Essex graduates chosen for national entrepreneurs’ programme

  • Date

    Tue 19 May 20

WYSPR staff

Two Essex graduates, whose fledgling business specialises in using social media to help other businesses succeed, have been chosen to take part in a national competition offering a £30,000 top prize.

Oliver Bourne and Eliot Wood, who met while studying business management at Essex Business School, have been chosen to take part in the Santander Universities Emerging Entrepreneurs Programme.

The five-month programme, which includes online workshops led by industry experts on the themes of marketing, money, management and motivation, culminates in a national final, during which participants have to pitch their business to a panel of judges to claim the top prize of £30,000 plus ongoing mentoring support. There is also a runners-up prize of £20,000. 

Oliver and Eliot’s business, WYSPR, will be up against other student and graduate businesses from across the country.

Andy Mew, Head of Essex Startups, the programme run by the University of Essex to support student and graduate businesses, said: “The fantastic thing about WYSPR is the novel way they’re looking to disrupt the influencer market place. As businesses look for ways to maximise their marketing budget post-COVID, I see WYSPR as a way to help them get back on their feet. 

“It’s been a pleasure working with Eliot and Oliver, watching their business grow, and supporting them with the funding we have available through Essex Startups.

“I’d like to thank Santander Universities, and our Santander rep Kevin Bardwell, for all the support they’ve given our student start-up community and wish WYSPR the best of luck in the competition.”

WYSPR’s specialism is Friendvertising – the idea that if a company tells you their product is great you might ignore it, but if a friend recommends it you are more likely to go out and buy it. Oliver and Eliot help businesses use Friendvertising to boost brand awareness, and show individuals how to use it to earn money by becoming advocates of brands.

“The idea for our business came about because we saw influencers desperately try to build a sense of friendship with their audience to gain trust. We thought, why bother?  We already have friends, people we know, love and trust, so why not use them?

“It makes no sense that an influencer’s ‘like’ on social media is worth something, but the regular person’s ‘like’ isn’t – especially as we care more about what our friends have to say. WYSPR is all about helping both businesses and individuals benefit from Friendvertising,” said Oliver.

From an original long list of 2000, 83 student and graduate businesses will be taking part in the competition. The national final is in September.