Students’ business idea to support the elderly wins mentoring prize

29 June 2021

A business idea from two University of Derby students to increase online interaction and activity among older people has been backed by a prize worth £4,000 in mentoring and support.

Claudia Jaunco Espejo and Veron Medic came up with the concept of Fundarely (Fun – Dare Live – Elderly) after speaking with relatives and conducting a survey of older people, discovering very similar issues were affecting their lives.

Veron, who is studying Interior Architecture and Venue Design at the University, said: “Covid-19 has had a significant impact on elderly people, and I know from talking to my own grandmother at home in Croatia how terrible she was feeling during lockdown because she had been unable to do so many things. Her main problem was that each day was the same for her, and she wasn’t feeling motivated, focused or passionate about anything.

“We thought ‘Is there anything we can do? Can we create something that will entertain the elderly, but which at the same can make a real difference to them?’

“We carried out a survey of elderly people and found that over 70 per cent of them were experiencing the same problems. One of the key issues was that they weren’t engaging with younger relatives as much as usual because they had problems using technology.

“So we came up with Fundarely, which is a technological innovation that will offer an interactive platform for the elderly people seeking community belonging, learning, and support in their daily tasks at home from a virtual personal assistant.”

Veron and Claudia first hit upon the idea while taking part in the University of Derby’s award-winning Be The Boss enterprise support initiative, designed for students and graduates who aim to become self-employed.

The idea was one of four Be The Boss projects pitched recently to the Ingenuity Programme, a national enterprise scheme based at the University of Nottingham, which helps create start-up companies that deliver sustainable social and environmental impact across the UK.

Fundarely secured the prize in the Centre for Ageing Better Challenge category at Ingenuity’s annual national awards. Claudia and Veron will receive support and mentoring from the Ingenuity team to develop their idea.

Claudia, who came to Derby from Spain to study Analytics and Business Management, explained that Fundarely also aimed to offer employment opportunities to people from disadvantaged groups.

“Our goal is to help society to move towards accepting equality and diversity. Our customers are people over the age of 70, living alone, interested in engaging in a community, excited for learning and looking to improve their health and wellness.

“But we also plan to work with people from ethnic minorities, refugees, and the homeless , who have also been disadvantaged due to Covid-19, training them to deliver this service, which is what makes us different in a growing market.

“The Fundarely team in the future will consist of three main ‘organs’, with Veron and myself as the brain, our Fundarely trainees as the heart, and our customers as the lungs of this company.”

In addition to the mentoring from Ingenuity, the University of Derby will be continuing to support the Fundarely team on the next stage of their business journey through the Innovation Hothouse, a co-working space and support network at the University’s Enterprise Centre, open to Derby’s self-employed students and graduates

Oliver Stonier, the University of Derby’s Enterprise Manager, said: “Be The Boss has enabled our students and graduates to experience the reality of starting and running their own businesses, and it’s fantastic news that Claudia and Veron have been given this boost to their idea.

“To have their proposal recognised and supported through the Ingenuity Awards demonstrates that they have identified a niche for developing services and opportunities for some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and I wish them every success.”

For more information about the Be The Boss initiative, visit our website.

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