Entrepreneur’s New Award Aims to Inspire Students into Startups

Entrepreneur’s New Award Aims to Inspire Students into Startups

A renowned female entrepreneur is launching a pioneering new enterprise award for pupils at Benenden, her former school.

Amber Atherton, 30, founded her online jewellery business while at Benenden in the noughties. Having relocated to Silicon Valley with her next software venture, Zyper (recently acquired by tech giant Discord) Amber is now hoping to inspire the next generation of female entrepreneurs in the UK, starting with students at her alma mater, Benenden.

The Atherton Award offers a cash prize of £500 and 1:1 mentoring for a Benenden pupil aged 13 or above who displays entrepreneurial initiative. This could be completing an online coding course, starting a business or inventing a new product.

Miss Atherton, who left Benenden in 2009, launched the new award to pupils at her old school in their assembly yesterday morning and the first winner will be announced at Speech Day in July. She is planning a national rollout of the award at girls’ schools across the UK.

Miss Atherton said: “I founded my first company at Benenden in the computer room of my Sixth Form House in 2007. Now almost 13 years later, I’d like to encourage all pupils who are brave, ambitious and curious to enter this award.

“The spirit of enterprise is hugely important to me, Benenden and the country.”

Benenden Headmistress Samantha Price said: “Amber is a great example of the entrepreneurial spirit we have here at Benenden – and we are keen to develop this even further.

“We are proud that Amber has chosen Benenden as the first school to run the Atherton Award and I know the girls will be inspired by this exciting new opportunity.”

Benenden already offers one award in celebration of girls’ enterprise, which is awarded to the winning team in the School’s annual Enterprise Challenge, so this will be perfectly complemented by the Atherton Award which recognises an individual’s entrepreneurial spirit.

The School’s Enterprise Challenge – in which teams of pupils launch and operate businesses for a term, is run as part of its Professional Skills Programme, a unique programme aimed at giving Sixth Formers vital skills for the workplace and life.

Miss Atherton is now the Head of Strategic Communities at Discord. A serial entrepreneur, Atherton joined Discord through the acquisition of her community software start-up Zyper in January 2021.

She was named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2016, and was listed as the ‘5th-Most Powerful Person in Digital Fashion’ by British Vogue. An expert on forging grass-roots communities and forecasting social trends, Atherton regularly appears on TV and at global conferences.