Istoria Group has revealed the winner of its inaugural Micro Business Incubator Hub Competition – Self Agency, which was founded by Devon Lowndes with the aim of improving the lives of neurodivergent people in the Bristol area.

The idea behind the competition, launched in March 2023 on International Women’s Day, was to find a women-led micro business in the Bristol region to support by offering free office space over a six-month period at Istoria Group’s Paintworks offices; mentoring from the creative business group’s leadership team in business, financial management, PR and marketing, along with a raft of creative services, including a brand review by the group’s design agency Phoenix Wharf and a website build by its digital transformation experts Tiny Spark.

The competition was also supported by local organisations Babbasa and Black South West Network, ensuring news of the competition would reach groups who have traditionally been under-represented in business, whether because of class, gender, ethnicity, age or a participation-limiting condition.

“We received a fantastic set of entries’, Sam Rowe, CEO of Istoria Group commented ‘and were inspired by the number of amazing women out there fighting for social progress and to diminish inequality. We picked four finalists, all of whom were highly deserving, but in the end it was Devon Lowndes who stood out because of the clarity of her vision, her commitment and ambition. I am quite sure that as well as helping Devon move forward, we will also learn a great deal ourselves in the process with that knowledge also going on to benefit our agencies and our work across the board.”

“I’m absolutely thrilled to have won” Devon Lowndes commented, “especially having met the other great finalists at the announcement ceremony! For me, one of the best things about Istoria Group’s Incubator Hub programme is how accessible it was to apply for as a person with ADHD. I could tell at once it was a friendly and accessible organisation with a really open outlook. I know it’ll be an environment that offers trust and flexibility, as well as creative and business expertise. I can’t wait to be part of it!”

The competition was judged by:

  • Cecilia Thirlway, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Bristol
  • Matt Rogers, Head of Development at Babbasa
  • Istoria Group CEO Sam Rowe and Istoria Group Chief Marketing Officer Lindie Kramers.

The four finalist companies and initiatives were:

Better Together (Online Safety)

Better Together’s Founder Angela Loveridge helps parents keep children safe online by signposting them towards practical tools, techniques and resources, facilitating safe spaces for those awkward safety conversations and coaching parents so they are empowered to respond, not react, in a way that will keep channels of communication open and permit constructive conversations. Angela’s innovation is to recognise that people have very different parenting styles, meaning safety guidelines need to be approached without judgment and aligned with the unique needs of their child or children.

Bristol Achieve

Bristol Achieve, founded by Hetty Brown, recognises that one of the biggest problems facing British schools is the gap between rich and poor and its subsequent effects on educational attainment and social mobility. This action-based business aims to increase the educational attainment and life opportunities of young adults with academic potential, so that they thrive in whichever life path they choose. Hetty and her team’s innovation is to promote peer mentoring and focus on essential life skills, as well as encouraging reading for pleasure, proven to improve academic achievement.

Sassy Sisters Studio        

Nicoleta Moldovan and Begumhan Girgin of Sassy Sisters Studio have founded a new creative agency offering graphic design services, advertising and marketing, motion graphics, packaging design, publications and typographic design. They are two hardworking women/mothers with diverse creative backgrounds, who switched careers, went back to university, and completed their education in order to follow their vision. At their studio, they produce meaningful designs for businesses, charities, and non-profits while prioritising sustainability and women’s empowerment.

Self Agency        

Self Agency was founded by Devon Lowndes to improve the lives of neurodivergent people in the Bristol area. The CIC-registered (Community Interest Company) agency offers organisational neurodiversity cultural development and neurodivergent community building. Devon is on a mission to educate people about neurodiversity and to further her vision of everyone embracing every mind equally and realising the positive impact an all-inclusive environment can have on individuals, communities and businesses. Devon advises organisations on best practice and is working with Bristol City Council as their sole neurodiversity champion. Her vision is to make Bristol THE neurodiversity city in the UK.

Image: Winner Devon Lowndes with Istoria Group CEO Sam Rowe (left) and Istoria Group’s Chief Marketing Officer Lindie Kramers (right).


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