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16 Oct 2015

Josh, Ellie and the Collective at the ‘Circumstances Tour’ Preview Evening.

Four entrepreneurial graduates from the University of Chester are preparing to pitch their business ideas to an esteemed panel of experts in the hope of winning £10,000 for their start-up business, and they need your votes to help them reach the next stage of the competition!

enCompass Collective, founded by Josh Slater and Ellie Russell, and Haylo Theatre, founded by Hayley Riley and Louise Evans, will be competing against students and graduates from across the country at the UK’s biggest business competition, the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs (NACUE) Varsity Pitch 2015.

The competition attracts the most innovative start-ups exploding out of college and university campuses, with entrants competing at the first stage, in the form of a 60 second video pitch.

The two Chester graduate businesses are appealing for people to vote for their videos on the NACUE website, as the entry with the most votes cast before Wednesday, October 21 will win the People’s Choice Award and automatically reach the live semi-finals.

The finalists from each of the eight categories, will be put through rigorous enterprise training at the Varsity Pitch Bootcamp in preparation for the Grand Final on November 19.  Each finalist will have two minutes to pitch their concept to an esteemed panel of industry experts. The winner will take home £10,000 for their start up.

Josh and Ellie have entered their business, enCompass Creative – a graduate dance theatre company - into both the Entertainment and Leisure, and Creative categories of the competition.

The company was founded in 2013 by the pair, who studied Dance and Theatre Studies at the University. The company creates, performs and facilitates high quality and diverse dance theatre pieces across the country, as well as delivering workshops and classes at secondary schools, colleges and universities. Josh and Ellie have grown the business to enable them to teach and lecture across the North West and are now based as an in-house company at the University’s Kingsway Campus.

Josh, 24, from Much Wenlock, Shropshire said: “We entered the competition because as an emerging company, we are still in the process of establishing ourselves, but it's very hard to do that without funding. The possibility of receiving The People's Choice Award is an achievable goal due to the phenomenal support and networks we have across the country.” 

Ellie, 23, who comes from Milton Keynes, added: “We would like people to vote for us because we want to give back. With this funding we are able to give subsidised workshops to schools, colleges and universities, meaning we can exist as a performance company through giving back and encouraging more people to get involved in the performing arts.”

To vote for enCompass Collective visit:

Hayley Riley and Louise Evans, in character for their self-penned production, Over the Garden Fence.

Hayley Riley and Louise Evans have entered their company, Haylo Theatre, into the Creative and TATA Social Impact categories of the competition. The theatre company, which was also established in 2013, is based at the University’s Riverside Innovation Centre in Chester and creates bespoke performances and workshops that initiate inter-generational conversations around difficult subjects.

Hayley, 27, from Stockport, said: “We entered the competition because we believe that theatre can make a difference to people’s lives. A lot of actors live for the applause, but for us, Haylo Theatre is much more than that. It’s about working with communities, families and professionals to create theatre that not only brings people together, but also performances that seek to address the impact of health issues upon the individual, family and community through storytelling. The opportunity to be awarded some funding would mean that we could continue creating theatre that generates conversation about subjects that we all find difficult to discuss.”

Louise, 26, from Wallasey, added: “We’re currently taking our debut show Over the Garden Fence up and down the country to get people talking about dementia. We have received such excellent feedback from health organisations, as well as from the general audiences, that we really believe that as a company we can help bring people together through theatre performance, and get people talking about issues that affect us all.” 

To vote for Haylo Theatre visit:

All four graduates took part in the University’s Venture Programme, which equips students and graduates with the skills and knowledge to start-up their own business.

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