In the run up to International Woman’s Day we had a sit down with EIT Seedbed Pre–Accelerator Programme Manager Kerri Crossey so she could tell us about her role, what makes her tick and what advice she would give to young women starting out in STEM.
Tell us about the Seedbed Programme and your role?
I am currently Entrepreneurship Programme Manager, overseeing the EIT Food Launch portfolio of entrepreneurial support programmes within the Business Creation team. The Seedbed Pre– Accelerator programme, led by Queen’s University Belfast, is a multi–location initiative which trains and supports teams over a six–month period to help them better understand the needs of their customers and validate their business ideas. It is designed for early stage products or services that utilise innovative agrifood technologies and allows early– stage (pre–seed) startups to test the market by providing training, funding and mentorship. As a pilot in 2019, I was responsible for the design and delivery of this pan–European programme, co–ordinating a core team of 15 partners and 17 early stage start–ups with diverse backgrounds from multiple locations across Europe.
Given the success in 2019, Seedbed will continue to grow in 2020 taking place across five locations (Northern Ireland, Denmark, Germany, Spain and Poland) and recruiting up to 50 agri–food startups. The programme is now positioned as a key infrastructure programme for EIT Food, with Queen’s continuing as lead partner. I will continue to oversee the management of the programme and continue to manage relationships with key stakeholders, form new relationships and implement strategies so that the programme continues to prosper and increase Europe’s competitiveness in driving entrepreneurship. I am very excited for the year ahead!
Picture: The EIT Seedbed Programme Team
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I am very lucky that I get to work with fantastic partners and amazing startups from right across Europe. The startups/teams applying to the Seedbed programme are at a very early stage but have innovative technologies that have the potential to transform how we produce and consume food. I have seen some brilliant ideas come through the programme in the last year, and am excited about their growth potential.
I love getting to know the people behind these startups and watch their journey– the progress really is amazing and to know that I have played a small part in helping them to grow and achieve their goal of becoming a viable business is truly rewarding. The fact that these startups have the potential to have a big impact on the food sector, including the way we produce, deliver, consume, recycle and value our food means that I know I am doing something truly worthwhile and feel very lucky to have this opportunity.
Tell us about your career path to date– What do you think helped you become successful in your career?
I am a Chemist by training and completed my PhD in Organic Chemistry at Queen’s. Following this I worked as a Post–Doctoral Researcher working mainly on translational research projects for the nutraceutical industry. It was during this time that led a commercialisation project funded by the Lean Launchpad Programme run by Queen’s. This gave me my first taste of the start–up space an knew that this was the direction I wanted to take. I took up a role in an Agri–food start–up which gave me first–hand experience of the complex challenges facing our food system and well as the challenges faced by an early stage start–up company!
I worked within Queen’s Research Development team providing support for UKRI funding within the EPS faculty before moving to the Lean Programmes Team to lead the Seedbed Programme.
My current role is leading on EIT Food’s entrepreneurship initiatives and specifically the Seedbed Pre–Accelerator Programme where I design and implement support platforms that focus on Lean Business principles and Entrepreneurship training.
In terms of being successful, I think for me it is really down to hard work and not saying no to new opportunities. Every opportunity gives you the chance to grow an learn something new and this has helped me to get where I am today. In saying that, I have been very lucky to have the support of great managers (both male and female!) who have given me the opportunities to progress in my career and encouragement to do so!
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
‘Trust your gut’ and ‘Stand on your own two feet’!
Who inspires you and why?
That’s a tough question– but if I am being totally honest I have to say my family. They always push me to be my best and believe in my own abilities even when I doubt them. The past year has been crazy busy with a lot of new challenges to overcome but it has all been worth it. I want to show my kids that you can do or be whatever you want if you put your mind to it.
What advice would you give women struggling in a male dominated industry?
Believe in yourself and your abilities and your opinions!! Working in a male dominated industry to me isn’t a negative– it just means you stand out from the crowd and put’s you in a position to implement change! Surround yourself with good people– I have been fortunate that I have had both great male and female role models who have gave me sound advice and encouragement and made my opinions feel valued.
What is one piece of advice to all women who are juggling between home and work?
There is no right or wrong answer – just do the best you can, that’s all anyone can do and don’t be scared to ask for help because we all need it! I am a mum of two, who plays sports, coaches and has a full time job. It’s not always easy juggling everything but I do think it’s important to make time for yourself and do something you enjoy outside of work!
What advice would you give to young women starting out in STEM?
Never doubt your worth, lead by example and above all be yourself! I am a young female with a STEM background and I want to use my position to inspire and encourage other females that having a STEM background can open up so many opportunities, so don’t be afraid to grab them with both hands!
What’s next for you?
Who knows! The past year has been so busy I haven’t really had time to reflect on the achievements!! Seedbed 2020 is open for applications so I can’t wait to work with the next wave of brilliant agri–food start ups! Beyond that, I have two little people who will keep me busy!
Applications for Seedbed 2020 are open until Sunday 15th March 2020 at 5pm.
Kerri Crossey– EIT Food Seedbed Pre–Accelerator Programme Manager at Queen’s University Belfast. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kerri-crossey-11241a140/
- Testing the market: Why validating your business idea is one of the most valuable steps in your business journey