Sunderland graduate Fern Snailham has been named a Duke of York Young Entrepreneur of the Year after transforming her promotional staffing agency into a flourishing business.

Within a year, the 24-year-old has grown her business UNEEK Staffing significantly, now supplying a pool of more than 500 promotional and events staff in a variety of contracts to a range of clients across the UK. Fern has also opened up a hospitality division set to increase to over 1,000 staff.

Fern’s lightbulb moment to launch UNEEK Staffing came after she spent a year freelancing across the UK promoting new products and raising brand awareness in everything from supermarket products to cars.

The work offered her the freedom and flexibility of being her own boss but she decided she needed the business qualifications to support those ambitions.

Fast forward three years later and within days of graduating with a first-class Business Management degree at the University Sunderland, Fern began setting up UNEEK Staffing in 2017 after securing membership with the Enterprise Place, a business support facility which gave her access to their co-working office space in Hope Street Xchange, the University’s new centre for enterprise and innovation.

Now the success of UNEEK Staffing has been recognised after Fern was one of 17 businesses to receive the Duke of York’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the scheme recognises students who have shown “remarkable entrepreneurship” while at university.

Launched in 2013, the awards are given to students or recent graduates selected by universities across the North of England.

The Duke met representatives from each of the businesses before presenting the awards in Huddersfield.

Fern, from Stanley, County Durham, said: “I am so thankful for all of the support I have received. It has been great to gain recognition and receive this award from Prince Andrew for something I am so passionate about.

“It was an amazing day and a truly great opportunity to showcase my business and meet other leading businesses and people.”

Explaining how Uneek Staffing developed, Fern said: “After college I decided to take some time to work freelance within promotions nationally, that’s when I decided I wanted to start my own agency and applied to study Business Management at Sunderland, to develop my knowledge base and experience, supported by the qualifications.

“I loved the course and embraced every opportunity that came my way, I had a goal in mind when I started and I never veered away from what I wanted to achieve.”

She added: “I have no doubts about my decision, I just feel motivated and excited by this opportunity.

“I’m also very grateful for all the advice and support I’ve been given through the Enterprise Place, I couldn’t ask for a better location.”

Since Uneek Staffing’s launch, Fern has built up an in-house database of hand-picked, reliable promotional staff, covering the UK.

“She matches personalities to brands to convey key messages, and deliver a positive, memorable brand experience.

She says: “All our staff are vetted, and we hold audition days up and down the country.

“When I worked in this industry, I came across situations in which some agencies would send anyone to promote the products, but who weren’t necessarily right for the role, the personality and the brand were just completely off.

“We want to make sure we match people’s personalities to the correct brand, to make sure it’s the correct fit for the campaign.”

Laura Foster, Enterprise Place Manager, said: “Since joining the Enterprise Place last June, we’ve seen Fern go from strength-to-strength.

“She has shown determination and passion and is an inspirational example of a graduate entrepreneur.

“She fully deserves this accolade and have every confidence her business will continue to flourish.

“This is the third year that the University has been invited to take part in the Duke of York’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards event celebrating businesses coming out of Northern Universities.”

For more information on UNEEK Staffing, go to:

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