“We were both excited and shocked to have been selected. Hopefully this is a sign that pole dancing is becoming more widely accepted.”

A pair of Newcastle graduates are getting a global grip on a niche market with their unique business – leggings for pole dancers.

Melissa Whipp and Harriet Skinner became friends through pole dancing classes they took to keep fit while studying at Newcastle University .

After going their separate ways into different careers, they realised their true calling was to launch their own business, and returned to the North East to found Creatures of XIX, an extreme fitness brand with roots in the dance classes where they met.

Now, less than two years ago officially launching, the duo’s invention – Gecko XIX Grip leggings made from the first fabric created specifically for pole dancing – has earned them the FDM Group Award for Outstanding Entrepreneur at the 2017 Pride of Newcastle University Awards.

Sales of the super-gripping leggings are growing in the UK and Europe, and now they are hoping to get traction in more overseas poledancing markets.

For the next six weeks Miss Skinner will be in Australia hoping to accrue more customers on an overseas trade mission.

Miss Skinner, who is originally from Stoke-on-Trent and gained a First-Class BA Hons degree in Marketing and Management said: “When I arrived in Newcastle I did pole dancing because it was a fun class and a good way to make friends.

“I like trying to make things and be creative, so I tried to come up with a material for leggings that would help you grip the pole if you didn’t want to wear short shorts and have bare legs.

“I spent years working with companies on creating the fabric, and we finally did it after five years. I was working in London when I called Melissa and said: ‘Want to come into business with me?’ and within a week the company was up and running.

“It’s been hard and I’ve never been skinter, but I’ve never been happier.”