Sheffield-based educational product designer Yang For Young is preparing to launch its first product to market following a £10,000 investment from UK Steel Enterprise (UKSE).

Elena Yang, the Sheffield Hallam University masters graduate behind Yang For Young, is set to launch Brailler – a new tactile teaching aid that provides an interactive way of learning braille for young people – after securing the £10,000 equity investment from UKSE.

Uniquely, Brailler provides the opportunity for non-sighted and sighted children to learn braille while learning the letters of the alphabet. By encouraging the children to learn together the product aims to develop a greater understanding amongst pupils of the challenges faced by visually impaired children in the hope of creating a more supportive and inclusive society moving forwards.

The equity investment was overseen by Harper James Solicitors, experts in business legal services, and Brearley & Co Accountants and the funding has been used to finalise the prototype, provide funds for a recruitment drive and also to secure legal advice on Intellectual Property (IP) Rights.

Elena received the funds following the completion of a 12-week intensive business development course as part of the UK Steel Enterprise Y-Accelerator start-up programme which is dedicated to supporting individuals, teams and companies looking to get a new business idea off the ground and which saw Yang For Young named as runner up.

The Y-Accelerator partnership is a collaboration between private and public sector organisations – including UKSE, the Sheffield City Region (SCR) Growth Hub, the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, Rotherham Investment and Development Office (RiDO) and Gripple Ltd – and forms part of the SCR Economic Plan, working to develop a strong start-up eco system across the region.

Elena said: “I have always had a passion for creating things, which resulted in pursuing a master’s degree in graphic design. A second passion of mine is social enterprise, which is why I now combine the two with my development of socially responsible products – design really has the ability to be transformational and to help create a more accessible society.

“The Y-Accelerator programme has been indispensable in increasing my business acumen and knowledge of how to market a product correctly. Alongside the investment funding, the business classes have really helped to guide my product in the right direction and increase my understanding of my target audience.”

Recently nominated for The Sheffield Universities Enterprise Award at the prestigious Sheffield Business Awards, Elena plans to move the business forward by creating a marketing position over the next 12 months, which will allow her to concentrate on the design, build and development of her products. Elena is currently in talks with several organisations interested in using Brailler as a solution to the inequality affecting disabled people in education.

Alan Stanley, Regional Executive of UK Steel Enterprise which invests in growing companies locally, said the quality of the entries to the 2017 Y Accelerator programme – the first of its kind – was ‘very impressive’.

He added: “The Y-Accelerator is a unique initiative that brings together various forms of support to create an intensive incubator for entrepreneurs with start-up ideas.

“The process was designed to help validate ideas, develop strong business models and provide people with the tools and skills to launch new businesses, and Yang For Young really demonstrated huge capacity for growth and expansion.

“We are delighted to be continuing our relationship with the company through the investment and look forward to working with Elena as she continues to build on her success to date.”

Toby Harper, CEO of Harper James Solicitors, commented: “We are pleased to have been able to support Yang For Young in the development of Brailler and are delighted that her innovative business idea has been recognised by the prestigious Sheffield Business Awards. We wish her the very best of luck at the ceremony in December.”

Entrepreneurs are currently being invited to apply for the 2018 Y Accelerator programme and applications can be made through the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub portal until November 30th. 10 successful applicants will be given the opportunity to undergo three months of intensive business training before being invited pitch their idea to an audience of investors to be in with a chance of securing £25,000 of investment from UK Steel Enterprise to enable them to take their business to the next stage.

A subsidiary of Tata Steel, UK Steel Enterprise provides equity and loan finance to growing companies. Established businesses in need of growth finance can contact the UK Steel Enterprise team on 0800 915 1188.