Leeds Trinity University graduate Gareth Craven.
Nick Hill

Former Apprentice contestant invests £50k in Leeds Trinity graduate startup business

Former Apprentice star Raj Dhonota has invested £50k in a startup business launched by Leeds Trinity University graduate Gareth Craven.

Raj, who was a contestant on the first ever series of the BBC1 show with Lord Alan Sugar in 2005, has invested in Gareth’s online art commissioning business, Hire an Artist.

22-year-old Gareth launched Hire an Artist during his final year of studying a Business degree at Leeds Trinity University, where he graduated in July.

Since receiving the investment, Gareth has been able to further develop his business, including a re-brand and new user-friendly website, which will be launched on December 15th.

Raj, who is a serial startup and small business investor, said: “Gareth is a very bright entrepreneur, and he was naturally a major factor in my decision to invest in the business. His knowledge of business for such a young age, combined with his passion and enthusiasm for the idea, really made it an easy decision for me.

“I think it’s a fantastic venture because the art industry is one which doesn’t provide much support to newcomers wanting to join in, and you can see that more and more people are finding art an intimidating world to get into.

“Hire an Artist is taking a fresh new approach to commissioning artwork, giving the market much needed disruption by empowering people to be able to turn their own unique ideas into artwork.”

Gareth commented: “The investment has already taken us to the next level and opened up many more business opportunities. My aim is to be the staple for bespoke art; the company that you can trust to get you the artwork you wanted.

“I really want to achieve significant growth within the pets market because it has such huge potential and Britain really loves their pets.

“From there I’d love to grow into many other areas, I’m very much interested in all kinds of artwork – tattoo designs, wedding portraits, anniversary gifts, there’s so many amazing things people can do with art and so many ideas.”

In January, Hire an Artist was accepted into the business accelerator programme ‘Entrepreneurial Spark’, and he has since picked up various small business awards and presented at some major UK business networks.

Gareth recently competed in the final of The Pitch 2016; Britain’s biggest small business competition - and made it to the final 15, from hundreds of entrants.

Gareth concluded: “It’s been a crazy year since leaving university but one that couldn’t have gone much better. It is an amazing feeling to have secured the funding I need to really take my business further. To have someone of Raj’s calibre approach me and tell me how much he loved my business was a huge confidence boost, and also confirmation that all the hard work I’ve put in has paid off.

“When he made the offer he had no doubt that it’s a venture with huge potential, and I know that working with him we will achieve that potential, because we both want this business to be big and have the drive to make it happen.”

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