s a huge bonus to have secured a contract, which I can’t talk much about at the moment, but will hopefully make a difference and help people further during this pandemic.
The Enterprise Hub has really helped me become a bigger part of the business community, and I would encourage those starting out to think – can you really do this alone? I would say it’s always better to be in a position where you can ask for help, and of course where you can help others in return.”
Sara, Co-ordinator of the Enterprise Hub, said “We’ve supported Wyn with business plan writing and variety of interesting events, and in return he has started giving back to our community by helping us set up some of the equipment in the Ffiws maker space and offer courses to other Hub members! It’s great to see our members get so involved and using their specialist skills. Especially now, during the COVID19 pandemic, we are so proud to see Wyn helping others.”