The commonly held belief remains that the average Warwick student will one day swap their pint glasses for champagne flutes, their hoodies for crisp shirts and ties, and walks boldly into any one of the city arenas of banking, finance, accounting, IT and a dozen beside. And indeed many do. Even in today’s thorny jobs market, Warwick graduates are given clear preference and high acclaim by these industries and their top employers. However, it does not take a share-hungry venture capitalist to realise that the bubble is also a hot bed of entrepreneurialism and individual drive, and that each year there are those who take the plunge into the unknown to turn their campus dreams into a means to live.
Those who have been at Warwick for just a little while can undoubtedly name a few examples: Premier Ink, Smarter Housing, 118-Taxi, The Uni Express, 1eat and Uni4ya are just a few of the student brands from the last five years that spring to mind. The Warwick Science Park brims with the offshoots of academic departments with good ideas, the Digital Lab houses the new Internet Entrepreneurs group and each year brings tales of successful ventures and defeated heroes to the kitchens and common rooms. What’s certain is that in uncertain economic climates, England needs these entrepreneurs, and Warwick seems to have an excellent record at producing them.
To celebrate this tradition, and the ambition of all those Warwick students who aim to make it on their own, we’ve caught up with three Warwick start-ups that graduated in 2009, to discover just how it happened and how they’ve performed since.
#### Choose a Challenge
[Choose a Challenge](http://www.chooseachallenge.com/) is an events management and leading technology provider for the charity sector. It was founded in the wake of the hugely successful “Great Warwick Jump”, first conceived in late 2007 by Economics fresher Robert Smith and 2nd year Engineering student Nick Ellison. By March 2008, the pair had persuaded 110 students to take part in the largest student skydiving event in history, fundraising over £20,000 for charity. Increased publicity lead to further club funding and member activity, resulting in the pair collecting the Warwick Sport “Most Improved Club Award” in addition to the national “Most Improved Club or Society in the UK” accolade in the summer of 2008. The Great Warwick Jump 2009 saw the number of participants double, the fundraising total triple, a UK national skydiving record and the ambitions of the team soared on.
It wasn’t until June 2009, in the week after Rob and Nick finished their finals, that Choose a Challenge was born. With a total budget of £4,000, the team spent the summer working relentlessly to launch in time for the start of the current academic year. Building on the experience of event management, logistics, legal issues, charity methodology, client relationships and technical know-how accumulated in the previous two years, Choose a Challenge now offers a selection of charity events to universities, corporate and charities at the cheapest rates in the sector. In the four-and-a-half months since launching, the company has progressed from merely running events at Warwick to providing solutions for 16 universities, some of the best known companies in the UK and many of the largest charities in the sector. The first international (US and European) events are also on the way.
Whilst Choose a Challenge is on track to turnover £250,000 in its first year of trading, its founders have yet to receive a penny from the company. Technical Director, Nick Ellison, says “It’s imperative to us that we constantly re-invest in our offerings, and to this end we are constantly upgrading the range of services we offer, whilst keeping the prices at an industry beating minimum. This is demonstrated perfectly by our recent inclusion of carbon offsetting with all of our challenges, without any increase in price.”
“It’s not all bad though”, Managing Director Robert Smith explains, “The feeling of having full responsibility for our company’s future, and the knowledge that our work has already helped raise £100,000 for charity, has become even more exciting than jumping out of a plane.”
[E-resistible.co.uk](http://e-resistible.co.uk) is an online takeaway website that connects local takeaway restaurants to customers facilitating online ordering and payment. The idea came from a module at Warwick Business School called The Integrative Project, where students come up with business ideas and pitch them “Dragons Den” style to a panel. Second year management students Steve Barnes, Stephen Leguillon and Velin Djidjev formed the company in November 2007, launching their website in May 2008, offering just 16 restaurants serving campus and Leamington. In the two years since the site has grown to nearly 500 restaurants throughout the UK.
Whilst the directors were in their third year, E-resistible won the coveted “Be Your Own Boss” competition run by Warwick Entrepreneurs and was consequently featured in many national press outlets including the Independent. The group have also been fortunate enough to secure £45,000 in funding through a private loan to assist the development of their company.
In time the founding team of three has expanded to include two more Warwick computer science graduates working as programmers; this partnership was so successful that they have since become shareholders in the company too. E-resistible currently operates a call centre based in Tewkesbury and employs eight full time staff, five of whom are Warwick graduates.
Co-Founder Steve Barnes says “This year E-resistible.co.uk will sell in excess of £1 million of takeaway food and can account for as much as 40% of some restaurants’ turnover. It’s fantastic to not have anyone to answer to, however there is an enormous responsibility attached to running a business that people rely upon for an income. The bills have to be paid every month and there is a pressure associated with that which couldn’t be replicated with any job where the ultimate responsibility lies with someone else.”
The company has had some commendable successes however we are operating in a very competitive marketplace with some national players with big budgets to spend on advertising. It’s a constant battle to win customers however by following a strong strategy and staying ahead of our competitors regarding technological developments we believe we can compete very well.”
Immediately after receiving his Warwick admission letter Oo Nwoye (MSc eBusiness Management) created a group on Facebook, “University of Warwick Internet Entrepreneurs”. The only person that had joined the group in its first 2 months was Joel Gascoigne (MEng Computing Systems) and so the relationship was sprung. University of Warwick Internet Entrepreneurs has come a long way since its humble beginnings; now boasting in excess of 100 members, largely attributed to its collaboration with Warwick Entrepreneurs, as well as its first start-up – OnePage.
[OnePage](http://myonepage.com/) was started by Oo and Joel in their thirst quenching attempt to start something, anything! Joel had just finished creating a location based application as a class project and Oo had several ideas for web applications but could not write a single line of code. After contemplating several ideas, they decided to go for OnePage, Joel taking care of the technology issues and Oo taking care of the business.
OnePage is a company that creates business and personal networking applications currently boasting two products: myOnePage which allows users to digitally create, share and store business/contact cards; and OnePageEvents which allows users to meet and interact at events more efficiently.
After graduation, Oo and Joel have remained in contact with Warwick by promoting Internet Enterprise, mentoring current students and organising the Internet Enterprise Day which was part of the Global Entrepreneurship Week.